New genres, new audiences: Hahn named executive director of The Kennett Flash09/27/2022 04:31PM ● By Richard Gaw
Photo by Richard L. Gaw Michael Hahn was recently named the new executive director of The Kennett Flash.
By Richard L. Gaw
In his former role as the program manager at the Darlington Fine Arts Center in Garnet Valley, Michael Hahn spent the last five-and-a-half years helping to transform the venue into a garden of opportunity – one that asked the entire community to take part.
Partnering with teachers and staff, he developed classes, workshops and community events that featured nearly the full spectrum of the performing arts – music, dance and drama – as well as cultivated an open door of afterschool programming, summer camps and adult lessons. Over time, Darlington became an incubator of involvement and commitment that connected teachers to students and performances to audiences, and during a time when the pandemic quieted art centers all over the country, Darlington grew stronger.
It is the same commitment to community that Hahn said he wants to bring to The Kennett Flash in his role as the venue’s new executive director.
“I don’t want The Kennett Flash to be just a place people come to because they saw a poster promoting an upcoming concert,” said Hahn, a Landenberg resident who was appointed to his new role in early September, replacing Andrew Miller, who resigned in the spring to join Longwood Gardens as a performing arts production manager. “Rather, I want this community to think of The Kennett Flash as an incredible place to be, not just as a destination for performances.
“Building those programs and creating relationships with teaching artists, students and their families I began to see the impact Darlington was having on the community. I want to bring that same experience to The Flash – to enable us to be thought of as a partner and part of the community conversation.”
Kennett Flash Board President Dave Mattock said that Hahn’s breadth of experience as an artistic program director, production manager, composer, sound designer and singer-songwriter (he won The Flash’s first New Summer Sounds Competition Series in 2018) will help lead The Kennett Flash into the future.
‘Energy, creativity and the new mindset’
“We’re a non-profit organization dedicated to helping our community and we were looking for someone who would be able to tap into the energy of this community,” Mattock said. “The Board of Directors is ecstatic about the energy, creativity and the new mindset that Michael brings to The Kennett Flash as its new executive director.
“It feels like we have had a rebirth – not just coming out of the pandemic – but because Michael brings all of these elements to our present and our future.”
While The Kennett Flash’s musical calendar will remain full, vibrant and diversified, Hahn wants to work in collaboration with community-based organizations to bring theater, visual arts and dance to the stage that will broaden the venue’s definition to include new educational and experiential components. Hahn said that he imagines the stage being used in partnership with the annual Mushroom Festival, or as the site of a future Kennett High School’s Battle of the Bands concert.
“We’re also looking to create programs that take children through eight- and ten-week courses in how a play is developed, and then at the end, they get the chance to see the fruits of their labor and work on our stage,” he said. “The Kennett Flash wants to become entrenched as a collaborator and use the performing arts to bring the community together.
“The arts have always been known for how they enhance the quality of life for a community or how it helps people see other points of view and thus opens up their own world view. I want The Flash to be a part of that and lead when necessary.”
New genres, new audiences
Since its beginning more than a decade ago, The Kennett Flash’s original architects conceived of the venue as a listening room to showcase both up-and-coming musical performers and established musicians seeking a quiet change from large and often impersonal theaters and arenas. The concept continues to work, as audiences have packed into the 110-seat space to see performances from a wide variety or recording artists, predominantly singer-songwriters and folk-based musicians. Over the next several years, one of the key initiatives of The Kennett Flash will be to expand its definition to include not only new musical genres but new audiences – including Kennett Square’s historically underserved populations.
“We have absolutely nailed it with attracting a certain musical demographic, but the Flash has always been narrowly defined and we want to change that,” Mattock said. “I see it as a place that can welcome other genres such as jazz, bluegrass, Latin and even classical, in order to attract members of our community that don’t have access to music in the same way that an urban community provides.”
While it is likely that the monthly calendar of events at The Kennett Flash will soon reflect the venue’s commitment to diversity and new programming, it will continue to maintain the stature of its atmosphere, Mattock said.
“The Flash has always been a conceptual idea, but it is important to us to protect its vibe and its personality,” he said. “It is also important to promote our ability to educate an audience about what a concert-going experience can be. For instance, in the case of an 18-year-old who has never seen a live concert, and exposing that person to how different it is to hear music here, and perhaps it will pave the way to explore music at other venues.”
Hahn said that he welcomes the opportunity to position The Kennett Flash as not just as a popular musical venue, but as a cultural game-changer in the southern Chester County community.
“When you are given diversity and a huge group of people, there really isn’t anything that you can’t do, so why not be a hub for cultural influences, for exploration, for education and providing as many opportunities as you can?” he said. “My goal will always be to honor that which people have come to know and love about The Kennett Flash, but take it to new and exciting places and genres.”
Upcoming shows at The Kennett Flash include Lauren Calve on Oct. 8, District 97 on Oct. 12, Lucky Brown on Oct. 14 and Winslow – An Evening of The Eagles on Oct. 15.
For a complete calendar of shows and events and to become a member, visit www.kennettflash.org.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].