The behind-the-scenes production of any live performance, show or event is varied and extensive. Producing the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival is an ongoing, year-long endeavor. By the time the first note is struck on opening night, hundreds of people have been involved and thousands of moving parts have already come together.
Rehoboth Beach’s own Chuck Snyder is one of those hundreds of people. Snyder also has the notable distinction of being one of the very few people to have been a constant contributor to the festival from the very start. Through his camera’s lens, his creative eye has provided amazing imagery of the many artists who have graced the jass festival’s stage over the past 28 years.
A self-taught photographer, Snyder started shooting in high school in the early 1970s. His passion grew quickly as he fully embraced all aspects of the craft. He began developing his own film in the ninth grade. His talented eye was soon recognized by local and state newspapers such as the Coast Press and Delaware State News. Before long, his hobby began paying dividends with requests for his work. As if that weren’t exciting enough for a teenage boy, Snyder caught the attention of professional award-winning photographers Pat Crowe, Fred Comegys and Chuck McGowen. These pros became mentors and, in short order, colleagues. These were the days of the Associated Press Wire System. It was shots of a NASCAR race at Dover Downs in the late 1970s that earned Snyder his first official published photo credits on the AP Wire System.
A strong community and work ethic was the example with which he was raised. He always helped with the family candy business on Rehoboth Avenue. Snyder’s Candy was open every day, even on Christmas for a few hours, just in case someone needed something.
In order to pursue his passion for the camera while working the family business, he managed to build a darkroom in the back of the store. It’s that work ethic and passion that drove him through the 1970s and into the 1980s. While raising his young family, Snyder took a break from photography for opportunities in the resort town’s ever-growing hospitality industry.
Snyder has served as a volunteer firefighter for 45 years. He has been an officer for 25 years and is currently serving his third term as fire chief. He has also served the City of Rehoboth Beach for 28 years, working as City Building and Grounds Supervisor, overseeing the management and maintenance of the Rehoboth Convention Center.
It was the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival in 1989 that brought him back behind the camera for public events. From its inaugural year, he has fond memories of business owners who brought together the first jazz festival in Rehoboth Beach; Bob Derrickson, Sydney Arzt, Linda DiDomenicis and Barb Jarrell, to name a few. From the first riffs of that first year, he was hooked on the music and the energy of the festival. While awed by the caliber of talent and the musicianship of the artists, he somehow captured that energy and musicianship so profoundly in his photography that it brings us right back into the room.
He recalls some favorite folks who have taken the stage or sat in attendance at the jazz festival. Sitting and smiling at the memories, Snyder said: “Bob Johnson, Butch Lewis, Denzel, Michael Jordan, Chris Tucker, Queen Latifah, Al Jarreau, Nick Colionne and Eric Darius. So many talented and great performers, all in little old Rehoboth.”
He is deeply rooted and clearly committed to the Rehoboth Beach community. “This is my home,” he said, when asked about his years of service.He is a humble, homegrown hero (although he would never define himself as such) of not only the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival, but also for hundreds of local events, media outlets, guests of the community and the community at large. The Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival board of directors is grateful beyond measure, and thanks him for his years of work and dedication.
The 2018 Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival will kick off Thursday, Oct. 11. Snyder will receive his award at the festival’s opening event at 8 p.m. at the Cape Henlopen High School Performing Arts Theater.
For more information about the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival go to rehobothjazz.com.