The Day the Music Died
Featuring tales from people across the music industry sharing how the pandemic has affected them, their art and their life’s work.
Published October 16, 2020
In Part 8 of our series, Jeanette Bair of The Rock House—who has been presenting live music for 30 years for the love of it—is our teller of tales of music and pandemia.
Jeanette shares receiving word that COVID was changing her world with a spare-bedroom-turned-greenroom full of band members ready to take the stage. Worries openly about the future of the long list of musicians and friends who have come through the The Rock House in the past few decades. And announces her intent to find a way to continue presenting live music.
The Rock House | Photos courtesy of Jeanette Bair
Thirty and Counting
We were about midseason into our 30th year of hosting bi-monthly house concerts when it all came to an abrupt end. Our first 15 years hosting concerts were at my art gallery, The New Coast Gallery, and our second 15 years at our home, The Rock House, in downtown Reeds Spring, Missouri. To say this has been my passion is putting it lightly.
To say this has been my passion is putting it lightly.
I remember early March knocking on the green room (our guest bedroom) door and letting the band—Acoustic Eidolon from Colorado—know it was almost show time for a sold-out Rock House concert when Joe, a band member, said he had just heard that South by Southwest [Conference & Festivals, a massive media/entertainment industry event out of Austin, Texas] had been cancelled. I was shocked. This was huge! I had heard the warnings about COVID19, but I was certain it would be quickly brought under control in our country.
But in that moment, I knew in my heart what this meant and would mean for so many independent musicians touring across the U.S.
The Honey Dewdrops at The Rock House
Rock of Art
For those of you who are not familiar with house concerts, they are usually hosted in somebody’s home or yard. Donations or small fees are collected for the musicians. These shows can range from a full PA and stage with sound-and-light production to a more stripped down setup with a space made for the musicians to perform and the guests to watch and listen in a comfortable environment. It is usually cozy and snug with folks sometimes shoulder to shoulder. It is a community affair with a potluck dinner, desserts or snacks included. These types of concerts are for the true music appreciator. Talking is limited to before and after the performances. There is time to meet the musicians, possibly buy their merch, and get to know them. Relationships form. It is rewarding for both performers and guests.
These types of concerts are for the true music appreciator.
At first we thought we’d have to cancel a few Rock House shows. We usually book our shows several months ahead so we canceled the concerts through May. Our June show is always our big outdoor Rock House Music Festival. We prepare for this all year long with bands to book, vendors to contact, and volunteers to organize. This is a huge fundraiser for our non-profit The Rock House Center for the Arts. Since we are a completely volunteer-operated organization, our music festival generates the majority of our yearly operating cost. To cancel this festival would be a hardship not only for us but the bands who rely on it for part of their income. I thought to myself, surely it will be under control by June.
True Music Appreciators at The Rock House
Art on Hold
As time went by, and the obvious became apparent, we realized along with the rest of the country that not only was this virus not going away, but it was going to put all musicians and for that matter all entertainers’ lives on hold—for how long no one knew. We canceled our 16th Annual Rock House Music Festival and the rest of our indoor house concerts and square dances for the rest of 2020. I was heartsick thinking about all the musicians who had played The Rock House over the years and the ones who had become good friends. I wasn’t sure how to help them. I tried to watch every virtual concert that I could and pay/tip as well, but this was not sustainable for me.
I tried to watch every virtual concert that I could and pay/tip as well, but this was not sustainable for me.
I’m not a depressed person, but the lack of live music in my life has taxed my optimistic disposition. I thrive on personal interaction. I loved hosting concerts and square dances! I have spent the better part of 30 years cultivating community, the arts, and music. I am concerned that we will not be able to hold live indoor house concerts or dances at The Rock House for a very long time. Even with a vaccine in place, when will people feel safe about listening to music in a living room, or eating from a communal potluck or even going into a bathroom that 50 other people are using?
The Rock House Concert with Trout Fishing in America
The Beat Goes On
Plans are in the works to cultivate a seasonal outdoor space here at The Rock House where people can social distance and enjoy a live performance and maybe a meal. With that comes its own set of problems to figure out like weather and safe bathrooms, but we are going forward with our plans to keep the music live here at The Rock House.
We miss our music community friends. We hope to see you all again someday soon.
With Love, Jeanette and Bruce
Jeanette Bair, host of The Rock House Concert Series, is a lover of the arts and a music supporter and appreciator. She is an art teacher and a planner of adventures—a traveler, contra dancer, birdwatcher, gardener, creative cook, nature lover, happy mother, and sometimes a worrier. Jeanette loves to entertain and get together with friends—and is “in love with Bruce Anderson.”
To learn more, visit https://www.rockhousecenterforthearts.org/
Here are some lovely examples of music from The Rock House:
Bob and Una Walkenhorst (father and daughter) with Sascha Groschang on cello:
Victor and Penny with the Loose Change Orchestra:
You may also enjoy our previous entries in The Day the Music Died.
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