Author: Music in Familiar Spaces

Audience Engagement, Community Outreach, Education, Future of Music, Inspirational Stories, Travel

Familiar Territory

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This is the third update from Music in Familiar Spaces on musicovation. To read their first two posts, click here: Music in Familiar Spaces: Two Months In, Music in Familiar Spaces: January Update

We are Steuart and Michelle Pincombe. Every week we travel to a new place, meet new people, and present concerts in new places. We tell people our story – in a nutshell – of how we grew tired with our busy careers in Europe and decided to live in a 1959 travel trailer for one year, travel the country and bring classical music to non-traditional venues. We call the project Music in Familiar Spaces, because on its most basic level, that’s all it is: [classical] music in [people’s] familiar spaces.

Steuart played for a packed house at Port City Brewing in Alexandria, VA.

One of the most difficult things for us has been the unfamiliarity of each new space or community we enter. We need to somehow figure out a venue in which to play, one that is well-connected and well-respected by their community, and figure out how to tell people about the concert. When we arrive, we need to figure out where to get groceries and a good cup of coffee, and where we can let our dog run around. We need to figure out how to tell our story to each new audience in a way that will be clear and relatable. As we enter places that are familiar to most everyone else there – the local cafe or bar, their church or home – we feel like strangers.

And then the music starts.  At once we are in familiar territory – we know how to do this. This shared experience gives us all something in common. It gives us all permission to relate to each other in a way a bit more intimately than strangers. We can’t tell you how many profoundly meaningful conversations we have had with audience members after concerts, people whom we had just met. At once we are no longer strangers.

Steuart’s Bach & Beer concerts draw a great mix of people. Here he is at Anthem Brewing in Oklahoma City, OK. Photo by Nigel Bland.

We still have almost six months to go on our yearlong journey. It’s an incredible privilege to be able to do a project like this, and there’s no way we could have done it alone. In fact, there are thousands of people who have supported Music in Familiar Spaces in one way or another: letting us park our home in their driveway, recommending a venue, inviting their friends to concerts, coming to concerts, playing in concerts, sharing a news article about our project on social media, and so on. That is what makes this project so special: people of all backgrounds are supporting classical music in a direct way, from the ground up. We just get to bring it to them.


We hope you will take a moment to get to know our project by visiting our website. We still have much of the country to visit, so be sure to check out our route and upcoming concerts.

Audience Engagement, Community Outreach, Ensembles, Future of Music, Music for Social Change, Opportunity

Music in Familiar Spaces: January Update

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By Michelle and Steuart Pincombe

When people ask how our tour is going, I usually answer with some combination of the following: it’s incredible, super challenging, really rewarding, totally exhausting, pretty crazy, the ultimate marriage test, a total blast! For those of you don’t know, my husband Steuart and I (and our pup Lucy) have been traveling the country in a 1959 travel trailer, presenting classical music concerts in places like cafes, breweries, homes and churches. A couple of months back Musicovation introduced our project Music in Familiar Spaces to you with this post and we’re happy to report on our progress here.

Three months into the tour something clicked, right around the time we were in Austin, Texas (December, just before the holidays). Steuart played a Bach & Beer concert at the Hops & Grain brewery and it was packed. People were talking about the concert on Twitter and posting pictures on Instagram. We’d just had a few concerts in a row that were full of enthusiastic and engaged audience members. That week we had received emails from venues asking us to come to them (usually I’m the one asking them to host us), and from musicians asking for advice about presenting their own concerts. “I think we’re actually doing it,” I whispered to Steuart, “I think we can do this!” Though there was still some fear and hesitation behind those statements, I hadn’t felt that confident since we started this crazy project.

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I keep finding myself trying to measure the success of each concert. Do I measure it in the number of tweets or Facebook likes? Or the response from local media? How about how much money we made, or the number of people who came?

What I keep coming back to are the conversations Steuart and I have with audience members after each concert. We’ve been surprised at how many people tell us that the concert had been their first time hearing classical music live (and that they want to hear more!). One person said to Steuart after a recent concert in Missouri “… if you’d asked me a week ago if I was gonna be here, I woulda said ‘hell no’, but here I am. You sold me, I love this stuff.” We’ve been humbled by people saying how much it meant to them, to hear Steuart play Bach, as if they were part of a private conversation. We’ve been encouraged by fellow musicians inspired to do similar concerts and actively engage new audiences. And we’ve been astounded by the diversity of each audience, filled with children, retirees, students, young professionals, members of the local symphony, classic rock fans, and everyone in between.

Folks in Columbia, MO showed their support at Cafe Berlin's very first classical music concert.

Folks in Columbia, MO showed their support at Cafe Berlin’s very first classical music concert.

It’s hard to believe we’ve already played concerts in 9 different states. We’ll finish the winter in Texas and Oklahoma before heading up to Missouri in March. For the spring months we’ll be in the Midwest and East Coast, first to Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York, before heading to New England. Our route (where we’re going when) is all planned out but we’re still setting up concerts for later in the tour. This tour is an experiment in building an audience for classical music from the ground up. If you’d like to help us and be involved, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re always looking for venue suggestions, hosts, people to help spread the word, driveways for parking our trailer, dog park recommendations…! We’d love to hear from you. Write to us: Follow us: @mfstour or on Facebook: Steuart Pincombe.


Audience Engagement, Community Outreach, Education, Ensembles, Future of Music, Inspirational Stories, Interdisciplinary, Opportunity

Music in Familiar Spaces: Two Months In

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By Michelle and Steuart Pincombe

We are about two months into the Music in Familiar Spaces project and so far there have been moments of “what on earth are we doing?”, “wow, we’re really doing this!” and everything in between. We are spending one year traveling the country in a 1959 travel trailer bringing the classical music experience at its highest level to familiar spaces like homes, cafés, churches and meeting places, even the local brewery.

We first got the idea for Music in Familiar Spaces while living in Netherlands, where we lived the last four years. Steuart was constantly traveling as a freelance musician, having incredible opportunities as a soloist and chamber musician. But we were getting tired of the skype marriage and he was tired of living out of a suitcase. So we decided to move back to the U.S. and start something together, something we really care about: connecting with people through music. We spent about a year and a half thinking about and planning for Music in Familiar Spaces, and it’s exciting (and a bit terrifying) to get started.

Our tour route was planned based on friends and family around the country who could connect us with their communities. With a non-existent publicity budget, no agents, no managers (except for Michelle), we are relying on grassroots support to build our audience. Steuart has designed programs specifically meant to engage and attract audiences of all backgrounds, and we’re playing in places where community already exists. Most of the concerts so far have been a success with an eclectic and enthusiastic audience, supporting us with what they have (concerts are name-your-ticket-price), and committing to spread the word to their friends in other cities. We’ve also learned a lot about the types of venues to book, scheduling, and communicating with all sorts of people. We live in an amazingly diverse country, and it’s been fun learning about how different communities engage with live music.

Just last week we played a Bach & Beer concert at brewery in Nashville, parked at a family farm and played in their barn in Knoxville, and then headed to South Carolina for concerts in a café and another in a brewery.  From here we’re off to Georgia, Alabama and Texas, and that’s just the next month! We would love to connect with you while we’re on this tour. From recommending venues, telling your friends about the concerts, suggesting good media contacts, to letting us park in your driveway, there are lots of ways for you to be involved! Please check out our website, plus where we’re going, and an updated list on all the ways you can get involved!

Photo Credit: Tim Minitiens