About Houseconcerts

Q. What is a House Concert?

A. A house concert is a chance to experience live music in a warm and intimate environment. It's when someone opens up their home and invites you into their living room to share in a performance by one of their favorite musicians. It's a chance to meet the performers and get them to sign and personalize their CD. A house concert is also a great social evening with friends and neighbors.

Some house concert series across the country are held in backyards as well, and during the summer months, thats exactly what we do! But the rest of the year, we like to keep ours in the living room for the added sense of warmth and intimacy that it lends to the evenings. We also host concerts all year long -- between ten and twelve each year. Some other house concert series are seasonal.

Please note: "This Old Houseoncert" is simply the name we choose to describe our private parties, in our private home. These parties are NOT a business nor are they a business related activity. They are strictly a hobby for us, and are simply gatherings of our friends and guests to enjoy live acoustic music, fellowship, food (a potluck dessert buffet) and fun. Our concert parties are officially free (or else it might be considered a business), although voluntary contributions (suggested donation of $15 per person, generally) are accepted at the party on behalf of the artists. 100% of all contributions go directly to the performers. By invitation only.

Q. Why would anyone do this?

A. If only I had $1 for everytime someone asked! We open up our home to our friends and neighbors because we want to share great music with them. In the area where we live -- like most of the world today -- there are few venues where people can go to experience great music in a close and friendly environment. Great music makes us happy and we want to share that with others around us. These events allow us to give exposure to some incredible musicians whose talents we truly believe in and wish to help promote.

A front page article about house concerts in the New York Times in late 1999 estimated that about 500 people across the country were hosting house concerts on some kind of regular basis. We think the number has probably increased significantly since that time as the trend has really taken off! 

Q. What do you get out of this?

A. We find it strange that some people can't believe we get no economic benefit for doing this. We do it simply for the love of the music. Really. We enjoy sharing great music with those around us. 100% of the suggested donation goes directly to the performers. For us, this is a hobby and we don't mind spending a little to keep our hobby going. It's a hobby that has brought us great joy over the years. Since we started hosting house concerts in 2001, we've met some wonderful music fans and some extremely talented musicians... many of whom will be lifelong friends. Others were lifelong friends that we tricked or badgered into playing in our living room!

Q. How long have House Concerts been around?

A. There is some debate on this, but we would trace House Concerts all the way back to the Middle Ages when "wandering minstrels" would go from manor house to castle to farmstead trading stories and songs for an evening's room and board. Certainly in the 1800s, "parlor parties" were a very popular form of entertainment in the United States. The more modern "House Concert" probably evolved in the mid 1900s. 

Q. Doesn't it cost you time and money?

A. Yes, it costs us money to host these concerts. We spend money for coffee, soft drinks, desserts, paper plates, paper cups, napkins, flyers, postage and more. We also spend a great deal of time for the planning and set up of each show. Plus all the time sending and reading emails, talking to performers, agents, etc, etc. Luckily, for some of the bigger shows where we need some reinforcement, we have friends that have sound systems. Of course, there is also the "wear and tear" on the house... But as you may already know, its not "our" house anyway!!! It is John's mother's house, his childhood home, and it is a GREAT house for a large group of people!

Q. How many people can you fit in your home?

A. We average between 20 and 30 people for most of our house concerts, but the number fluctuates a bit. Our record is about 65 people, but we consider 40 to be a full house. Unlike commercial establishments, there is no legal limit to the number of people that we can put in our home... so long as our neighbors don't complain and we don't break any laws. We find that 40 or less people fit quite nicely and is really the maximum before it starts feeling too crowded. And there is only the one bathroom anyway!

We usually set up metal folding chairs for these evenings.  When it gets crowded, some stand along the sides or in the back, and we add chairs in the hallway area. If you want a 'good' seat, you need to get here early. (Our house concerts usually start at 8pm and doors open 30 minutes prior)  It's a casual atmosphere and most people who attend aren't really that concerned with seating. It's a fairly nice room without a bad seat in the house.

We will save seats for people with special circumstances. If you are handicapped, pregnant or in need of special seating for a physical reason, please let us know in advance so that we can reserve a space for you. Quiet and well behaved children are welcome. The cats have moved on to Catnip Meadows, so anyone with kitty allergies should be comfortable as well.

The concerts are held in our living room / dining room combination, which has high ceilings and very good acoustics.

Q. How do you pick your performers?

A. We pick our performers with a combination of the following five methods:

  1. We have many past performers who have expressed an interest in coming back. Its just a matter of scheduling and availability!

  2. We get unsolicited CDs, press kits, and EPKs from musicians around the world. Some weeks we get three or four contacts from artists as far away as Australia and Ireland. We do listen to every CD that comes our way (send more please!!) There are an amazing number of talented people out there, and there is no way we can accommodate them all...

  3. We get lots of referrals. Referrals from past performers account for a good percentage of the artists we've hosted. We give them extra consideration. We also get referrals from people who have attended our shows. Sometimes we even get referrals from local venue owners. If there is someone you would like to see us host a house concert for, or know an artist that you think would enjoy the opportunity, feel free to let us know.

  4. Part of our schedule in recent years has come from artists we've met at the Folk Alliance  conferences. These conferences give us the chance to see and hear the artists performing and to get to know them. www.folk.org.

  5. Lastly, we do sometimes contact musicians who we would like to host a show for. There is something special about hosting a show for one of our long time favorite artists. And having been on the road with Lowen and Navarro for many years, as well as being a musicjunkie, I know a LOT of performers!

Between these five categories, we have plenty of musicians and bands on our current list of people that we'd like to host a house concert for in the near future. Since we only host between ten and twelve shows per year, we're obviously very backlogged. One of the things we are doing to try to accommodate more performers is that we are trying to book more shows with double billings. In other words, two artists or bands in the same evening. However, as anyone on our mailing list can attest to-- we have also thrown together a houseconcert on VERY short notice! Like 5 hours! Thank-you Ari Hest!! It was a blast, and the small crowd LOVED the super intimate setting!

Q. What styles of music do you host?

A. Each house concert series is a little different from all the others. Most seem to focus on a particular genre of music. Many of the house concerts we are aware of focus on folk music to one degree or another. Some are more singer-songwriter oriented, or as Ellis Paul would say, "WG^2-- white guy with guitar". Over the years, This Old Houseconcerts has hosted pop, folk, rock, country and such. Obviously, we try to provide a variety of musical styles. (Although we've never hosted any classical music, there are house concerts that focus on that genre as well.) We lean primarily towards the singer-songwriters and folk-rock styles. The common thread in the artists we host is that we both have to really enjoy the music and the performer before we'll consider booking someone.

Q. When are your upcoming shows and who are the performers?

A. You can always keep up with our latest schedule on our website at: www.houseconcert.org - Simply click on the "Upcoming Concerts" section of the site. By far, the best way to keep "in the know" is to sign up for the mailing list. No spam, no selling your address, nothing but annoucements about our houseconcerts, and occasionally we include info on other houseconcerts in the ChicagoLand area.

Sign up here!!! Mailing List!!

FAQs Part 2

Q. Who have you had perform at your home?

A. We've been hosting House Concerts irregularly for almost ten years now. We've enjoyed doing it and have been lucky to host some great talent. Among those who have performed here are Pierce Pettis, Acoustic Eidolon, Ari Hest, Lowen and Navarro, Stonehoney, Don Conoscienti, Mark Erelli, Darden Smith, and more! - Simply click on the "Past Performers" section of the site. (coming soon!)

Q. How much does this cost me?

A. We have a "voluntary suggested donation" of $15 per person at most of our House Concerts. The reason we call it a "voluntary suggested donation" is that we are not a business. This is our home. We can't really call if an "admission fee". Turning this into a business would create all sorts of extra work and expense on our part. We are simply having a party!!

However, our "voluntary suggested donation" is still as close to being mandatory as we can make it. Without the money, we could not get the caliber of musicians who have graced our living room.  We work on the honor system and need everyone's participation to keep our series going. We find that nearly everyone puts in the suggested amount and some people even put in a little extra. Remember 100% of the donations go directly to the performers.

Q. How did you get started?

A. We attended a houseconcert at our firiend Brynn's house, and loved the whole experience. Shortly thereafter, our friend Pierce Pettis was travelling through and had an open date, and we called and asked if he would be interested. So on what was the hottest day of September in 2001, we had Pierce playing in our living room for 50 or so very warm, but VERY appreciative and happy music lovers.

Q. What do your neighbors think?

A. We encourage our neighbors to attend and many (if not most) of our neighbors have attended our house concerts over the years. Some of our neighbors are among our most regular guests at these evenings.

As a courtesy to our neighbors, our shows are nearly always on weekend nights and end at a reasonable hour. We also try to limit ourselves to no more than one show per month. Our house concerts generally begin at 8:00 P.M. and end by 10:30 P.M... although sometimes they do go a bit later. And sometimes we do silly things like booking 3 shows in a month. Not going to do THAT again!!

Q. You have a dessert buffet?

A. Yes, we do. At each of our concerts we have a pot-luck style dessert buffet. While it is not required for guests to contribute, it is encouraged. The more we have, the more fun it is!! We contribute a limited amount of coffee, soft drinks and desserts each month, so there is always something to enjoy. How big the buffet is depends upon how many people contribute that evening.

Over the past few years, we have accumulated some beautiful bowls and platters that people have left here. And some not so beautiful ones as well... Please try to remember to take your bowls and platters with you. If you think you have left one here, please let us know and we'll see about getting it back to you. Put a mailing address sticker on the bottom, so we know who it belongs to!

Q. How many people on are on your mailing list?

A. There are currently over 250 people on our 'opt-in' email list. We usually send out two emails each month that we have a show scheduled. One half is an "invitation" to our next show, the other half is a "news"- our next upcoming show, and about other local house concerts or whatever.

Q. How can I get off your mailing list?

A. If you no longer wish to be on our mailing list. Please let us know. We won't be offended. We do NOT want to annoy you any more than is necessary!

We operate an automated "opt-in, opt-out" mailing list. When you sign up, it magically emails you an email that contains the list information, as well as unsubscribe info. You can subscribe or unsubscribe at any time, just by visiting the webpage...
Mailing List!!

Also, please make sure that your email program or spam filter lets the email get to you!
Click here for the Subscription Help page

Also, if you change your email address, please let us know. We lose a few people from our list every now and then because they don't let us know that they have moved or changed email. Or you can unsubscribe your old address, and subscribe your new address....

Q. Where are you located?

A. We are in Berwyn, IL. This is the verwy near west suburbs of Chicago. In the summer months, we move this dog and pony show out to Naperville, a far west suburb, 30 miles from the lake. (When you RSVP for a House Concert, we'll send you specific directions.)

Q. How can I attend?

A. Just send us an email RSVP to music@houseconcert.org and tell us that would like to RSVP for a show. Please be sure to specify which show and how many people will be joining you. If you have never been here before, you'll need directions, so be sure to tell us where you are coming from!

We will send you a confirmation email telling you that we've added you to the RSVP list. You should get that return email within 24 hours of sending in your RSVP. If you don't... it means we didn't get your email, so please try again. Only people who get a confirmation email from us will be on the RSVP list. Then generally a few days before the show, we send out an RSVP reminder, which also includes details, directions, and emergency contact info.

Q. What if I RSVP and then can't make it?

A. You never get invited to another show, EVER!  (just kidding!) PLEASE be sure to let us know. Some of our house concerts fill up weeks in advance. So there is a good chance that we will have a Waiting List for the show. If you are on the RSVP list for a particular concert but will not be able to attend, please be sure to let us know as soon as possible so that we'll have the opportunity to include someone from the Waiting List. This is a courtesy not only to the people on the Waiting List, but also to the performer who would love to see a full house!

Q. Why do you need an RSVP list?

A. These are private parties in our living room and we have a limited amount of space. Many of our house concerts attract enough interest to fill the house. We use the RSVP list to be sure that we can fit everyone in. Being on the RSVP list does NOT guarantee a seat. We only have about 65 chairs and can sometimes get up to 100 people in the room. If you want a seat, be sure to get here early. Doors open at 7:30 P.M. for our 8:00 P.M. shows.

Q. What kind of environment is the evening?

A. Casual. We go for the warm and cozy feel. Dress is "Cozy Casual". Our home is a smoke free environment. We ask everyone to honor this and please keep all cigars, pipes and cigarettes outside. We also insist NO DRUGS OF ANY KIND... chocolate not withstanding!! We have a nice dessert buffet that includes all types of cookies, cakes, and pies along with coffee and soda. We do not generally provide any alcohol, but anything that is leftover from previous shows goes right back out for the next one. Well, we generally finish off the wine... but anything unopened gets saved! However, if people wish to bring wine or beer, we are fine with that so long as people use their own discretion; anyone who appears intoxicated in our home will be asked to leave and not to return. We are happy to say that in our first decade of hosting house concerts, this has only been a problem once, and she knows who she is!

So thats it, in a BIG NUTSHELL.
Any other questions, drop us a line!

And a HUGE thanks to Russ & Julie, and their website, as pretty much all of these FAQs came from them-- no sense reinventing the wheel!
If you are in the SoCal area, check them out at