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106.1 The River

Local Music Alive and Well in East Tennessee

By Cindi Alpert

When people ask me what I would be doing if I were not in broadcasting, I tell them I would be a lounge singer. Michelle Pfeiffer and her sultry character Susie Diamond in the 1989 film The Fabulous Baker Boys comes to mind. That sizzling duet of “Makin’ Whoopie” she performs with Jeff Bridges at a hotel New Year’s Eve celebration is forever etched in my mind. Aside from sitting in with bands and performing a few songs here and there and doing a little recording and back-up vocals, running a business and being a mom has gotten in the way of living the glamorous life of a musician. That is until recently.

About a year ago, I sat in with The Corduroy Jazz Trio at a The Pizza Kitchen. When I sang the first few verses, I glanced side to side and felt that familiar vibe when the band members all look at each other with that expression of approval. It’s a nice feeling knowing that such talented musicians are enjoying accompanying me. The next day, one of the young members of the trio called me and asked if I would like to join the band. I was so flattered and excited, but there was no way I could run as hard as I do every day and be able to gig most nights of the week. So being a regular member of the band was not an option for me.

I then decided to put a couple feelers out there with my restaurant contacts to see if perhaps I could play with the guys one night a month. The next thing I know, David Kiger of The Orangery called me back and gave us a shot at playing at one of Knoxville’s most beautiful heritage restaurants. Since that first night, we have been booked to play third Thursdays in their courtyard area from 6-9 pm. So, one Thursday a month, I get to play out my dream job… and I actually get paid to do it.

In the last three years I have lived in Knoxville, I have had the opportunity to really get connected with the local music scene. I am fortunate because my husband and I own 106.1 The River, which allows us to meet and showcase local singer/songwriters on the radio station. I have lived all up and down the east coast and I have to admit, we have something really special here.

A lot of people compare Knoxville to Nashville and say they are not impressed, but I know first-hand that there is a ton of fresh, local talent sprouting from this area. Aaron Thompson, owner and operator of Sapphire in Knoxville, has this to say about the subject: “Live musicians in Knoxville are incredibly talented and resilient entertainers.  There are many up-and-coming musicians in our area.  It seems the highest concentration of talent is in the realm of Americana and bluegrass.  As a music venue owner that books my own acts, I have no shortage of talented options to choose from in the area.”

Another growing trend and a great way to enjoy live music in a more intimate setting is attending a house concert. I recently had lunch with Americana singer-songwriter Karen E. Reynolds and she told me all about it. She explained that a house concert is a great way for people to gather together in a private home, enjoy an evening of food, music, and conversation, and really get to know the musician and the inspiration behind the songs being performed that evening. Karen explains the concept as this: “It’s an intimate listening room type of setting similar to that of the Bluebird Café in Nashville with the exception that it is held in private homes.” Some of the house concerts are private events, but there are several that are open to the public as long as you make a reservation. The cost is usually around $15 per person and everyone brings a covered dish.

Not only does Karen sing and write songs, but she is an accomplished guitar player, owns her own label, operates a booking management company, and teaches music and songwriting. She also plays over 150 shows a year all over the country including house concerts. Such an event featuring my talented friend Karen would surely be most entertaining. I need to put that one on my “things to do in Knoxville” list. For more information on the house concert concept, visit www.houseconcerts.com.

With all of these opportunities to experience, share, and learn about local music, there is no reason not to try a new restaurant, check out a house concert or buy a CD or two from a local musician. After all, it’s a low cost and healthy way to indulge a little and at the same time, nourish the soul. There are so many reasons to support our local Knoxville talent and venues. For one, local shows are cheaper or free and spending dollars at local restaurants and supporting local musicians helps keep our local economy humming. Original music is diverse and experiencing new music is a great way to affordably take in some culture. Plus, if they make it big, you can say I WAS THERE!

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