Right Here Music stages intimate music shows for CU


By Maaike Niekerk, Summer Editor

Right Here Music, a new nonprofit organization, has officially sprung into action by bringing musicians to Champaign-Urbana with the goal of creating small, intimate live shows.

The organization is the project of Champaign locals Mark and Jenn Aardsma, two business professionals with a passion for music. With two of their four children leaving for college, Mark and Jenn said they decided to re-evaluate their career paths.

“It kind of came from turning 40, realizing that we’ve done a lot of work; we’ve been raising kids, being very productive and responsible,” Mark said. “I guess we just knew that there were some more heartful and more artful things we wanted to do with the second half of our lives.”

The couple felt that they were drifting away from ideas and passions that had always been in the backs of their minds, Jenn said.

“Both of us had kind of gotten away from music things, and now we’re using this as a way to be more involved with that,” Jenn said.

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“We want to make a warm, welcoming place for artists, and a place to gather and create connection and community,” Jenn said. “It’s a way to enjoy the music, the art and each other.”

Mark said he had already been working with ATS acoustics, a business specializing in acoustic and sound-absorbing materials. 

“Part of why we started right here music was because I was like, ‘Man, we’ve been doing all of this stuff supporting music, but not directly involved with music,’” Mark said. “I wanted to get back to that part.”

Charlie Harris, the event production coordinator for Right Here Music, said the organization was the “brainchild” of Mark and Jenn: a combination of music and business.

Mark said creating the project involved careful consideration of what the music scene in Champaign-Urbana was lacking.

“The town doesn’t need more venues, it doesn’t need more recording studios,” Mark said. “But there’s several people who said to us, ‘Touring musicians used to come to town more, and now they just drive by on their way to Chicago.’”

Mark said the couple realized that a lack of musicians was the biggest issue of the town’s music scene.

“Maybe we could put together an organization that just books musicians to come to town,” Mark said. 

Harris said that Right Here Music aims to put on about one show every two months at venues in the Champaign-Urbana area.

“One of the big parts of Mark and Jenn’s mission is to be collaborating with the community,” Harris said. “Bringing live music to new spaces, or spaces that aren’t frequented as much, in an effort to just kind of curate a space.”

While Right Here Music does not have its own venue, they work with local music venues to set up a performance area for visiting artists, as stated on their website.

Harris, who is a local musician as well as a part-owner of the Rose Bowl Tavern in Urbana, said that using different spaces in the area was a creative part of the organizing process.

“It’s kind of cool, using different spaces,” Harris said. “We can pick a space that feels interesting and right, or sort of ‘on brand’ for the artist.”

Part of the organization’s brand is creating smaller, intimate experiences for both the artist and the audience. Harris said that a smaller performance can promote a better connection between people.

“It’s not that you can’t have a connection between an audience and an artist in a big setting,” Harris said. “But it is more difficult. Obviously someone has to sit in the seats in the back.”

By having a smaller venue, Harris said that the live music experience can become much more personal.

“Our goal is that everyone in attendance, everyone who chooses to spend their evening at a Right Here Music event, has an intimate and close experience of the music and the musician,” Harris said.

With only a small number of shows per year, Mark and Jenn said that Right Here Music is able to offer a reliably high quality experience for local audiences.

“One of the things I think we can offer to our fans is to be predictable,” Mark said. “We’re only doing six shows a year right now, so we can be picky. It’s kind of, like, low quantity, but high quality and consistency.”

The organization plans to stay focused on creating new experiences for the music enjoyers of Champaign-Urbana.

“It’s not about making money,” Mark said. “It’s not about the number of tickets. If the audience feels like they’re glad they came and that their life was enriched a little bit by listening, that’s a win.”

Information about future Right Here Music events can be found online at https://www.rightheremusic.org/


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