Ready to listen, Hendersonville?

Up close and personal: Hendersonville’s new Listening Room offers access (and post-concert meet and greets) to musicians like Michael Reno Harrell.

Hendersonville's Guitar Academy of Western North Carolina teaches lessons, sure. But the school offers another important learning opportunity to its students: Live performances by local, regional and Grammy-award-winning touring artists. “Everything that we have ever done here at the Guitar Academy has been performance driven," says Director Michael Ridenour. "This is just a natural extension from that.”

He's talking about the academy's recent expansion to become one of the area's newest music venues, The Listening Room. The performance space has released its lineup for the next six months and will feature family-friendly, alcohol-free Sunday afternoon concerts. “We’ve got Michael Reno Harrell who is a great storyteller and guitar player. Terry Wetton, Tom Fish and Angela Heatherly are some of the singer-songwriters," says Ridenour. "We also have Al Petteway, and his wife Amy White, who will be performing in April. Al is a virtuoso when it comes to folk Appalachian guitar. The musicians represent all kinds of styles.”

What makes this venue unique is embedded right into its name: a listening room. By minimizing the distractions often found at a large venue or a pub concert, the audience will be able to actively listen to each performer. “We’ve had a lot of conversations with the artists," says Ridenour. "They really like that intimate listening-music-room type of an atmosphere.” 

And then audience can look forward to conversations with performers, too. “After the concerts, we’re going to actually have artist meet and greet," says Ridenour. "A venue of 70 people is not that large and everyone can have a little bit of face time with the artist after the show.”

While the new performance space is as much for area residents as it is for those who study at the Guitar Academy, Ridenour points out that listening to other musicians is an important part of music education (even for those students who won't go on to tour professionally). “I’m most looking forward to exposing my students to really good performers,” said Ridenour. “It’s a goal for them to shoot for.” 

The inaugural performance in the new space was a student show that included the academy’s rock band, jazz band, and classical/acoustic guitar ensemble. Offering enrichment classes as well as private lessons, students at the academy can supplement other coursework, gain specialized training in classical, acoustic, or electric guitar as well as mastery over the low notes of an upright or electric bass. 

When encouraging his students to attend the live performances, Ridenour insists, “This is why you’re here. This is why you’re taking lessons.”


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