TRENDS Diary: Musicians Bring Back, Beatles and Bluegrass to Boulder’s Martin Acres

Robbie Herbst and fellow musicians play a community concert in Boulder’s Martin Acres neighborhood

TRENDS Diary, a project of the Community Foundation of Boulder County, is a place for Boulder County residents of all ages to share personal experiences that relate to a pressing community need. The focus, for now, is on our shared need to connect and solve problems, despite the increased isolation we’re all experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Dear TRENDS Diary,

I’m a musician. I finished my masters in violin performance a year ago, and under normal circumstances I would be playing with orchestras around town and other gigs—but that’s all dried up now. Instead, I’m performing for my neighborhood.

Thanks to an artist’s grant from the City of Boulder, I have been putting on socially distant concerts every Tuesday evening on our street in the Martin Acres neighborhood. I play violin with a rotating company of cellists, pianists, clarinetists—even an opera singer—performing everything from Bach to the Beatles to bluegrass. The concert series runs through May, and we are planning additional performances throughout the summer.

The concerts have touched a nerve, in a good way. Nearly twenty musicians—CU colleagues and neighbors—have offered to perform, and dozens of people have shown up with chairs, blankets, and masks to listen. People are starved for live interaction, and there’s an enthusiasm and eagerness in the audience that really feeds us as performers. It’s sometimes tough playing outside—you have to work harder to get heard. Last week, the wind picked up during the show and the music started flying off the stands. But those are bumps in the road you have to learn from.

No one knows what the state of the performing arts will be after the worst of this has passed. When will people be comfortable going to concert halls? We need alternative ways to perform, so these community shows may have a more enduring place in our lives. There are lots of artist grants floating around these days, and our audience is also supporting us through Venmo tips and Patreon subscriptions—but as long as there are musicians to play and a community to respond, these concerts can happen anywhere.

– Robbie Herbst, as told to Hannah Nordhaus