HUNTERSVILLE – Matthew Seneca says you’d be amazed at who would accept an invitation to play a concert inside your home.
From Grammy Award-winning songwriters to artists who have played the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, the Huntersville resident has had that level of talent either play or at least agree to play in the living room of his Carrington Ridge townhome.
His service is called Passion House Concerts, and Seneca receives three-to-five emails a week from touring artists and their managers inquiring about his home-turned-music hall.
“I think if you listen to these people’s music, this is very high-caliber,” said Seneca, an English teacher at Lake Norman Charter High School. “This is not amateur hour, what I’m doing here. These are serious musicians.”
Since David Jacobs-Strain performed in front of about 30 people in October 2016, Seneca has had six other shows – including a return from Jacobs-Strain and his playing partner Bob Beach a year later.
Seneca makes no money off the shows, as all of the ticket cost – the host calls it a donation – goes to the artist, who also can make money selling CDs and merchandise. And since the artists are guaranteed a certain amount, Seneca has to reach into his own pockets if not enough people show up.
“I teach English, but songwriting is one of my passions and this is just a little side, labor-of-love thing that I’m doing,” he said, noting some artists make more money at the house shows than from playing more traditional venues. “You may be playing to a slightly larger house, but you’re not seeing as much income. And sometimes you’re playing to the same-size house.”
The artists who have played at Seneca’s home aren’t local, but are typically on tour and come to Huntersville in between tour dates in Charlotte or other nearby cities. The performers, whether its guitarist Courtney Hartman from Brooklyn or Sean McGowan from Denver, Colo., also stay a night or two in Seneca’s guest room.
“These are literally some of my favorite artists,” Seneca said. “Courtney Hartman is insane. I’d see her in any venue she’s performing in. I feel ridiculously lucky that these people are willing to play.”
The next to make Seneca feel lucky is Sam Pacetti, who has a show Friday, June 7. Seneca says acoustic musicians like Pacetti relish having the more attentive audience than folks at a bar.
“The audience is attentive rather than drinking, which is the case at a bar,” said Seneca, who doesn’t serve drinks but only offers snacks to the audience. “The acts that they draw tend to be the ones that draw a drinking audience rather than a listening audience … “If you’re an acoustic musician, maybe a solo artist or maybe have a small duo and the music is more worthy of focus and attention, it can be hard.”
Hosting musicians – Seneca said acts big enough to perform at the PNC Music Pavilion would be too much of a stretch – is not necessarily a new trend, but one that has returned.
“It’s the new, old thing,” he said.