The Bridge Music Hall wants to bring a listening room back to Pittsburgh. Such a space would seat about 150 audience members who come to listen intently to music. Rich Dieter, a Pittsburgh resident since 1991, worked with this venue model when he lived in Chicago. He also managed a number of national acts who played long-gone local venues like Rosebud and Graffiti.
“A listening room is cabaret-style, with tables and chairs,” he explains. “You don’t talk during the performance. You show respect to the musicians by paying attention while they’re performing.”
Dieter, the founder and president of the Bridge Music Hall, estimates he’s spoken with nearly 400 people about the idea, including musicians, community developers, business people and promoters. Over 20 of them serve on the Bridge’s board of directors, a diverse group of men and woman, artists and professionals, who also represent a range of musical interests, from folk to opera to jazz.
He cites Ann Arbor, Mich.’s 45-year-old listening room the Ark as inspiration for what can happen here. “Last year they grossed 2.8 million dollars,” he says, “mainly off earned income: ticket sales, memberships, sponsorships, beverages and rental. That’s pretty much going to be our business model. We’re convinced that in two years, we could be sustainable.”
In short, the board has laid some solid groundwork. All that’s needed is the space in which to do it, which presents a catch-22, according to Dieter. “In order to have the space, we need money. In order to raise money, we need a space,” he says. With a GoFundMe campaign set up, the board is also hoping to find a developer to partner with it on a location.
In the meantime, the Bridge is hosting music on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Wallace’s Whiskey Room, at East Liberty’s Hotel Indigo, with occasional bookings on other weeknights. Programs like “Gospel at the Bar” and “Opera at the Bar” have already drawn good responses. Saxophonist Tony Campbell performs on Thu., Oct. 19, and songwriter Heather Kropf appears Tue., Oct. 24.