WHERE I PLAY
After fifty-four years of playing guitar, singing, and writing songs … I’m still happily at it! I handle my own scheduling and it’s easy to reach out to me via the handy Booking form.
These would be in a coffeehouse, theater, music festival, pub, etc. Usually open to the public. Sometimes ticketed, sometimes not. It might be a full evening with me doing a couple full sets. Or other artists might be on the bill. Most of the time this kind of appearance is me in full singer-songwriter mode, the thing I think I do best.
Usually very similar to public concerts but held at (or sponsored by) a church. Sometimes it’s a standalone “Concert with Bob Bennett”. Other times I’m doing a set where there are other artists … or there is a message/study as part of the mix.
Church Services/Bible Studies
Sometimes I’m contributing to a Sunday Morning Service with songs at various places in the Order of Service. (Call to Worship, Offertory, before or after a Sermon, Communion, Benediction.) It varies from place to place and there’s lots of latitude as to how I can fit in. There are a few occasions where the pastor says “Bob, you’re the sermon this morning.” In effect, almost a mini-concert. At those times, I try very hard to make sure people will still feel like they “came to church” when they’d normally be expecting a full message.
There are also situations when I’m not only the “special music” guest musician but I’m also leading congregational singing. On some occasions, I’m pinch-hitting for the worship team. I absolutely love doing this. It can be a great change of pace for people to hear themselves, along with their neighbors, singing to a solo acoustic guitar. Most often I like to revisit some of the classics from the Jesus Music era and this delights those who might not hear those songs as much anymore. And “the kids” get a brief musical glimpse at the songs that fueled the Jesus People revival.
Hands down, this is one of my favorite parts of my job. Although it’s not front-and-center on the pop-entertainment radar, Acoustic Music (comprising genres like folk, bluegrass, country, Americana, and singer-songwriter) is still very much alive and well in our time. Hopefully there will always be a place for handmade, hand-played, musical storytelling.
There is actually a loose-knit circuit of house concerts around the country. Some host them regularly as a monthly series. These can be as challenging to schedule as clubs or other for-profit venues. But for me, more often than not, a House Concert involves a longtime listener who finds the idea attractive even though they may have never done this sort of thing before. You should know it’s not as daunting as you might assume. I’ve happily done this so many times … I’d be happy to walk you through the simple steps to host a House Concert. For my brethren who may have never considered such a thing, I suggest thinking of it this way: “It’s like hosting a small home Bible study but instead of the study-part, I sing!”
“You mean you’ll come to sing at my house, Bob?” Almost all the time, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
Colleges/Universities … and Choirs!
One of my very favorite things is to get on or near a Campus to sing. Sometimes a Chapel Service affords a great way for me to contribute to a Student gathering. Other times I’ve sung and sometimes even spoken in classroom situations. I’m absolutely committed to being as much an encouragement as I can be to young people who are wanting to express themselves artistically whether in or out of Church … or, as I cheer them onto do, both!
Also, over the past couple years, I have a great option I’ve never had before: performing in concert with a choir. To make a long story short, that began in December 2014 at Judson University where I collaborated with Dr. Warren Anderson in presenting a Christmastide Concert with a choir and orchestra. We had so much fun, we did a second evening (with choir only) with a different set list the last weekend of September 2016. That resulted in my album Live at Judson University. So according, I have choir arrangements/charts for some of my Christmas songs as well as some of my “regular” material. I would love to collaborate with a choir … whether in Church or on Campus!
Ah, “food gigs”. A food gig is, obviously, defined as any situation where food is consumed before or after I’ll be singing. Banquets, backyard barbecues, picnics, celebratory dinners, etc. Notice that I didn’t write “food is consumed while I’ll be singing”. Although I’ve certainly done some of that in the past, it’s not too effective or much fun for anyone involved. It’s nearly impossible to get people to listen when, by definition. they’re otherwise occupied. So I avoid specific “sing while folks eat” situations and respectfully ask that we plan things so I’m not background music. I’m confident I can add something good to an event where food is served but I shy away from competing against cheesecake for an audience’s attention … I’ve lost that battle more than I’ve won it.
Most often retreats fall into these categories:
- All-Church (singles, families, all ages)
With the first two, I often do “a little of this and a little of that”. Leading singing, a concert segment, songs to punctuate teaching sessions, etc. Sometimes I have a definitive “slot”, other times I’m scattered throughout the weekend’s sessions/events. Especially at retreats where families are involved, I love to sing for/with the kids as well as the grownups.
For a men’s retreat, I can highlight material like “Man of the Tombs”, “Lord of the Past”, “No Such Things as Divorce”, “Angels Around Your Bed”, and “The Place I Am Bound”. When men get away and gather together with the intention of going deeper with the Lord and each other, it can be a very powerful time. It is my distinct honor to serve men in this way.
For artistic retreats, the gathering of this community (if even for a brief weekend) is a great enterprise. Of course I try to lead by example in the songs I write and sing, but I also thrive on the fellowship with “birds of a feather”. My goal is to be as encouraging and helpful as I can, not so much as the designated expert but simply a fellow traveler. I have three favorite things I like to do in these situations when I can. One is to host a “listening party” where I play some of my favorite recordings by other artists. Listening to great work often begets great work. Second, I love to facilitate an impromptu Q&A where the questioners set the agenda. Thirdly, I love to listen to and analyze songs in a clinical, hands-on way. Although I’m just one man with an opinion and folks can certainly take or leave my advice, I really thrive on being able to help other songwriters realize their vision when crafting songs. I perk up my ears, roll up my sleeves, and we go to work together.
For all of these sorts of retreats, I’m not only open to singing but also very willing to do limited speaking. Although I’m a storyteller by nature in and between my songs, sometimes a brief, focused talk can also be helpful.
House Call Concerts
Yes, you’re probably noticing that you’ve just read and scrolled past a heading for “House Concerts”. Let me explain why this isn’t a duplication or editing error. A “House Call Concert” is my specific moniker for a very specific thing. As I’ve aged, so has my listening audience. In practical terms that means that sometimes folks who I have a “history with” (by way of recordings, concerts, radio, etc.) are facing serious illnesses of varying kinds and differing prognoses. Sometimes it’s “in dire straits” with the hope of recovery, other times it’s the challenging days at the end-of-life. Either way, whenever possible, if I can travel to sing for someone in that situation, I want to do it. The idea is that a family facing these serious times won’t have to part with one thin dime for me to show up and make a “musical house call” for their loved one. Please understand that, although not intended to be exclusionary, the best scenario is for it be somewhat meaningful that I’m the one who’s turning up to sing my songs. I’ll sing for anybody, but the idea is that some of my music has been a part of their soundtrack over the years. I have hopes to someday form a foundation to fund these journeys. But for now the trick is getting me there and taken care of to get this done. Sometimes someone will step and in and fund the travel and accommodations (with money, or frequent flyer miles, etc.). Other times I find out about a person while I’m already in a particular area. Of course if it’s Southern California and I can drive, then I do. The other thing that helps, if possible, is for me to fill-in a day or two surrounding the House Call Concert. This might mean networking with a local Church or coffeehouse or other opportunity. It’s not strictly necessary, but helps me accomplish this specific task and do a little bill-paying as well. If this brings to mind a friend or loved one that I could bless in this way, please contact me to see if this is a possibility. The “Plan B” for this is to do a Skype or FaceTime visit. Not as satisfying as “in person”, but still something to be considered.
Click HERE for a link to a now-old 2012 blog post where I first developed this idea.
Occasionally it works out for me to sing at a wedding or renewal of vows service. There are sometimes scheduling challenges to make this work, but I’m certainly open to contributing to such a happy occasion when I can.
In 2009, I recorded my first (and, as of this writing, only) Christmas collection titled Christmastide. I tried very hard to write original songs that would be interesting and not too cornball as it’s all too easy to write Christmas songs that pale in comparison to the standards we know and love. During the first part of Fall, I relearn and work up most of these songs for Christmastide Concerts that I schedule between Thanksgiving and Epiphany. (Many of these seasonal concerts are private House Concerts, so I’d encourage you to get a date on the schedule in advance.) Think about it: a large, jolly bearded man who loves you, doing Christmas-themed songs. Kind of appropriate, eh?
Other Things Not Listed
These are the types of things I do most often, but this doesn’t have to be the definitive list. Sometimes people surprise me and I’m happy to consider most situations. Yes, a bowling tournament or line dancing marathon would not quite be my best showcase, but if you’ve got an idea that doesn’t neatly fit into these categories, please still ask me. People make the mistake of thinking that guys who make records and play concerts are “famous” and, thus, inaccessible. That may be true for some, but it’s certainly not true for me. The most interesting part of what I do is meeting new people to partner with in presenting this music and meeting new and longtime listeners before or after a concert.
Suffice to say, I love my job and I hope, in some form or fashion, I can “do it” for you! Interested? Contact me using the Booking form.