Classical For Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Take Note is Classical KC's monthly email newsletter featuring exclusive content, programming highlights, and much more. Explore past features via the links below. Sign up here and view the archive here.

These Kansas City groups are bringing chamber music concerts back into living rooms

essica Dressler performed a Judy Garland tribute for the Charlotte House Series, while series founder Bradley Petzold, at the piano, looks on.
Anna Knutson
Charlotte House Series
Jessica Dressler performed a Judy Garland tribute for the Charlotte House Series, while series founder Bradley Petzold, at the piano, looks on.

You might think that house shows are reserved for punk bands in grimey basements. But before music was ever played in concert halls and theaters, intimate shows in private residences showed off the talents of great composers and performers. Now, classical organizations are bringing back this tradition in Kansas City.

This story was first published in Classical KC's "Take Note" newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox the first Wednesday of every month.

Before the opening of Kansas City's first theater, Coates Opera House, in 1870, music was performed in houses and private residences. Thanks to organizations like the Charlotte House Series and Bach Aria Soloists, that tradition is alive and well.

The Charlotte House Series is the latest addition, founded in 2018 by Bradley Petzold in his home on Charlotte Street. He is a member of the Heartland Men’s Chorus, and studied piano at UMKC Conservatory before earning an MBA.

Petzold started the series at the suggestion of Kara Huber, a pianist friend from Cincinnati who was planning a tour and looking for places to perform in the area. But, everything in town was too big for what they had in mind. He started researching house concerts as an alternative to more traditional venues.

“I realized, oh my gosh, this is how music used to be enjoyed all the time,” he said.

After a year of research, in which he traveled to other salon-style concerts in various parts of the country, Petzold was ready to launch. “I came back with a very positive ‘yes.’ I can make this happen in Kansas City.”

This first concert, in Petzold’s living room, featured Huber.

“It’s a much different experience than playing in a concert hall where you are not, you know, just five feet from the artist and you don’t get the experience of getting to talk to them afterwards,” he said.

In Europe, prior to about 1850, house concerts ranged from casual gatherings of friends after dinner to more formal, invitation-only salons in opulent settings where participants discussed art, literature, and politics, and listened to the latest music by the composers of the day. From Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and Ludwig van Beethoven to Frédéric Chopin and Franz Schubert, these concerts created space to elevate and showcase great performers for the elite and social tastemakers of the day.

Nowadays in Kansas City, these concerts are less about being elite and more about inviting music lovers to intimate performances.

The social aspect

The Charlotte House Series experience includes champagne upon entry, with a half hour to mingle before the concert, a one hour performance, then a social hour afterwards, with wine and hors d'oeuvres. Spaces can typically accommodate 30-45 audience members. Often, concerts sell out.

“It’s the social aspect, as well, which was not always present in other series. Going back to the history of salon concerts, it wasn’t necessarily all music,” said Petzold. “I wanted to incorporate that element as well into the series.”

And it’s not all classical chamber music, either. The Joshua Espinoza Trio, a jazz group from Baltimore, performed for the series in 2019.

“I’m trying to feature all levels of musicians and not necessarily pigeonhole myself into one genre,” said Petzold.

After four years at the house on Charlotte Street, the series now takes place all over the metro area. Petzold moved to the Beacon Hill neighborhood and still hosts concerts, but he always envisioned concerts presented at a network of music-lovers’ homes. The series owns its own chairs and cocktail tables, allowing the series to travel.

And while the Charlotte House Series is a newcomer to the scene of concert presenters, the house concert has been a popular choice in Kansas City for quite a few decades.

Charlotte House Series concerts allow audiences a cozy and casual chamber music experience.
Charlotte House Series
Charlotte House Series concerts allow audiences a cozy and casual chamber music experience.

When they started nearly 50 years ago, Friends of Chamber Music Kansas City's first concerts were in private homes. Diastole Scholars’ Center, located near UMKC’s Hospital Hill, has hosted UMKC student recitals and professional ensembles, like newEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, in its art-filled and book-lined living room.

Bach Aria Soloists started out with a "Hauzkonzert" in 2000. The format proved so popular with patrons, that they've kept it a part of their regular season, even as their productions evolved to larger concert offerings for hundreds of people.

“They are a lot of fun for the musicians,” said Elizabeth Suh Lane, violinist, founder and executive-artistic director of Bach Aria Soloists. Though the group started with all J.S. Bach repertoire, Suh Lane noted that “we have really mixed it up for our Hauskonzerts over the years, collaborating with musicians from Matt Haimovitz and Betse Ellis to Bill McGlaughlin, Susan Kander and Chen Yi.”

“For chamber music, they are nearer to what was intended by the composers than a concert hall. The intimacy is clearly the point and makes an impact for the audience to be up close to experience the exquisite nature of the intricate music and each musician,” she said.

Bach Aria Soloists’ Hauskonzerts also include receptions for musicians and audiences to mingle. With this convivial setting, said Suh Lane, “there is not the distance or divide between them.”

Keeping it local

For Charlotte House Series, this was the first season they've featured all Kansas City-based performers. The eclectic line-up has so far included Jessica Dressler in a Judy Garland tribute, a holiday concert with Porch Music KC, and an album sneak-peek with singer/songwriter Nicole Springer.

This spring, audiences can look forward to even more Kansas City talent in intimate venues around the metro area from the series.

On April 15, M2 Duo makes their Charlotte House Series debut with “Rhapsody in ‘2’” at a private residence in North Kansas City. Saxophonist Nick May and pianist Maya Tuylieva will present an eclectic program including music from Claude Debussy and George Gershwin to Jerome Savari and Suhan Tuyliyev, as well as the premier of a new work by Baltimore-based Peter Dayton, commissioned for this concert.

Nick May, saxophone, and Maya Tuylieva, piano, perform Suhan Tuyliyev’s “Belger,” originally written for the Turkmen national instrument, gargy tuyduk.

Other concerts this season include a performance by pianist Miles Swaminathan at the Steinway Gallery in Lenexa, Kansas, and the season finale from 2CellosKC — featuring Kansas City Symphony cellists Susie Yang and Meredith McCook — at a home in Olathe. Their repertoire covers everything from Bach and traditional music to Lady Gaga.

Looking beyond this season, the series has a collaboration with Kansas City Baroque Consortium in the works.

“I have an unending list of musicians I can feature for these concerts,” says Petzold. “It’s incredible, the talent here.”

Learn more about Charlotte House Series and upcoming performances at

Originally from Indiana, Libby Hanssen is a freelance writer in Kansas City. She is the author of States of Swing: The History of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, 2003-2023. Along with degrees in trombone performance, Libby was a Fellow for the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University. Learn more at Proust Eats a Sandwich.