Tucked into a Prospect Heights duplex apartment right off Grand Army Plaza, there’s a little supper club where you can hear world-class musicians perform while eating homemade food, drinking wine and getting to know your neighbors. Call the babysitter? No need to do that, actually—childcare is included in the price of the evening. While you get your jazz, funk, rock and soul on, your kid(s) will be having a pizza/movie party right down the hall. Best of all, your ticket ($70 per couple, $40 for individuals; includes dinner and wine and childcare) supports the PS 9 PTO, helping to pay for the school’s arts programs. Win/win/win.
2013 marks the third year of this concert series launched in the spring of 2010 by PS 9 parents and professional musicians Jen Chapin and Stephan Crump (mom and dad to Maceo, second grade). Jen is a singer-songwriter hailed as an “uncommon wit” by Entertainment Weekly and “soulfully poetic” by NPR. PS 9-ers are more likely know her as the movie-night food lady. Stephan, aka “Maceo’s dad,” is a Grammy-nominated bassist whose work has been called “mind-blowing.”
And it is surely mind-blowing to hear this kind of musical talent in a Prospect Heights living room while your kid eats pizza down the hall. Jen and Stephan perform together with guitarist Jamie Fox as the Jen Chapin Trio, and every house concert also features a special guest who is also a PS 9 parent and a professional musician, performing original music. Turns out there are quite a number of PS 9 parent/musicians to choose from. “Part of the reward of hosting these concerts is witnessing the sense of wonder in the attendees as they discover the artistry in their midst,” Jen says.
So far the concerts have raised more than $7,000 for the school’s arts programming. The babysitters get paid and any band member who isn’t a PS 9 parent is offered payment, but the rest of the goods and services are donated, so most of the ticket price goes to the school. Jen and Stephan provide the grownup food (her vegetarian chili is becoming a community legend), and Brooklyn Pizza Factory delivers free pizzas for the kids. Fermented Grapes has donated wine and desserts have been provided by a few talented PS 9 parent/bakers.
The next scheduled concert is Saturday, March 9, featuring Candice Anitra. “Candice Anitra has a pure and beautiful instrument,” Meshell Ndegeocello has said. “Producer aside, players aside, Candice’s voice wins every time. Candice is often compared to Meshell, actually. Here’s how Candice’s website puts it: “Embodying the subtle rapture of Joan Armatrading, the robust confidence of Meshell Ndegeocello, and the thespian gender inquisition of Cheryl Dunye, the left-of-soul singer-songwriter has learned that it’s much easier to buck convention than to live a futile existence of the square peg in a round hole.”
The money the house concerts raise for the school is great, but the evenings are also a wonderful way to build community, Jen says, and people get excited about pitching in. “A lot of parents show up with a six-pack or a bottle, evening finery and big smiles!”
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The evenings start with 6 pm kid drop off. They go to a nearby apartment in the same building for pizza, games and movie. Grownups gather in Jen and Stephan’s apartment and have a vegetarian dinner and drinks before Jen Chapin Trio starts the music around 7 pm. After a short break for dessert, the guest performs. The evenings wrap up around 9 pm.