by Bryan Voell

In January, 2015, the Johnson County Library launched our Listen Local project. Updated weekly, Listen Local is a blog that focuses on original songwriters and composers living in Kansas City (Kansas and Missouri) and Johnson County, Kansas. This project began as a way to bring locally-produced music in digital form to our patrons. (For a more comprehensive history of Listen Local, click here.)

Since its inception more than two years ago, Listen Local has grown to include nearly 150 artist features. In 2016 we started to discuss ways to build on the success of this project. One of the next logical steps was to bring our featured artists to play live in our library. We experimented with this approach. None of our thirteen branches were built with live musical performances in mind, so finding the right space and time were challenges we played with. Audience turnout was disappointing when we hosted live performances in library meeting rooms or even in the main open areas of a branch. 

We eventually took this idea a step further. Building on the capabilities of our Black and Veatch Makerspace, which opened at our Central Resource Library in January, 2016, we had the idea to invite artists to play in our SoundBooth, where we could record their performance with high quality video and audio equipment. These performances could then be broadcast in whole or in part on our website and social media channels.

Thus Listen Local Live was born. Each video is recorded and edited by one of our Web Content gurus, Dave Carson. Dave’s expertise with AV equipment and editing software – not to mention his love of music — has been crucial to making this project work. With every video he produces we learn a little bit more about how to best capture these intimate performances and make them unique to our Library. For example, each session include a short interview segment in which artists talk about their book, movie and/or music recommendations from the JCL collection.

We’re dedicated to making Listen Local Live a representation of the diversity of music and musicians found in the Kansas City area. We want to include all kinds of music, from folk to rock to hip-hop to experimental and new classical and everything in between.

For more information about Listen Local, visit: https://www.jocolibrary.org/we-recommend/listen-local

Bryan Voell is currently the Local Arts Librarian for the Johnson County (KS) Library. He received his MLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2007 and has worked for public, academic, and research libraries in various capacities since 1997. He is also a collage artist and you can see more of his art here.

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