When Paul and Heidi Doss held their first barn concert in 2008, they saw it as no more than a one-time music event for a family friend. Six years later, they’re still hosting Americana/Folk music artists in the 150 year-old barn on their property in northwestern Vanderburgh County.
The old barn located on their farm was in need of major repairs and Paul Doss, USI professor of geology, even considered tearing it down. Instead, after the first concert was such a big hit, the Doss’ invested in a new roof, secured musical equipment and a sound system donated by family friend Beth Reasoner, built a stage, and created seating using recycled benches from the University and straw bales. Paul and Heidi's connections in the local entertainment scene allowed them to book a few artists to kick-off the first year. What developed is now known as the Doss Barn Concert Series, and the sounds of two or three performances fill the barn each spring and fall.
Indoor and outdoor seating at the barn accommodates up to 60 guests and the concerts have all been “sell-outs” to date. Advertising is solely by word-of-mouth, email, and a Facebook page. From directing parking to offering an after-show campfire and sometimes even their home to traveling artists, the Doss’ are known for making musicians and guests feel welcome.
“The setting itself is special and unique, providing an atmosphere that most people don't have everyday access to— a rustic 19th century barn,” said Andy Black, USI production coordinator for Information Technology. “When you're on the Doss property, Paul and Heidi make everyone feel welcome, and the crowd includes a wonderful mix of people that share a passion for great music. In this relaxing environment, there’s a common feeling that permeates those in attendance— almost like going back in time.”
“Our concert series is unique in that we market to families,” said Heidi. “Kids are welcome. In fact, we started hosting when our son David was just four years old. We just felt it was right for us. And now, at the age of 10, he looks forward to hearing how many kids will be attending each concert.” The Doss’ even hired a babysitter—a teacher from the USI Children’s Learning Center— for the first year’s concert series. Children play outside or join their parents in the barn.
To support the artists, the Doss’ ask guests for a $12 to $15 donation, 100 percent of which goes to the artists, who also have the opportunity to sell CD’s, t-shirts, and books at the barn.
“The Doss Barn provides this cozy space where musicians are willing to perform pieces they haven’t done in years or maybe have never played in public,” said Mark Krahling, director of University Core Curriculum. “Sometimes Paul will pull out his harmonica and play along. It’s quite a scene after dark. Light and music spill through the big barn door onto the Doss farm and couples dance under the stars. And it’s a real barn. I once saw a mouse fall from the hayloft into a musician’s guitar case and then scurry away. We’ve even brought some of the Doss Barn acts—such as Harpeth Rising— to perform at USI.”
The series became increasingly popular after Paul and Heidi brought in talented and aspiring artists including Randy Pease (a retired USI English instructor), Cindy Kallet (Maine), Grey Larsen (Bloomington), Dana and Susan Robinson (North Carolina), Small Potatoes (Chicago), John Prine’s guitarist Jason Wilburn, Tim Grimm, the Hollands, and Guy Clark’s guitarist Verlin Thompson. The Doss’ now regularly receive demos from artists hoping to play in the barn and even have to turn some down.
“It’s all original music,” said Paul. “Their hearts are into it. It’s regular folks making beautiful music.”
See more images from the June 8 Doss Barn performance by Tim Grimm on USI Photography Services' Facebook page.
Photo Credit: USI Photography Services
Tim Grimm, Jan Lucas-Grimm ,and their son, Conner, performed in the Doss Barn on June 8.