Testing, 1, 2, 3—And Please Pass the Mashed Potatoes

House Music: Nixon’s Head performs in the home of Ira Rosen C’88. Photo by Michael Branscom

Ira Rosen C’88 enjoys few things more than spending a relaxing evening at home with friends and family members. So about once a month he moves the furniture out of his dining room, plugs in the amps, and waits—along with those nearest and dearest to him—for the rock band to start playing.

It all began when Pat DiNizio, the lead singer for the Smithereens, ran for the New Jersey Senate on the Reform Party ticket a couple of years ago and announced that he was interested in playing only small venues. When he heard about this, Rosen, who is project management director for the operations division of IDT Telecom and a lifelong “music addict,” talked his wife, Heidi, into offering their Highland Park, N.J., dining room as a concert site. They invested in some sound equipment and have been holding house concerts for over a year. Anywhere from 25 to 85 guests, including his own parents, have shown up for the events.

Rosen’s dining room opens up to the rest of the first floor of the house, allowing plenty of room for an audience to informally gather. “There are people out on the deck, children playing on swings in the backyard, and people in the living room—and we’ve got food coming out of the kitchen.”

A Penn campus favorite, Nixon’s Head, performed on Nov. 18. On Dec. 2, nine bands were scheduled to play in their dining room as a “warm-up” for the traveling pop music festival, International Pop Overthrow.

Rosen pays bands a small guarantee and then collects donations from guests. “Typically I lose money on the deal, but I lose the same amount of money it costs me to take my wife to New York to see a show with dinner and tolls and a babysitter. Instead we have over our dearest friends—and [sometimes] strangers—and we bring rock and roll to our house, and our kids are exposed to this.

“I have a son (six) who has been playing drums for over a year and a daughter (eight) who has been playing piano for over a year. They relate to music a whole lot better, and this has been a motivating factor for me.”

Rosen doesn’t worry about his house getting trashed by itinerant musicians. “You’d be surprised how cordial these people are. You’d think, who’d want to play before a group of families with kids?” But most bands are very appreciative of the exposure and the extra income, he says, considering that after they pay everyone from the sound man to the door man, “the typical gig in a bar nets them about 10 bucks.”

The next band playing in the house-concert series will be The Rosenbergs on Jan. 13, and interested alumni are invited. For more information, e-mail Rosen at <[email protected]>.

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