Big Sounds, Small Spaces

Tiny Dorm Concerts is the brainchild of IU students, from left, Eric Ashby, Natalia Almanza, Matt Lyko, and Linnea Holt.

Taking a cue from NPR’s popular Tiny Desk series of concerts, a group of IU students have launched Tiny Dorm Concerts, a YouTube series straight out of Briscoe Residence Hall. Musical guests include student and faculty groups, Bloomington bands, and the occasional out-of-town act that’s passing through.

“We are creating a platform to showcase musicians and artists around Bloomington,” says Linnea Holt, one of the four leaders of the project. “We want them to be visible, and we want their art to be appreciated.”

Holt, along with Natalia Almanza, launched the series in August 2018. Both women—along with co-leaders Eric Ashby and Matt Lyko—are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in arts management, so they saw Tiny Dorm Concerts as a way to jump-start their careers.

“The four of us all agreed to make it happen because we want to work in the music industry, so why not start now?” Holt says.

Videographer Isabella Scribner gets valuable real-world experience to hone her craft.

Tiny Dorm Concerts, though, is not your everyday student group production. It’s a slick operation, with Holt and her team delegating tasks to a rotating group of crew members who are responsible for sourcing audio and video equipment from IU’s Media School and Jacobs School of Music, lugging the gear to a dorm room, setting it up, and tearing it down.

It’s a lot of work for a 15-minute video. From planning and marketing to filming, mixing, editing, publishing, and then promoting through social media, Holt estimates each concert takes dozens of hours of work.

At first, Almanza’s dorm room was the location for the concerts, but now that she’s moved off campus, they’ve taken the show on the road, filming in other student residences. Students can apply to host a concert, just like musicians can apply to perform.

“Having them in different spaces around campus and in different dorms has given students a lot more opportunities to engage with us and at least see the process of having a band come in,” Holt says. “It’s really exciting.”

Natalia Almanza’s dorm room lies calm before the storm.

As Tiny Dorm Concert’s profile has grown, so has its ability to win financial support. In the spring of 2019, Holt and her team received a creative activity grant from the Hutton Honors College, and they placed second in the Jacobs School of Music’s Project Jumpstart competition.

The project has also been a boon for student musicians. Grace Minnick, BS’19, who appeared in a spring semester episode, was chosen to take part in the IU Arts and Humanities Council’s First Thursdays series, which features performances by local artists and nonprofit arts organizations. Holt says Minnick credits the exposure she gained from Tiny Dorm Concerts for getting her other gigs.

“My favorite part about Tiny Dorm Concerts has been the connections and networks I’ve created at IU,” Holt says. “It’s really been a privilege to work with these students. These relationships will extend far into our careers past IU.”

Big Sounds, Small Spaces appeared in the Stories section of the Winter 2019 issue of the IU Alumni Magazine, a magazine for members of the IU Alumni Association. View current and past issues of the IUAM.

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Brian Hartz
Brian Hartz, MA’01, is a journalist and tennis coach based in St. Petersburg, Fla. In addition to writing for the Indiana University Alumni Magazine, he covers business news for the St. Pete Catalyst.