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A nonprofit music venue in Lafayette hits all the right notes

MaryLynn Gillaspie stands singing into a microphone with a person playing the electric guitar, a blue show curtain and a light-up sign reading "The Muse" in the background.
Peter Vo
/
RMPBS
MaryLynn Gillaspie performs with her band at The Muse Performance Space.

The chatter of the audience quiets down as MaryLynn Gillaspie and her band step on stage. Everyone turns their attention towards the musicians adjusting their seats and instruments. Finally, the sound of the drums fills the room, starting the tune.

MaryLynn Gillaspie stands singing into a microphone with her right arm outstretched for inflection with a person playing an electric guitar to her right under dim orange lighting.
Peter Vo
/
RMPBS
MaryLynn Gillaspie performs with her band at The Muse Performance Space.

In 2018, Clare Church and her husband, Pete Lewis, created The Muse Performance Space based in Lafayette, Colo. Inspired by venues such as the GiG in Santa Fe, New Mexico, they wanted to create a space that just focused on the music.

“We really wanted the space to be for musicians and artists, by musicians and artists,” Church expressed.

Student spotlights, classical soloists and even recitals, The Muse features all types of performances during its show lineup each month. Church emphasizes that this performance space is meant to be intimate, creating a close atmosphere between the musicians and the audience members.

“When you're in here watching the music, it's not like being in an arena. The musicians are talking to you and you can talk back,” Church explained. “People will say stuff to the musicians on stage. People can get up and dance or do yoga or whatever. It's all perfectly sanctioned.”

The closeness of the space has created a community that supports The Muse. The venue is a nonprofit and is supported by donations. Clare and Pete are the only employees most of the time.


Clare Church sits in a wooden chair on stage speaking into a microphone with a blue curtain and light-up sign reading "The Muse" behind her.
Peter Vo
/
RMPBS
Clare Church addresses the audience at the start of a show.

Motivations for the creation of The Muse can also be found in Church’s personal life.

Growing up, Church was an accomplished saxophonist. It wasn’t until her diagnosis of cranial dystonia that she had to make a switch in her career, in which she started to play drums. The condition made it hard for Church to play the saxophone because of muscle contractions and pain in her face.

It was hard to get people to understand the switch, as she was seen as a saxophonist. However, the transition was smooth because she used to play some drums as a kid. She still plays drums to this day.

“I manage it really well now and everything, but it was a blow to lose my playing career for a while. I'm fine now. I'm playing drums,” Church said confidently.

With all this in mind, Church convinced Lewis to hop on board and start The Muse, a place where she could create a musical space and community that she yearned for.

“I just had this strong desire to have my own place and also to kind of give back to the music community and have a community again, because I lost my community when that [diagnosis of dystonia] happened to me,” Church said.

At the end of the day, Church and Lewis continue to make the space a collaborative one. One where music and community can come together, hand in hand.

“We just kept saying, what could we do? What could be the next thing?” Church said. “We wanted to keep the basic things the same: the vibe, the commitment to quality, the commitment to putting the musicians not first — not ahead of the audience — but equal.”

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