When Jack and Diane Untz first stepped inside the Maple Street Grill on Murfreesboro’s historic public square, they knew they had found a home for their fledgling live-music venture.
Atmosphere is Everything
The performing and songwriting couple were looking for an intimate venue with a full menu, full bar, easy parking, a central location and “a good vibe,” Diane Untz recalls. The locally owned restaurant, with its original brick walls, soft lighting and rich wood furnishings, offered the perfect ambiance, and owners Mike and Debbie Zelenak were willing to give the Untz’s idea a try.
The result is Nashville Unleashed (formally Music in the Boro), a popular entertainment offering featuring performing songwriters mostly from Nashville’s vibrant music scene. Members of the Nashville music community themselves, the Untzes handpick the artists from a variety of genres, including country, R&B and jazz. Illuminated by lamplight, the musicians perform “in the round” in the center of the restaurant, a style created by Nashville’s world-renowned Bluebird Café.
“We prefer that way to play. It’s more like a living room, and it’s more personal,” Diane explains. “We don’t feel like we’re on some sort of platform performing at the audience. It’s more interactive.”
Other Music Entertainment and MTSU
Nashville Unleashed is just one example of Murfreesboro’s ever-growing music scene. Always held on the first weekend in May, the city’s Main Street Program hosts JazzFest, a two-day free concert that attracts thousands to the square. Main Street also hosts a summer concert series on the square on the first Friday of each month. Numerous clubs across the city, most catering to Middle Tennessee State University students, also offer venues for aspiring musicians, from soloists to grunge bands.
MTSU is home to a strong Department of Music and a unique Department of Recording Industry that draws students from across the country and throughout the world.
“Right now, we have about 1,200 majors, and most of them are musicians of some sort or another," says Chris Haseleu, who chairs the Recording Industry program. "Many of them will come and form bands, and we have songwriters, too.”
Department facilities in the College of Mass Communication building include five studios, which literally stay busy 24 hours a day during the fall and spring semesters. Students in the many production classes complete semester-long recording projects, and they stay on the lookout for talent to record. “I have said half jokingly that I think there are some bands in Murfreesboro that have spent more time in a studio than The Rolling Stones,” Haseleu says. “If you’re good and you make yourselves available to the students, you’ll be in the studio.”
He estimates that 50 percent of those bands are composed of students, who take advantage of the opportunity to record their work at no charge – and improve their performance skills before their next Murfreesboro show.