Every Monday evening this month, Brown students and members of the Providence community have trickled into the Music Mansion at 88 Meeting St. to watch live performances by student musicians.
Dubbed “an artist showcase for busy people” by co-founder Chance Emerson ’23.5, the Electric Hour music series offers artists from Brown a casual platform to share their music with peers, all while donating the proceeds made from each event to local arts charities.
Monday’s Electric Hour show featured songs from a variety of genres performed by Leo Major ’24 and Gabriel Toth ’24.5, Spencer Barnett ’24 and the string band Cat Jones & The Rest of ’Em, led by Catherine Jones ’23.
Emerson and Karim Zohdy ’25 started organizing Electric Hour after coming across the Music Mansion, an old house on Meeting Street that had been converted into a concert venue. They aimed to make it a space for the community members to congregate over a shared love for music and held the first Electric Hour show in March.
“One of the most difficult parts of starting out my music career was the initial step from on campus to off campus,” Emerson said. “I didn’t feel like there were many avenues to do that.”
“I wanted to use my platform and knowledge of how to put on shows, contract linguistics and my music network to spotlight artists I like and help the community that let me do what I love,” Emerson said.
Along with providing a stage for student musicians, Electric Hour donates to local charities by asking attendees to pay whatever they are able to. Supporting the Avenue Concept, a public art organization in Rhode Island, and community arts center AS220, Electric Hour has been able to donate the entirety of contributions made by attendees after receiving a grant from the Brown Arts Institute that covers the cost of booking space.
In addition to its charitable component, Electric Hour often includes an interactive artists’ panel after performances. Noting how in typical music shows audiences usually have a “limited series of responses” to emotionally-charged performances, Emerson said that he wanted to increase audience engagement.
He added that “some of the coolest interactions that have happened through this program have been the audience asking questions in response” to songs.
The panel-style format of the show also allows performers to share pieces of their creative processes and artistic backgrounds. At an attendee’s request, Toth showed Monday’s audience a string of seashells that he shook while playing the drums during his and Major’s improvised jazz set.
Electric Hour’s characteristic Q&A sessions and active audience participation add to its mission of providing a welcoming atmosphere for music lovers, according to Emerson and Zohdy.
“It’s a place where musicians are encouraged to play music they’ve just come up with and things they’re (still) working on,” Zohdy said. “It encourages experimentation in that way.”
Jones, who performed the final act of Monday’s show with her band, appreciated the low-stakes environment at Electric Hour. “It offers a nice space for people who want to play and (those) whose music might not (necessarily) be their career path,” she said.
The most recent Electric Hour show was the first time Major and Toth had played on a stage together, and Major expressed gratitude at being able to showcase their collaboration.
“The big thing about the concert was (how it brought) all these people together,” he said. Inspired by Electric Hour, Major hopes to organize a series of “portable outdoor concerts” next semester to promote building connections with nature and the greater Providence area.
Attendees said they enjoyed being able to celebrate their peers’ achievements and connect with others who are just as passionate about music. “It’s so cool that Chance has created this space because it’s really hard to find places to perform, especially if you’re an independent songwriter,” said Mia Humphrey ’25.
Stella Biase ’25.5 said she similarly enjoyed “getting all the information about where the songs are from,” whether it was an original piece or a cover.
Emerson and Zohdy plan to continue hosting Electric Hour moving forward, with more shows and larger events in the works for the fall semester.
“It’s cool to have a casual space like this,” Emerson said. “The process of songwriting can be really mystifying, but I think having the ability to ask people and artists questions is special too.”