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Listening In Place: The story behind the front porch cello concert heard around the world

Linda Lee Baird



Inspired by scenes from Italy of socially distancing neighbors standing on balconies, singing together, Clintonville resident Rebecca Tien (who is also a longtime (614) contributing photographer) had an idea for how her family could make a difference in their neighborhood. Across the street, Tien’s elderly neighbor Helena Schlam was under a self-imposed quarantine due to the coronavirus. Tien knew Schlam loved classical music, and she also knew her children, Taran, nine, and Calliope, six, had to keep practicing on their cellos, even if the school orchestra was canceled for the foreseeable future. So Tien planned for her kids to hold a concert for Schlam on her large front porch, keeping a safe distance away.

Photos: Rebecca Tien

If you were anywhere near Twitter that day, you know what came next: another neighbor, Jackie Borchardt, tweeted a clip of the performance. And thanks to Borchardt’s many followers in the media, (she is a reporter for The Cincinnati Enquirer), the Tiens’ performance exploded across the internet. Taran and Calliope soon landed on national news broadcasts from NBC, CBS, and CNN, as well as in Time magazine and The Washington Post. The story was retweeted by George Takei and the kids’ cello idol, Yo-Yo Ma. 

Now that their 15 minutes of fame is winding down, (614) caught up with Calliope and Taran to learn what the experience was like. 

Turns out, they found fame not only early in their lives, but also early in their cello careers. Both began playing in fall 2019, with Taran joining his school orchestra, and Calliope taking private lessons (Taran soon began doing the same). It’s an instrument the Tiens took to naturally. 

“I tend to speed ahead a lot,” Taran said. “I printed out the Bach cello suite and I’m working on that. I bought new music that’s really advanced today and I probably can’t play it but I want to because I always want to.” 


It’s the music they can make on the cello that motivates them. “I just really love the sound,” Calliope said. Taran adds that when he was younger, he pretended almost everything was a cello.   

With that motivation, they took the Suzuki Level One cello book over to Schlam’s for their concert.  “We played multiple songs. One was a Bach minuet. And then there was Twinkle Twinkle,” Taran said. Although he’s the more advanced musician of the two, having played four years of classical guitar before picking up the cello, part of coming together under quarantine circumstances means playing together. In this case, that meant they stuck to songs both of them were comfortable with from Calliope’s book. The song they became internet famous for was called “Song of the Wind.” 

Even before the tweet that changed their lives, the Tiens knew they were about to play for their first international audience when they made their way to Schlam’s porch. Schlam had her relatives in Israel on FaceTime; she wanted them to see what her neighbors were doing for her, and told the Tiens their music would be heard around the world. (Little could they have predicted that it would also be broadcast on the BBC a few days later.)

When the news coverage began, the Tien family was surprised, but Taran and Calliope took to it pretty well. “It was really, really exciting!” Taran said. “I was, like, feeling a little shy, but also pretty excited,” Calliope added.  

Rebecca was concerned all the attention might be too much for her neighbor during her period of isolation, but Schlam enjoyed it,  telling Rebecca, “I feel like a little kid. I guess I like all the attention. I think this is wonderful.”

Taran and Calliope had different replies when asked about the best thing to come out of this for them. For Taran, it was the retweet from his cello hero, Yo-Yo Ma. “It was literally the best thing ever. Like, I’ve really wanted to meet Yo-Yo Ma and play with him and stuff, but, at least this is a step towards that.” Meanwhile, Calliope said she was glad to make her neighbor happy.

One reason the concert resonated across the internet and around the world is that the Tiens managed to find joy and connection during a time when both are in short supply. So what advice do the kids have for others trying to navigate this moment? “Play a musical instrument. Sing. Do something you really like. And just do one of your favorite hobbies and don’t get bored and have a good attitude and be kind to everybody,” Taran suggested.  

And remember at the end of the day, this moment is about all of us; our own health and happiness is tied into that of our neighbors. For Calliope, the best part was helping Helena. “She was like ‘bravo! bravo!’” 

Taran also remained focused on the bigger picture. “This is all for Helena. It’s all to make her happy. Not to get all famous and stuff. It’s cool that all this is happening, but it’s just for Helena.”

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Arts & Culture

Loop Daddy invades Columbus with first-ever drive-in tour




The return of live music is going to be one of the trickiest industries to transition back into business as usual, if that will ever be the case. We’ve seen people getting creative, building concert stages within their own homes via live streaming. Some have participated in virtual festivals, probably the sector of live music to take the biggest hit.

But when an industry made up of innovative creatives always trying to come up with the next big idea is faced with incredible hardships, they respond with quick-witted imaginative solutions.

One of the first trends that popped up in the revolution of bringing back live music was the implementation of drive-in lots. Luckily for Columbus, the darling of the internet DJ scene Marc Rebillet aka Loop Daddy will be taking his first-ever drive-in tour through the Buckeye state in mid-June.

Captivating audiences with his participatory DJ scratching and immature antics, extremely goofy sex appeal, and sleazy porno stache, Rebillet was an act poised for a breakout summer before the pandemic shut music concert venues down. If you have access to a car, though, you’ll still have a chance to catch the wild virtual sensation.

On June 14, Rebillet will be pulling up to the South Drive-In for the third stop of his Drive-In Concert Tour. Rebillet will also be showcasing short films as part of his drive-in experience.

As far as sound is going for these events, a lot of drive-ins are opting to go the radio transmission route to encourage people to stay inside of their vehicles.

A very few grouping of tickets remain, which include three-person and four-person car passes. Tickets are running $40 per head (plus additional fees), which seems to be the average across the new wave of drive-in concerts. Two-people/one-car tickets have already sold out.

If you don’t want to miss out on this unique opportunity, act right now. Tickets can be purchased at:

Social distancing guidelines are outlined at the point of purchase.

The South Drive-In is located at 3050 S. High St. Doors open at 8 p.m. with the show beginning at 9 p.m. Attendees need to arrive before 8:45 p.m. A portion of ticket sales will be donated to the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

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Arts & Culture

Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?




A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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Arts & Culture

(614) Music Club: Sarob

Julian Foglietti



Every week (614) Music Club teams up with your favorite local artists to build a playlist of what they’re listening to, and what’s inspiring them. This week’s playlist is brought to you by the R&B artist Sarob.

Photo by: Wyze

Tell me about some of the songs you’ve selected.

"The first one is Sobeautiful by Musiq Soulchild. So every week with my vocal coach, I have to learn a song. And I've been trying to figure out how to do vocal gliding. Which is not a strong point for me, and I remember hearing that song and being like, OK, this is it. The song is just beautifully written and composed, so when you add the technique to it, it’s just great. The other song was Workin On It by Dwele, who is one of my favorite artists of all time. Workin On It uses this J Dilla beat that just feels really timeless."

Have the past few months changed the direction or mood of the music you're creating. 

"So I have been making stuff here and there, and then I'll go into something creative for like two days. I'll just be making like a bunch of songs and then I'll stop for two weeks, not even want to look at a microphone or anything. I mean, it's a lot more inward, so I’m learning how to better communicate the things I'm experiencing, and set the scenes for people and talk about what is going on. Also not having my band has been a challenge. I’m more of a thinker, I play the keyboard, and I can build a song, but I’m not the most gifted musician so having to build a lot of it on my own is tricky."

Do you have any plans or releases coming up? 

"Yeah, so I had a song Pleasures U Like that was made for my last album, but it didn’t quite fit the story of the album. So I just forgot about it until recently and I finished the vocals just before the lockdown, and now I’m releasing it on Bandcamp as part of a fundraiser for The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. All of the proceeds from the song are going to go to support their Pandemic Emergency Fund, and it just felt like a good way to do something that would impact everything going on."

Sarob's Playlist

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