By Joey Phoenix
Images Courtesy of One Broadway Collaborative
Update | October 7th, 2021: One Broadway Collaborative was awarded this week with a $100,000 MassDevelopment Grant as part of the Collaborative Workspace Program. The program aims to accelerate business formation, job creation, and entrepreneurial activity in communities by supporting infrastructure that fuels locally based innovation.
One Broadway Collaborative in Lawrence is more than just a listening room. It’s a nonprofit community space where musicians and music makers from all genres as well as artists, poets, and music appreciators can come together to share and express what they’ve written and what they love.
Aaron Tornberg (he/him/his) is the music man behind the space. A long time musician and educator, Tornberg knows a thing or two about building community and what musicians need: a space to express themselves in and the company of other creatives doing the same kind of work.
“These sorts of spaces exist in other places, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t exist here,” Tornberg said. “The community is here, they just need a space.
Each week, musicians and listeners can come to the venue to hear great music, collaborate on new music, and share some of what they’ve been working on. One Broadway hosts regular open mics on Sundays and Thursdays, songwriters in the round concerts on Friday nights, and twice weekly collaborative and sharing meetups for all levels.
Scroll to the bottom to see the list of upcoming events.
Again, I say I will be glad to tell what songs I have ever sung, because singing is my business. – Pete Seeger
Tornberg caught the music bug himself while he was a teenager in summer camp, an experience he describes as “near constant music” as song sessions would break out during every meal and at random points throughout the day. He was given a guitar for his birthday one year by a family friend, and his passion expanded and his knowledge of music grew until he eventually became a song leader both at camp and as a teacher of Jewish songs for his local synagogue.
“I wrote some songs too in the beginning, but they sucked,” he said with a laugh. “But really I spent my time learning 60s folk music – Harry Chapin, Pete Seeger, Cat Stevensm and James Taylor. I wanted to learn all of their stuff.”
He earned a decent living playing music for synagogues during college, but while he kept honing his craft personally – playing in venues from Boston to Virginia to Toronto and back again – academically he chose to pursue a career in education and radio/television broadcasting.
“I would play at open mics whenever I could, but it would often be a late night for me. They started at eight and sometimes I wouldn’t get a chance to play until one or two in the morning,” he said. “But those events are really where I got my legs.”
After his academically-led wanderings, Tornberg eventually moved up north to finish another degree in Boston, get married, spend nights playing open mics at Coffee Coffee, The Center for the Arts Natick, Amazing Things in Framingham, The Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, and around the Greater Boston Area. He also taught at North Shore Community College and in elementary after-school programs.
There is a powerful need for people to feel that gust of hope rise up again. – Cat Stevens
For a short while, music fell by the wayside for Tornberg, but it wasn’t long before he was out playing at open mics again, integrating himself into the community, and learning more about the Greater Boston Music Scene – especially a Lowell Project called “The Hearing Room.”
Inspired by the mission of the venue, Tornberg quickly got involved with some of the more administrative elements as well as hosting Songwriters in the Round events and a music-themed podcast.
“I was there almost every day for the better part of three years,” he said. “And then COVID hit.”
In the immediate aftermath of March 2020, Tornberg and the fellow organizers at the Hearing Room tried to cobble together a program that would meet the needs of the area’s music community. But with a lot of artistic programming falling to the wayside during the onset of the global crisis, Tornberg quickly found himself without a venue or an in-person community.
“I did what I could. I kept the virtual open mic going every Sunday throughout COVID. We never missed a week,” he said. “But despite these efforts, when in person events started happening in the area again, interests had changed.”
He knew that if having a space to perform and collaborate with other musicians was important to him, it would be important to other artists as well. And when a space in an old mill in Lawrence with very supportive landlords all but fell in Tornberg’s lap, he took the plunge and opened a space of his own.
“The landlords, Ben and Hella, are good people trying really hard to get artists to come in. Their whole idea is to bring artists into the community,” he explained. “In this part of the building there is a glass blower, a knife maker, two woodworkers, a snowboard maker, and upstairs there’s a neon sign creator.”
At the moment, Tornberg has the space, which is the most important bit, but there are some essential things missing, like tables, for instance. He also hopes to get a tea and coffee cart in there as well as stools for musicians and things to make guests more comfortable. Yet, despite the lack of tables, the weekly events at One Broadway have garnered a small following that continues to grow, bringing in musicians, performers, and their fans from as far away as Lebanon, New Hampshire and Fall River, MA.
“I’m trying to bring what the Hearing Room offered to Lowell to Lawrence: a community based music organization where musicians can hang out and do stuff in a space that’s not a bar or a club,” he said. “There is a real need here, and I really would like to meet that need. I’ve seen it in other places, but now it’s here too.”
Click here to give to the fundraiser and support Aaron Tornberg in his mission, or check out the events below to hear live music and performance coming up soon to Lawrence. The fundraiser proceeds will go towards regular operation of the space and to pick up some of the essentials that will transform the space from bare bones to a valued community center.
Learn more at https://onebroadway.org/
The Weekly Schedule at One Broadway Collaborative
Sundays – A hybrid open mic – Online via Zoom software as well as live in person. Participation happens both in person and virtually! 2-5pm
Mondays – Closed to the public for podcast recording.
Tuesdays – Community Lick Lessons. Learn and teach guitar with participants. We learn from the best…each other! – 7-9pm
Wednesdays – The Song Mill. Write a song with one other person or a whole group. Everyone takes the credit and can use the song in their repertoire. Never wrote a song? You can do it here! – 7-10pm
Thursdays Open Mic Every week 7-10pm.
Select Fridays – Songwriters in the Round. Hear three songwriters play original songs in 7 rounds. This is a surprising and exciting show! 7-9pm
Fridays and Saturdays – Shows of various types. Friday and Saturday nights are fantastic at the OBC!
Learn more at https://buytickets.at/onebroadwaycollaborative
Joey Phoenix (they/them) is an interdisciplinary artist and the Director of Brand Strategy and Innovation at Creative Collective. As the resident storyteller and town crier, they encourage you to send story ideas, inspiration, or pictures of adorable critters to email@example.com.