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Jazz combo brings it all home with house concert series premiere

As local musicians Carly Ingalls and Jana Debusk continue to cultivate their musical enterprises, they are reviving the old fashioned House Concert tradition this Sunday evening, with an event called “Sounds from a House.”

Both women are Fort Wayne transplants who quickly learned to navigate the local music scene while carving out a professional niche for themselves on multiple artcentric platforms.

Here WBOI’s Julia Meek discusses their evolution as the female-led jazz combo “She Shed,” how that journey is taking shape, and what to expect at this novel “homegrown” event.

Event Information:

Sounds from a House: An Intimate Live Concert, Fort Wayne
Sunday, March 24
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Seating is limited; for tickets and availability visit the official Facebook event page.

Here is a transcription of our conversation:
Julia Meek: Carly Ingalls, Jana Debusk, welcome.

Carly Ingalls: Hi.

Jana Debusk: Hi.

Julia Meek: As National Women's History Month continues, you two are actually making it with the launch of this latest enterprise. Now before we discuss that, very briefly, where did the passion for all of this music begin for you two?

Carly Ingalls: The passion for music started for me when I was about seven years old, and I started getting my first piano lessons. And I really, really enjoyed it. I'd always been obsessed with music.

I had a little tape recorder I listened to relentlessly and I started playing in my church. And it was just such a fun way to express myself and commit myself to something that I really enjoyed.

Julia Meek: And what about you, Jana?

Jana Debusk: I watched Les Miserables, I don't know, when I was 5 or 6, (chuckles) way too early to see that show for sure.

But I was captivated, and that along with the national anthem in Super Bowls that really got me. I just needed to sing. And I also had a tape recorder, and I would record myself singing and yeah, that's where it began.

Julia Meek: You two were individually into it then. So, performing, touring, composing, educating creativity in bloom for each of you. When did it occur to you to turn the passion into profession? How early on, did it hook you?

Carly Ingalls: I had a piano teacher in high school that really wanted me to major in music, but I didn't think that I could make a viable career out of it. So, I didn't.

And then I moved out here and a mentor encouraged me to start teaching. And I realized that I could make a living, teaching and performing and doing all of these things. So within about six months, I had quit my day job and was making a living at it.

That's a real success story we love to hear. What about you, Jana?

Jana Debusk: So, mine's kind of opposite. (laughs) I started young, knowing that I was going to go to school for musical theater. It was what I was doing. I moved to New York as soon as I graduated, and I spent six years in New York City doing that along with, of course, waitressing and bartending. (all chuckle)

I traveled and I did my Master's in vocal jazz in the Netherlands, and I was working continuously, you know, since my 20's, I suppose. I came back to Indiana and was a professor at Purdue (University). But somewhere along there, I turned to tech for my day job.

So, I went from creating music to creating words during the day, I'm a writer in tech, but still living the dream of professional musicianship.

Julia Meek: So what skill sets were already in your individual possessions, and what have you honed and acquired at the pace and the work that you're doing?

Jana Debusk: I would say that we were both very trained musically, I think that we have strong backgrounds in our individual training as musicians. And we had both played with improvisation; we were both very into jazz.

But what we've honed really from this experience is I think the whole project management's aspect of this. So from start to finish, how do we create the thing and get people to the thing that we want to show them?

How do we show them the message we want to give in the way we want to give it so I think that's something new for us.

Julia Meek: Did you ever picture yourself, Carly, as the promoter side, rather than...

Carly Ingalls: That is the skill that I've had to hone I had a strong musical background, I had a very, very strong work ethic, but the connection and promotion side of things marketing myself, connecting to other people and forming those bonds that allow you to reach out to a community, I would have had to hone.

Julia Meek: And then put the two of you together, it sounds like you've been of course good for each other musically and for this combined sound that is now She Shed. In the meantime, you've pushed yourselves up that mountain; how does it feel to be, well approaching that summit?

 Jana Debusk: It's really exciting. We you know, we've had a couple things in the works for a long time. We've been working together creatively for years now. And our creative process has really grown over the past year, year and a half, I'd say?

We started with gigs and then we moved into creating things together. So yeah, I feel like it's really escalated and it's very exciting to be finally putting something exactly how we want it out to the world.

Julia Meek: Is timing everything?

Carly Ingalls: Absolutely. I was just kind of getting my start here in Fort Wayne, I'd moved here a couple of years before I met Jana, and the bond and the relationship that we've formed as we just kept getting together, and being consistent, working on things, putting ourselves out there, hey--not just on a musical and professional level but a personal level, has been very rewarding.

Julia Meek: And you know, historically women have been sorely underrepresented in the entertainment business. That is changing, you two are proof! How fast and how much would you say?

Jana Debusk: I feel like it's never fast enough. (chuckles) And I think awareness is where it starts. And so we are now aware that this has been a problem for a long time.

And as we are getting more and more aware, we're bringing our attention to it and changes are starting to happen, so I think it's a positive outlook, it's just not there yet.

Carly Ingalls: As a teacher, the biggest way that I see change coming is all of the young women that I am privileged to work with.

You know, I see these girls coming up, and they are hard workers, and they are passionate, and they are far less afraid than we were. And so I think we're gonna see it change pretty rapidly.

 Julia Meek: Is it kind of like build the "she shed" and they will come?

 Carly Ingalls: Absolutely! (all laugh)

Julia Meek: It's no surprise that you to, being as creative as you are individually, put yourselves together, this is really something big, bigger and biggest of all, and then making your own opportunities, musically and promoting them, where has that taken you here in northeast Indiana?

Jana Debusk: Oh, wow. I think the only opportunities are the ones that you create for yourself, you know, you walk your own path and what you decide to do is where you end up.

So I think that just asking the question, Hey, can I play here? Or do you have music here? Asking questions is where it begins.

Julia Meek: Is it scary to ask that first question?

Jana Debusk: Absolutely. And then you do it. And then it's not.

Carly Ingalls: I haven't ventured too far outside of Fort Wayne, some of the surrounding areas, but it's brought me closer to a lot of people. The biggest place that music, playing music here and creating opportunities here it's brought me, is a community.

So all of the people I've gotten to meet, all of the venues I've gotten to know and those connections have been the springboard for literally creating my own opportunities, welcoming other musicians into my home, doing these live streams, doing these house concerts.

Julia Meek: It all builds together and it really is a DIY project, then, we do have to say.

Carly Ingalls: Yeah.

Julia Meek: Now then, fast forward to your newest endeavor, Carly; house concerts are a time-honored tradition, though nearly forgotten after World War Two, what possessed you to revive that grand old tradition?

Carly Ingalls: I was inspired by the house concerts of the pre-war era. What really inspired it was that we're playing a lot of gigs and we love these gigs. We love entertaining, we love working with the places that we work with.

But not all of those situations call for some of the deeper kinds of maybe more self indulgent or more creative, original personal music that we have that we would like to share with our community. So we wanted to carve out a space for ourselves to share more of what we have to say.

Julia Meek: So kind of what we're hearing is, it was one great big scary step, but making it might be easier than never having the ground on which to step?

Carly Ingalls: Absolutely, I think you absolutely regret more what you don't do than what you do. So we thought we would put ourselves out there a little bit and see if we could revive that tradition.

Julia Meek: So the biggest difference in this Sounds from a House event. It's your house, Carly, a huge deviation from the norm. (chuckles) So how are the two of you pulling it all together?

Jana Debusk: Well, we have been meeting for weeks, months, years really (chuckles) planning for this. You know, we have to get the logistics, so we are making sure that first of all, what we're doing is legal. That's exciting and true.

The other part of this is looking at the space that Carly has and she has a beautiful house. And marketing has been an aspect of this, you know really laying out exactly what's going to be happening here.

Julia Meek: Every kind of logistic and a lot of them you didn't even dream of Carly, house-wise?

Carly Ingalls: Absolutely! Working on you know, cordoning off areas and putting in tickets, making sure there is an understanding of how people should treat my home and making sure it's comfortable for everybody.

You know, getting the seating, getting the food, giving out drinks in a way that is safe. You know, we asked ourselves what kind of house party would we want to go to, and we decided to create that exact situation: an elevated comfortable setting in which to enjoy some elevated music.

Julia Meek: And you have carved out a place and the chairs for (chuckles) those places to seat 20-ish people?

Carly Ingalls: Yes, 20. It's not the biggest party I've had.

Julia Meek: Could be the most musical?

Carly Ingalls: Absolutely! (chuckles)
Julia Meek: And as with all of your innovations, you've been amply promoting, teasing on this, another clever part of this whole project is the marketing. So what is the feedback? Are you piquing interest? Do you have curiosity going on for this event?

Jana Debusk: Yeah, we do. We've gotten a lot of great feedback from, we've both run Facebook ads and so we can see the metrics there--that people are liking the events and sharing and It's creating, you know, a great buzz has started. So that's really exciting.

Carly Ingalls: Yeah, a lot of people have shown interest and I think some people might be cautious about it. You're going to a stranger's house, you're paying money to go to a stranger's house, listen to music, but I really encourage people to take a chance on it and give it a try.

Julia Meek: And we know this is an optimal way to enjoy music. You will prove that to everybody who does come up for this. Who do you hope to see you there?

Carly Ingalls: I hope to see anybody there that's interested, really people that are looking for art music, that are looking for a way to relax, enjoy, meet like-minded people and experience original music, improvisational music.

Julia Meek: And are you expecting to see people you don't know, as well as your friends?

Jana Debusk: I hope to. I hope that this is an opportunity for people to break out of their own habits and norms and see something that surprises them.

Julia Meek: And you can promise comfort, acceptance and darn good music.

Jana Debusk: Yeah!

Carly Ingalls: Absolutely!

Julia Meek: Okay, then. You are both well traveled and music business savvy. How would you say northeast Indiana, in particular Fort Wayne, rates in the big picture?

Jana Debusk: It has been super exciting to see this community grow since I came here four-and-a-half years ago, five years ago.

Everywhere I turn, there's new music and new theater and new faces, which is also extremely exciting. It's not just a rotating roster, you know. So it's really exciting to see this pickup from when I came here.

 Carly Ingalls: Yeah, when I first came to Fort Wayne, I feel like the music scene was just really starting to take off. And I really enjoyed the diversity that we have here in music, we have everything from country to metal to jazz, that really takes root in the community and finds its own places to shine.

And I love that Fort Wayne musicians are very collaborative, very comfortable with each other and seem to have an understanding that we need to rely on each other if we want to make this the Music City that we want it to be.

 Julia Meek: As a matter of fact, there is no denying that Fort Wayne is on its way to becoming a major "music city" nationally. What do you think that could mean to the city and the music scene itself?

Carly Ingalls: I think it's going to sharpen the music scene. More people, more talent means we constantly keep sharpening each other and cross-pollinating our interests and our skills and our talents and our relationships.

So I think more people, a bigger music city, more attention is going to mean we're going to see more and more great things from Fort Wayne.

Jana Debusk: Yeah, I've actually had some really well known jazz musicians contact me about the possibility of playing at places like Club Soda. I don't book Club Soda, but they know that I play there.

And you know, what that brings is another level of musicianship and connection. So you're broadening your music network as well, which is always exciting for any creative person.

Julia Meek: And it's the more the merrier?

Jana Debusk: Yes.

Julia Meek: Then what's next on your individual as well as shared musical horizons?

Carly Ingalls: Next is for me a lot more of the same. I would like to continue to grow this house concert series, my live stream, "Live from Carly's Place," where I bring in musicians to feature, we interview them and play a set of music.

I would also like to start playing more venues, playing more places and more places in the surrounding areas as well as growing my online presence.

Julia Meek: What about you, Jana?

Jana Debusk: Yeah, well, I'm playing with She Shed quite often. (chuckles) So we have some shows at Club Soda.

And we've also been working on our first musical. This is a very exciting project that is still in ideation phase, editing phase, so it's not quite ready to be brought out yet, but it is about the woman's journey. So it's called, When She Became Me.

Carly Ingalls: Yes!

Julia Meek: We look forward to hearing a lot more from both of you, a lot more about that. And I am curious, do you ever have a dull moment? And if either of you did, what would you do with it?

Jana Debusk: I'm the mother of a 4-year old (all chuckle) so the answer is no. But if I did...oh, I will have some upcoming air time like while I'm flying in the air. And that's, that's so exciting for me. I'm going to read a book! (all laugh)

Julia Meek: You Carly?

Carly Ingalls: My dad told me once the only boring people are bored and that stuck with me. So I always said I've never been bored a moment since then. So if I had a dull moment I would find a way to "jujzh it up" a little bit, to spice it up. (laughs)

 Julia Meek: Knowing you it might take the form of yet another musical entrepreneurial uh, adventure?

Carly Ingalls: I will monetize the moment, yes! (all laugh)

 Jana Debusk: Ah--that a girl!

Julia Meek: After you Musi-cize it, (all laugh) thank you. And finally, from your perspectives there in the She Shed, what is it about this community and its live music scene that makes you want to do it proud?

Jana Debusk: Well, I think that the caliber of musicianship in Fort Wayne is excellent. And so, contributing to that and widening the scope of what people find entertaining is really exciting for me.

Julia Meek: Carly?

Carly Ingalls: I'm a transplant in Fort Wayne and I have had the privilege of making Fort Wayne my home. And it's welcomed me and supported me and made me a real member of the community musically, so I want to make it proud in return.

Julia Meek: Carly Ingalls and Jana Debusk are musicians, educators and music advocates here in northeast Indiana. Thanks for your music and your musical spirit, artcentricity forever.

Jana Debusk: Bye.

Carly Ingalls: Bye, thank you.

A Fort Wayne native, Julia is a radio host, graphic artist, and community volunteer, who has contributed to NIPR both on- and off-air for forty years. Besides being WBOI's arts & culture reporter, she currently co-produces and hosts Folktales and Meet the Music.