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A Little Night Music

New private music club promises legendary performers in intimate concerts

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28 Diana Ross at the Houston Children's Charity Gala November 2013
Diana Ross could be on the wish list for the Houston branch of Music With Friends.  Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Zilkha Hall at The Hobby Center empty showing stage
Zilkha Hall in the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts will be the venue for the intimate Music With Friends concert series. TheHobbyCenter.org
Texas Heart Institute, 50th anniversary gala, September 2012, Lyle Lovett
Lyle Lovett would be the perfect artist for the Music With Friends series. Lyle Lovett Photo by Ken Hoge/Texas Heart Institute
Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett is one of the big stars that have performed at Music With Friends events in the Carolinas. Photo courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center
Hermann Park Conservancy Gala April 2013 Susie Criner and Sanford Criner
Susie and Sanford Criner are launching Music With Friends, a private music club with performances in the Hobby Center's Zilkha Hall. Photo by © Gary Fountain
Center for Contemporary Craft luncheon May 2013 Sanford Criner and Susie Criner
Sanford and Susie Criner are launching Music With Friends, a private music club. Photo by Kim Coffman
28 Diana Ross at the Houston Children's Charity Gala November 2013
Zilkha Hall at The Hobby Center empty showing stage
Texas Heart Institute, 50th anniversary gala, September 2012, Lyle Lovett
Tony Bennett
Hermann Park Conservancy Gala April 2013 Susie Criner and Sanford Criner
Center for Contemporary Craft luncheon May 2013 Sanford Criner and Susie Criner

In this era of mega concerts with audiences of 18,000 in the Toyota Center and 70,000 in Reliant, it's refreshing to learn that H-Town will soon have its own private music club with limited membership, equating to smaller audiences. Welcome Music With Friends, a new concept for Houston that is being launched by Susie and Sanford Criner.

Houston will be the fourth city to join the Music With Friends network that was started in Charlotte, N.C., in 2007 by music industry veteran Larry Farber. Concerts with legendary performers presented in an intimate venue is the concept for the evenings that begin with a cocktail party and conclude with a post-performance reception. Music With Friends is having successful runs in Charlotte, Charleston, S.C., and Nashville.

 "It's all about enjoying music that you like in an intimate setting with your friends," Criner says. 

Three times a year, Houston MWF members will gather for concerts in Hobby Center for the Performing Arts' Zilkha Hall, where seating is limited to 500. Thus membership will be limited to that number. Costs for the privilege include a one-time seat fee of $1,000 (seats reserved on a first-come, first-served basis) and $1,800 a year for three concerts and the surrounding parties.

"The seat fee gives you the chance to reserve the same seat at each show in perpetuity," explains Annie Eifler, who is assisting with marketing and membership. "You can also tell us which of your friends you want to be seated by and we will do our best to reserve seats near each other. It's all about experiencing music with your friends!"

The Criners know a thing or two about entertainment and clubs, having founded acclaimed Houston music venues Rockefeller Hall, the Fabulous Satellite Lounge and Club Hey Hey. Further affirming Susie Criner's expertise in the music world is the fact that she continues at the helm of Gulf Coast Entertainment, which she founded 35 years ago. Among the talent that the Criners lined up over the years for Rockefeller's were Ray Charles, Garth Brooks, the Pointer Sisters, B.B. King and more.

Houston's Music With Friends launches with its first concert in the fall. While the performer has not yet been selected, MWF concerts in other cities have included Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Tony Bennett, Diana Ross and Willie Nelson. Susie Criner explains that members will have the opportunity to select the entertainers of their choice, depending on the artists' schedules.

"It's all about enjoying music that you like in an intimate setting with your friends," she says.

The Criners will host a reception at Rockefeller Hall later this month for prospective members. For information, Annie Eifler at 713-899-3473 or annie@musicwithfriends.com. 

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