Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series on our local artists and their experiences in these turbulent times.

In early 2020, they were six Seattle-area creatives out of work. Now, they’re an Emmy Award-winning multimedia team.

The six — Brent James Driscoll, Austin Glass, Richard McLean, Oliver Stellfox, Benjamin J. Strickland and Derek Zanto — recently won a 2021 regional Emmy in entertainment for their cinematic concert series, Sessions in Place. Founded on April 11, 2020, the livestreams continued for 73 consecutive Saturdays, allowing local musicians and film crew to practice their craft and make some money at a time when many creatives were out of work. Today, the concerts are once a month and can be viewed in-person (locations vary) or streamed online (see facebook.com/SessionsInPlace).

Seattle Times arts recovery coverage

Seattle’s thriving and vital arts-and-culture community has been rocked by the coronavirus pandemic and the only thing certain about the future is change. The Seattle Times takes an in-depth look at the sector’s recovery in 2022 with support from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. We will explore how both individuals and institutions are doing in the wake of the pandemic; track where relief money is going; and look at promising solutions to challenges facing our arts community. We invite you to join the conversation. Send your stories, comments, tips and suggestions to artsrecovery@seattletimes.com.

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Sessions in Place was born soon after pandemic closures, when friends Stellfox and Strickland simultaneously had the idea to produce livestreamed concerts. Strickland beat Stellfox to the phone, calling him and Glass to say, “We have the gear and expertise, and we should just do this.” 

“It’s one of those moments where I can vividly remember where I was when [Strickland] called me, and I don’t even remember what I had for dinner last night,” Stellfox said.

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From the beginning, the project (now an LLC) has been funded by the six owners. Together, they produce, direct and edit video, as well as engineer audio, design lighting, book venues, find artists and operate technical equipment like jibs and Steadicams. The project has many sponsors — the Fremont Abbey, R90 Lighting, LightSmiths and Topo Chico, to name a few — but none are monetary. Location rental is one of the larger expenses, and venues are always donated. Since the owners work in film professionally, they had most of the equipment already.

The artists have been a priority from the start, and Sessions in Place has focused on “creating a hospitable environment for the artists so that they feel cared for, especially during these times,” Stellfox said.

Participants get two free meals at each session, and most of the money made from tickets goes to the artists. Tickets range from $10-$30 (plus a pay-what-you-can option), with a payout of 45% to the headliner, 35% to the supporting artist and 20% to Sessions in Place. After a week, though, the streams are available for free on YouTube, so anyone can enjoy them.

What’s most valuable for participants, the owners said, is the video itself. Musicians walk away with visual proof of what they can do, which has already helped several garner more opportunities.

“We’re giving them an actual representation, what they look and feel like, so vendors can see that … and that’s been really invaluable,” Driscoll said.

Marshall Law Band, a Seattle-based funk hip-hop group, has been on Sessions in Place twice after making a name for itself performing at Capitol Hill protests in 2020. The band’s message continued in its livestream sessions.

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“Sessions in Place has been extremely impactful for us,” rapper Marshall Hugh said. “It was really amazing that they took the time to highlight what was going on in current events. They centered BIPOC voices intentionally and have continued to do so since then,” Hugh added, referring to Black, Indigenous and people of color.

Later this year, Sessions in Place will transition its concert model to include “day-in-the-life” footage about the artists, which the organizers hope will help audiences bond with the artists. After that, the plan is to grow bigger and better — for them and for the community they’ve created.

“It’s that magic,” McLean said. “If you’re passionate about something and you love doing it, other people will want to get involved.”

Sessions in Place presents Shimmertraps

July 29; online or at Emerald City Trapeze, 2702 Sixth Ave. S., Seattle; $10-$20; eventbrite.com.

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This coverage is partially underwritten by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over this and all its coverage.