All About Us

Our story …

Woodstock is the center of musical energy in McHenry County, Illinois. From all of its year-round indoor live music venues to outdoor special events and the award winning Woodstock Farmers Market, musicians and non-musicians alike travel to Woodstock to learn, hear and play music of many genres.

Off Square Music was started in 2003. The Mast House Concert Series could no longer hold formal concerts. The sing-a-long was okay, but we could not sell tickets and pay performers at a private house in Woodstock.

The Mast House Concert committee at that time was John Hoyt, David Ashby and Keith Johnson. We applied for a federal tax number and the journey began. Judy Matzen soon joined us and a few years later Roger Benson was onboard. Judy and Keith wrote the 501-C-3 application and we were incorporated in the state of Illinois. The journey began.

From this small beginning, Off Square Music became involved in other events. We now sponsor open mics, concerts, music at the farmers market and an annual event on the square called Harvest Fest. We help other events with their sound needs and do performances at retirement facilities.

We encourage teachers to use Off Square Music events as an opportunity for their students to perform or give recitals by sponsoring a performance fund that helps defray their expenses at the Stage Left Café.

The current Off Square Music board includes Andy Andrick, Gloria Burchfield, Kent Fishburn, John Hoyt, Don Humbertson, Keith Johnson, Laurel Palma, Joe Pesz and Rich Prezioso.

Off Square Music is a Woodstock nonprofit folk music organization.  We are dedicated to promoting live music. For more information about this or other Off Square Music events, please visit our website often as well as Off Square Music on Facebook and Twitter (@offsquaremusic1).

Off Square Music thanks you for your support.

A Tribute to Roger Benson

My friend, Roger by Keith Johnson, Off Square Music

I met him at a fundraiser for the Masthouse in 2002.  A giant man in jeans and leather vest outbid everyone for a German chocolate cake.  I don’t remember the final bid, but he paid an exorbitant amount for that cake.  We didn’t know it then, but it was vintage Roger Benson, supporting a cause he believed in.

Roger soon retired as a medical doctor in Chicago and moved to a home near Woodstock.  We were immediate friends and in 2004 he became a board member of Off Square Music.  He loved to introduce performers and was an avid supporter of our early concerts.   His knowledge of folk music and performers was phenomenal, and he was always excited to discover a new artist.  I never met anyone who appreciated music more. 

Roger was with me when the idea of an open mic at the newly constructed Stage Left Café was born.  “It is a great idea,” he instantly commented and his support never flagged.  

I also admired Roger for his work as a doctor.   He was a fine diagnostician.   A mutual friend was struggling with a medical problem, going from doctor to doctor without success.  I mentioned it to Roger and a few weeks later, he handed me a work up to give to our friend.  It was a perfect diagnosis.  No fee, no fuss; just Roger Benson helping out where he could. 

Since his passing, I continue to meet people who knew Roger, and each one has a story to tell.  He helped this one get medical care, he helped that one with a loan, he was an ardent supporter of their organization.  He had so many friends.

I have never known a more generous man, and we lost him way too soon.

What We Do

Stage Left Open Mics and Concerts

Open Mics are held on the 2nd and 4th Fridays of every month from 7 – 11 p.m. at Stage Left Cafe, 125 Van Buren St. on the historic Woodstock Square. Beginning in 2020, the 4th Friday Open Mics will be in January, March, May, June, July, August, October and December. The remaining 4th Fridays will feature a performer for a one-hour set. Check back with us often to see who is performing!

In addition to the regular 2nd Friday open mics, a new addition will be to feature a performer who will take the stage for a 30-minute set.

Off Square Music invites musicians, singers, poets and other performers to participate in the Open Mic Nights. Whether you’re just starting out as a performer or are a seasoned veteran, Open Mic Night offers a supportive atmosphere with an exceptional performance space and sound system. Performing slots are 15 minutes or three songs, whichever comes first.

You don’t have to perform to enjoy Open Mic Nights. Just come on out to enjoy live music and Woodstock’s charming atmosphere. Off Square requests a $5.00/pp donation to support our many music activities, including Open Mic Nights.

To sign up to perform, email Keith Johnson. The email address is offsquare@gmail.com. If you stop by an Open Mic Night early in the evening, there might even be an available slot that same night.

First Saturday Open Mic and Sing-A-Long in the Masthouse Tradition

Join the fun at the 1st Saturday Open Mic and Sing-A-Long every month. We meet on the the 1st Saturday of each month, 7 – 10 p.m., at Unity Spiritual Center, 225 W. Calhoun St., Woodstock.

The sing-a-long with song lyrics are projected onto a large screen, accompanied by the impromptu sing-a-long band. Just enjoy good music? Come on out and join us!

Regular participants often bring food for the sharing table, and Off Square Music provides coffee and tea.

If you would like to be included in the line-up for the evening, email Andy Andrick at aandrick28@yahoo.com or sign up when you arrive. Sign-up begins at 7 p.m.

Off Square Music requests a $3.00/pp donation to support this Open Mic.

Concerts

NEW! Beginning in 2020, the 4th Friday Concert Series at Stage Left will feature touring musicians and bands; these concerts will be scheduled for the 4th Fridays in February, April, September and November. They will be held at Stage Left Cafe, 125 Van Buren St., Woodstock.

All concerts begin at 7:30 pm. and ask for a suggested donation of $15.00.

Off Square Music invites and encourages local and non-local performers to perform at all open mics.

If you would like to be considered for a concert, please contact Keith Johnson at offsquare@gmail.com. If you enjoy great music and a fun evening out in Woodstock, we welcome you to join us!

Music at the Market

Off Square Music brings live music to the Woodstock Farmers Market year-round. What a wonderful way to get your fresh, locally-grown foods and gift items.  Here’s a link to the producers only farmers market. https://woodstockfarmersmarket.org/

We post monthly schedules of Market performers on this site (click the Music at the Market tab in the site menu for the current month’s schedule).

If you would like to perform at the Market, please contact Keith Johnson at offsquare@gmail.com.

Singer Songwriter Original Open Mic

A Place to Shine Music and Off Square Music have teamed up to produce this evening of original work by local and regional songwriters, poets and storytellers. Artists perform for 10 minute slots.

An evening of original music, poetry & story telling!  The Singer Songwriter Original Open Mic is held on the 3rd Thursday of every month, 7:30-9:30 p.m. at Stage Left Cafe, 125 Van Buren St. on the historic Woodstock Square. All levels are welcome.

Advance sign-up is required via email to Cassandra Vohs-Demann at aplacetoshinemusic@gmail.com.

For more details visit https://aplacetoshinemusic.com.

Harvest Fest

Harvest Fest has been an annual Woodstock event for 24 years.

Sponsored by Off Square Music, this event brings in both local and regional performers to entertain audiences on the historic Woodstock Square and has been the start of more than one musical career.

For information about performing at Harvest Fest, contact Keith Johnson at offsquare@gmail.com.

For information on this year’s event, check out our posts under the site menu tab for Harvest Fest 2019.

And there’s lots more . . .

Off Square Music co-hosts, co-sponsors, partners with, assists and supports many other local organizations and events in a variety of ways. Look for these events under the Concerts tab.