Cleveland Heights home is the setting for intimate concerts

John Roberts and Debra Cowan performing at Sue Hannibal's house.

If you’re a fan of folk music or singer-songwriters, there is perhaps no better place to see a concert than Sue Hannibal’s Cleveland Heights home. Hannibal has been presenting concerts at her house on Ardleigh Drive for the past 10 years.

“A friend of mine knew about a folk musician who was looking for a place to play in Cleveland, and she knew my house was quite accessible,” Hannibal said. “She asked me if she could use my house for a concert, and that’s how it got started. I had never been to a house concert before, and it was a new concept to me.”

Hannibal now presents four to six concerts in her living room every year. The shows are intimate, with attendance limited to 30 people. Hannibal usually charges about $15 for admission, and all of the money goes to the musicians. The artists usually perform a 45-minute set, take a break and then play another 45-minute set.

“The performer is right there in front of you,” Hannibal said. “And you can have a conversation with them during the break or after the show.”

Many well-known folk singers have performed at Hannibal’s house over the years, including Ann Hills, Joe Crookston, Debra Cowan, Roy Zimmerman, the Squirrel Hillbillies, Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangson, the Berrymans, Matt Watroba, Emma’s Revolution, John Roberts and Charlie King.

“I like doing house concerts because I love bringing live music into my home,” Hannibal said. “I love meeting the people who come here for the shows, and I love helping musicians who otherwise might not have any other venue to perform in.”

Hannibal said that most of the artists contact her about playing at her house. “I hear from them anywhere from a couple of months before they want to perform to a year before,” she said. “We then set the date, and about six weeks before the concert we figure out a time.” She then sends out an e-mail to her list of potential concertgoers. She also has the Case Western Reserve University radio station, WRUW-FM, promote the show, and she sometimes makes up flyers.

The performers usually arrive a few hours before the show, and she generally serves them dinner. Some of the artists also spend the night at her house.

“I think house concerts are becoming the up-and-coming way for many musicians to perform,” she said. “Other venues expect you to bring in hundreds of people, and it’s getting harder to do that.”

Hannibal has been a music fan for most of her life. Her favorite artists include Joni Mitchell, Nanci Griffith and Pete Seeger. “I’ve always enjoyed going to folk festivals and concerts,” she said.  Hannibal grew up in Lorain, then attended Kent State University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education. She was a special-education teacher for about 35 years, and retired from teaching five years ago.

Her husband, Jerry Hannibal, plays banjo, guitar and ukulele. They’ve been married for 39 years, and have two children: Elizabeth, 32, and David, 30. The Hannibals moved to Cleveland Heights a few years after getting married, and built their house on Ardleigh 24 years ago.

At press time, Hannibal did not have any concerts set for the near future, but anyone who would like to get on her invitation list can send an e-mail to her at

James Henke

James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He is also the author of several books, including biographies of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Bob Marley.

Read More on A & E News
Volume 8, Issue 9, Posted 2:13 PM, 08.31.2015