Suite No. 6 at Jerico may seem like a small, tucked-away space, but it often contains big sound — music that bursts from its doors and out into the world. It is The Clover Room, a performing venue created by local musicians Cori Somers and Mechele Peters.
“Mechele and I met in 2000, at what was then called Kraftbrau, now Old Dog Tavern,” Somers says.
“Mechele was bartending, and I was performing that night. We quickly became friends and began to play music together that winter.
“Our lives became filled with raising children, and it wasn’t until the pandemic that we circled back again to begin our work together as business partners for The Clover Room and also for Isobel and Ernest — an artisan business of small-batch hand-dyed and handmade goods. We’ve been talking about creating an artist space together for the past 20 years, and the time seemed right in the summer of 2022.”
Although that first meeting was an easy click, the paths both took to meet and form a partnership had some twists and turns.
“I was born into a farm and horse family in a rural town outside of Kalamazoo,” Peters says. “My grandparents were old-time musicians who played the barn dances, and I spent my childhood riding horses while my parents rode the rodeo circuit. My earliest years were immersed in old-school country and ’70s radio.”
Peters attended high school in Muskegon, developing a love of R&B, funk and soul music. After graduating from Western Michigan University, she taught herself to play guitar and began putting her love of music and language on paper, writing melodies and lyrics. She spent most of the 1990s in London, where she was wowed by the club scene and electronic music.
Somers was born and raised on the east side of the state and moved to Kalamazoo to attend WMU in 1993. Moves to the Keweenaw in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the West Coast, and Ontario followed, and she earned a master’s degree in music with a concentration on violin. Somers returned to Kalamazoo in 2008.
“I discovered music through my family,” she says. “My great-grandfather would bring his violin when traveling, and I knew that was what I wanted to do by the age of 4. He would let me hold and play his violin every time he visited.”
Somers brought her more than 20 years of experience in arts administration, including most recently as the executive director of Kalamazoo Choral Arts, to The Clover Room. She is also a violinist for the Grace Theisen Project and the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and was formerly part of the Red Sea Pedestrians.
“Music is a form of intimate communication like no other,” Somers says. “It is a place where I can express myself without words but transform myself and others through the powerful energy of creating music.”
In July 2022, Somers and Peters established The Clover Room, with the mission of supporting local, regional and national artists by “showcasing work in an intimate setting (that is, not a loud bar) while also working toward equitable pay, top-notch hospitality, and inclusivity for all of our musicians and artists.
With a vision to provide a space for local musicians to perform as well as for local visual artists to display their work, the partners aim to give priority to those who have traditionally been overlooked, such as people of color, women and LGBTQ+ artists.
The Clover Room invites all to the stage and offers audience members pay-what-you-can and buy-one-give-one ticket models so that no one will be turned away at the door. Most ticket prices are less than $20. The Clover Room is also available for workshops, benefit concerts and cross-genre music performances.
“Having an all-female trio from Ontario called the Pairs in January 2023 perform in The Clover Room has been a highlight for us,” says Somers. “We’ve had artists like Faith Quashie, Santino Jones, Candace Lavender, Grace Theisen and Nathan Moore, to name a few. Collaborating with Sounds of the Zoo to bring in a Young Artist Series and (with) The Edison Jazz Fest to support monthly jazz is also a highlight. Providing a space for up-and-coming local artists has been a really important part of what we do.”