From a broken dryer to a music venue: Five questions with Teri Dosher

Jessica Fuller • Nov 19, 2018 at 9:56 AM

Almost 10 years ago, local business owner Teri Dosher saw a show that would change the course of her life. 

Dosher and her daughter, Zoe, discovered the Acoustic Coffeehouse one day after their dryer at home broke, and they were using the laundromat next door. The venue closed last year. It used to be settled along Walnut Street, and was one of the smaller places to hear live music in Johnson City at the time. 

It was one show in 2009 that sparked an insatiable passion for live music for the mother and daughter, and would eventually lead to the opening of The Willow Tree Coffeehouse and Music Room in 2014. 

Now, Dosher’s business venture is a way for her to share her passion with others, support live music, and maybe even once in a while, spark a passion like her own in someone else. 

Five Fast facts
1. Favorite Holiday: Halloween
2. Favorite dessert: Too many to choose
3. First live music show: Elvis Presley when I was a little girl with my mom 
4. Least favorite weather: Really cold
5. One artist/band you want to see but never have:  I would have loved to see the Eagles back when they really were the Eagles.


1. How did you become to be so enthusiastic about live music?

I’ve always loved music but I became most enthusiastic about live music when I found really good live music in a small intimate venue, and I felt and saw what that could do for your soul and bringing people together.

2. Was there a specific show you’d consider life-changing?

Absolutely. Yarn, At The Acoustic Coffeehouse in 2009.

Why do you think they affected you that way?

Zoe and I were blown away by the talent, the originality and the passion that came from these guys in such a small room for such a small crowd. As soon as I got home, I started looking up their music. I loved everything I heard. Then, I started to look to see where else they play. I found out they were from New York City and they toured mainly the eastern part of the U.S., playing all kinds of small venues and festivals. We saw they were playing in Winston-Salem a few months later and made a road trip to see them there. It all kind of snowballed from there.

We discovered more bands on that level, which made us want to take more road trips to listen, but we would also work to try to talk other local venues into bringing those bands closer to us. It evolved from an interest to a passion that ultimately inspired me to open a music venue.

3. What are some of the rewards and challenges of being a local business owner, particularly of a music venue?

The biggest challenge is getting people out to support live music, getting people to invest in a cover charge and to value live music as a listening experience. We’ve made some progress there, I feel, but we have a long way to go. Many bands are less eager to put a town on their tour if they know they aren’t going to get the crowds they can get in other places. And low ticket sales make it really hard for us to pay what many bands require for them to be able to afford to stay on the road as a touring band.

The rewards are what keep us going – they are putting bands I love in front of new listeners and watching those listeners fall in love with that band or musician for the first time. It’s watching people gather in front of the stage and forget all their cares and worries and get lost in the music; watching people build friendships around the music, live music brings people together in a beautiful way and it feeds your soul.

Also, it has been very rewarding in that The Willow Tree has developed the reputation as a venue that treats musicians well – we have been called an “oasis on the road” because we truly appreciate what these artist do, what they sacrifice to bring us the music and we try really work hard to show them how much we appreciate them when they stop to play for us. We may not bring them the biggest crowds, but we sure do work to show them the love.

4. How would you describe the live music culture of the Tri-Cities area?

Our area is so rich with really amazing talent, and we have several wonderful music venues offering great live music experiences in all genres. And we have such a rich music history, but we don’t have a strong culture that supports and values live music as a listening experience compared to other places I have experienced.

There are many nights at The Willow Tree when more than half of the people who are attending the show traveled an hour or more to see and hear music. Sometimes, they don’t even know the band or artist, they just want to come to a venue that offers good music, in an intimate environment, for a fair cover charge. To build a strong music listening community/culture, we need more of those people locally.

5. What would you like to see in the next five years for the local music scene?

The groundwork has already been laid. We have several great venues, offering many different genres of music, as well as music festivals, outdoor listening opportunities in the warmer months, and we have such a rich music history. I would love to see more people supporting all that is offered, especially more students and younger people. I really feel that once more people experience the degree of entertainment that can be found in a small local venue for $10 or so, they will be hooked, just like I was.

The more people who come out to support, the bigger names we can pull in and offer locally. Sometimes it just takes that one band, that one listening experience, to pull you in. If we can grow a community of people who support what we have to offer now we could be a music destination that more and more people travel in for. That’s what I’m hoping happens in the next five years.

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