'It's in my blood:' MSO cellist performs outdoor 'social distancing concerts' for free for neighbors

Peter Thomas

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra hasn't performed in months due to the coronavirus pandemic, but an MSO cellist is bringing music to people's front lawns.

On the border of Milwaukee and Wauwatosa lies a quiet neighborhood, but Peter Thomas has a unique way of disturbing the peace.

"I hope to be not too loud, but not too soft!" said Thomas.

The MSO cellist turned his neighbor's driveway into center stage.

"In case it gets windy, I need some clothespins for the music -- and I totally forgot them," said Thomas.

Lawn chairs served as theater seats and the cul de sac a music hall.

He calls them social distancing concerts.

"They have a thirst for music, for live music," said Thomas. "There's nothing that can replace live music."

Peter Thomas

COVID-19 means Thomas hasn't performed in the regular sense in months, but he hasn't missed a beat when it comes to music -- bringing his sound to neighbors' doorsteps free of charge.

"I feel like it's in my blood, and in my nature to continue to keep bringing music to the people that need it," said Thomas.

Peter Thomas

With an amp and electric cello in tow, Thomas plays plenty -- from classical, to pop, rock and even some heavy metal as the audience tunes out the negativity from the pandemic while staying 6 feet apart.

"Wisconsin really likes a tailgate party, and if we can get that with classical music attached, it really embellishes the experience," said Steve Smith, neighbor.

"The music just heals your soul," said Karin Vetrano, neighbor. "It heals all the noise of the negative world we're in. Music is just a healing."

Thomas aims to bring some positivity to the street when people need it most -- and for such a quiet neighborhood, the sense of togetherness is making a lot of noise.

"It's really nice to be able to hear applause," said Thomas.

"Thank you for sharing your gift with us," said Vetrano.

Peter Thomas