Make Music Cleveland Asks Musicians to Celebrate a Tuneful Summer Solstice

David Ellis plays solo Viola Da Gamba at the 5th Street Arcades for Make Music Cleveland. Photo by Hannah Santisi

Wed 6/21

You’ve heard of a flash mob, where a seemingly random group of people gather to perform or entertain unsuspecting onlookers. Currently Peter Slowik is hoping to create a similar mindset or experience on the summer solstice with the second annual Make Music Cleveland taking place all over Northeast Ohio.

The idea is simple: make music wherever, whenever. Whether it’s street musicians, a coffee shop performance or a show at a club, June 21 should be a day of music. Make Music Cleveland last year featured more than 200 performers in 75 different venues reaching more than 20,000 audience members.

CoolCleveland talked to Make Music Cleveland organizer Slowik about the upcoming day of music.

What exactly is Make Music Cleveland?

This is something that happens around the world on the longest day of the year, June 21. The people who started Make Music Day in France about 25 years ago thought the longest day should be all about music. Basically, it’s become almost a national holiday in France, very akin to Halloween. People just experience music all over the place. If you walk around here on Halloween, you’ll see people in costumes, and the idea is to make that prevalent in and around everywhere. And it’s become really commonplace on that day. Nobody has been doing it here. When I found out the idea of Make Music Day, I felt this is something Cleveland really needs to have because Cleveland has kind of a vibrant music scene. We should not be behind the rest of the world.

What’s the goal for Make Music Cleveland in its second year?

This year we’re aiming for 200 concerts and the idea is a concert ­— I say “concert” kind of loosely — can be a performance where you just invite some friends over to your front lawn. The idea is, it’s public music, it’s free, it’s fun and it’s participatory.

So literally the idea is on June 21 people will stumble upon music in the unlikeliest of places?

Absolutely. There will be music all day in Public Square. There will be music at the Bop Stop and the Happy Dog, some of the traditional places, but the really fun thing about Make Music Day is anybody can be involved. They can make music on their own front porch. Or if you have a business, you can put a musician in front for a day. It’s mainly non-traditional venues. That’s the spirit of the thing. That’s the kind of grassroots movement. I can’t tell you what spaces there will be music because hopefully people will pop up and make music all around the city. They’ll be planned and unplanned things. It’s just a day to celebrate the inner-musician in all of us.

What did you learn about Make Music Cleveland in year one?

What we learned is we need to get the word out so this will have a grassroots effect. And it’s happening. More and more people are talking about it. People are excited saying, “I can make music with my neighbors.” Or my favorite is a lady in Cleveland last year that just opened up her porch for people on her street. So she had five or six people playing music all night. That’s what I’m really envisioning happening all over the city. Maybe not this year, but in three or four years I just want it to be a standing thing. Nobody has to promote Halloween. That’s what this should be like.

It sounds as though Make Music Cleveland is a unique event that when it’s fully reaching into the community you may not truly know the number of related live music events or pop-up concerts taking place in Northeast Ohio.

The only reason it’s important to capture what happens with this is to motivate and stimulate people for next year to share their music. It’s nice if you can capture it and send pictures or post on social media to let everybody know. I think that everybody has an instinct to appreciate this or enjoy this in some way. It’s just getting people to action. There are ten times more stuff happening that people won’t even bother to tell folks about. They’ll just do it.

At the very least, it seems as though the goal behind Make Music Cleveland is really just to add smiles to Northeast Ohio.

Absolutely, I always say music should be the best part of your life as it possibly can. So this is hopefully making them smile and giving them unexpected beauty for their day. I think in this day of narrowcasting where we can only listen to our type of music, hopefully people will hear other kinds of music that they will enjoy. Say a dulcimer player performing on a street corner. The other thing is to just bring different kinds of people together. Music breaks down the barriers we put between ourselves and in today’s society.

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