An Ode to Make Music Day 2019

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From the shores of Lake Champlain to the valleys of the Green Mountains and to all of the towns around and in between, music could be heard on June 21. Make Music Day was a fantastic time wherever it went. Sunshine glinted off of trumpet bells. Ice cream melted in the hands of audience members. Performers gave back to their communities in spectacular musical fashion. From Burlington to Bennington, music could be heard .

As the sun rose, music played, and as the sun set, music stayed. Artists at Cate Hill Orchard converted the first light of morning into song, finding inspiration in the morning’s orange rays and the way orange light seems to pour down the sides of mountains. Hours later, at Kingsland Bay Park, artists, friends, and family sang together in a great chorus as the sun set behind the Adirondacks.

In either case was the spectacle of the day lost on anyone. We are fortunate to live in such a gorgeous state, cut by ancient glaciers, lined with mountains, and painted by forests. Vermont is a state praised for its natural beauty, and yet, on the Summer Solstice, beauty originated in the hands of people. 

Musicians at Kingsland Bay share a song on the porch.

Musicians at Kingsland Bay share a song on the porch.

Sometimes music complimented the inherent beauty in the world, as at Cate Hill Orchard and Kingsland Bay. Artist elsewhere, however, created their own sources of originality and creativity.

Rod Wilson’s poetry reading at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Bennington.

Rod Wilson’s poetry reading at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Bennington.

At St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Bennington, over thirty people crowded into the pews to hear local artists perform. Audience members and performers ranged in age from eight to eighty. Poetry, Latin music, and classic acapella represent just some of the talent on hand. With an open-mic format, anyone was welcome to perform or watch. 

Multiple artists also partnered with the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington. Quite expectedly, they did not use their inside voices. And although some readers may have found their quiet time disrupted, many may have found similarities between the books in their laps and the music in their ears. Whether written or spoken, words serve as a medium to share stories. Artist and adventurer Hunter Paye sang of his trip through southern Asia. He sang of crossing borders, natural wonders, and the people one meets along any journey. Violinists and live-looper Emma Back used her music to share stories about being human. Love and loss, depression and recovery. 

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The highlight of the day came from the connections between artists and the community. Crowds ambling down streets were drawn to the sounds of artists and bands like Mr. French, whose impersonation of Led Zeppelin seemed uncanny until you saw them.

Mr. French rockin’ out on Church Street in Burlington.

Mr. French rockin’ out on Church Street in Burlington.

Mikahely performing on his valiha.

Mikahely performing on his valiha.

Mikahely stopped passerby with his guitar and valiha. His basesa style, native to Madagascar, struck a fresh chord for many listeners.

The Vermont Fiddle Orchestra and others played for folk on streets of Montpelier. The Decoys played to about 40 senior citizens at the Thayer House, and had everyone clapping along to "Hey Good Lookin,'" "Folsom Prison," and "If I Had a Hammer." 

It didn’t matter where you played or for whom you played. Make Music Day is a celebration, not a concert. Whether playing with friends on your front porch, as the Vermont Fiddle Orchestra did, or in you basement for a few lucky fans, the value of the day comes from creating music and connecting with the community.

As The Decoys put it: “We enjoyed the chance to give back to the community that we have played in for over 30 years.”

Jeff Wheel, the member of Mr. French strapped to the Les Paul, echoed this sentiment. After performing on Church street for over three hours in three different bands, and just before packing up to go to his next gig, Jeff described what makes today so special: “inspiring others and giving back to the community.”

Jeff organized multiple performances on Church Street, and played in the Jeff and Gina Duo, Queen City Quintet, and the rock group Mr. French. When asked what keeps him inspired to perform, he reiterates that it’s all about “giving back to the community—it’s about inspiring other artists.”

Bennington area musicians march down the meat and dairy aisle.

Bennington area musicians march down the meat and dairy aisle.

Vermont and its cities are just a few of the more than 1,000 cities around the globe who participate in Make Music Day. If you tuned into the Make Music Day livestream, you could see and hear music being played as far away as Hong Kong! The United Kingdom, Greece, Germany, Indonesia, and Australia are just some of the 120 countries involved in Make Music day.

Bucket Jack, playing with gusto.

Bucket Jack, playing with gusto.

Local awareness received a hearty boost from our partners and friends at Front Porch Forum, whose ads helped us spread the word across the state. Ads on Front Porch Forum accumulated over 60 unique clicks per day leading up to June 21. A total of 693 unique visitors clicked on the ads in Vermont, with 161 visitors from Burlington, and 179 visitors from Montpelier.

This year’s festivities were also supported by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and also sponsored by the University of Vermont Office of the Vice President of Research, Vermont Public Radio, and the NAMM Foundation. Make Music Day also received coverage from a few news stations this year, including 38 mentions by VPR and Catamount Access Television in Bennington. We’d also like to thank Calamity and Crowe’s Trading Post for the groovy shirts!

Big Heavy World livestream, featuring the band Beards and Glasses.

Big Heavy World livestream, featuring the band Beards and Glasses.

Even if you couldn’t make it out to an event, you could have checked out Make Music Day and Big Heavy World’s live stream, which recorded live from the Fletcher Library to capture the music of Senayit, Emma Back, Hunter Paye, Beards and Glasses, Sara Grave, and David Rosane and the Zookeepers. We’d like to thank Advance Music Center in Burlington for the gear they donated to the event. With their help the Fletcher became loud, bright, and flashy. Big Heavy World’s livestream was featured 7 times on the official Make Music Day livestream, which aired performances from the likes of Sydney and London.

Age is no barrier on Make Music Day!

Age is no barrier on Make Music Day!

And if you couldn’t make it out to a performance and couldn’t tune into the livestream, you could always just create your own music! Because, ultimately, that’s what Make Music Day is all about. 

As Rik Palieri, organizer at Kingsland Bay, once said, “Create what you want, where you are.” When you create music, you should create what you love. Music is a celebration of humanity. It celebrates who we are, through all of our faults and successes. It unites us through stories. And it is a platform to express who we are.

Make Music Day gives us all a chance to take part in this celebration. If you missed the memo this year, don’t fret. Make Music Day will be back next year, and will be bigger than ever!

Text by Luke Vidic.