Make Music New York, the annual music festival that brings free live performances to public spaces across the city, is coming back for its 14th consecutive year this Sunday, June 21.
Inspired by the international Fête de la Musique, a celebration of live music launched in France in 1982, the festival serves as the city’s yearly reminder that anyone can create music, regardless of skill level, age, or background. In past years, Make Music New York has featured more than 1,000 free outdoor concerts. Though many of the performers are professionals – artists like composer and producer Elliot Sharp have performed in the past, as well as groups like Regina Opera Company – the festival has always provided a platform for anyone with an interest in making music.
“Our mission has always been to include and celebrate the talent of local musicians of all backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations, physical capabilities and skill levels that, taken together, reflect New York City’s remarkable creativity and diversity,” said James Burke, Make Music New York’s Executive Director. “This summer solstice, we will also exalt the city’s resolute spirit and the unique power music has to heal and rejuvenate.”
Though the festival has historically made use of the city’s many distinct public spaces — past performances have taken place in open spaces across Brooklyn, like Bay Ridge’s Owl’s Head Park and Fort Greene Park’s Monument Plaza – with the aid of livestreaming, social media, and other platforms, Brooklyn can still take part in that healing.
In addition to a full schedule of performances, which artists will livestream individually from their own websites and social media accounts (Make Music New York will post the links on the festival’s schedule page), this year’s lineup includes the annual Porch Stomp, typically performed on Governor’s Island and consisting of over 100 different folk and roots rock bands. Due to this year’s restrictions, Porch Stomp will take on a more literal meaning – artists and groups like Nick Horner Family will perform on porches, stoops, and fire escapes, joining together at the end of the day for a collective performance of ‘This Land is Your Land.’ For part one of a program called 32 for Third, students and teachers from the Third Street Music School Settlement will live-stream performances of Beethoven sonatas from 1pm to 3pm. Part two will take place in December during Make Music Winter.
The lineup also includes a strong educational component, including 12 hours of free, online group music lessons at a range of levels conducted by music teachers around the world, available via Zoom. Bash the Trash Environmental Arts will instruct participants on how to make their own instruments from found objects, and then teach them to play ‘Ode to Joy or ‘Baby Shark’ on their creations.
Programming is also heavily focused on community performances. The Live at Home Challenge gives musicians a chance to post a musical performance from their home on social media, and then tag three friends to challenge them to do the same. At 6:55 pm, New Yorkers can kick off the 7 pm nightly cheer for frontline workers with a citywide performance of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ for the Summer Solstice Singalong Song. Burke hopes that people will sing from their porches, fire escapes, or windows, or even from their rooftops if they can.
Make Music Ditmas will feature a series of socially distanced concerts taking place simultaneously from 3 to 5 pm on seven porches in Ditmas Park, which New Yorkers can freely stroll around and watch.
A zoom performance of Mozart’s Requiem, conducted by Douglas Anderson and produced by Melissa Gerstein, will be dedicated mainly to New Yorkers who have lost a loved one to COVID-19, but participants (anyone, regardless of skill level, can register to perform with the group) are also encouraged to dedicate their performance to anyone special to them. Requiem was chosen in response to the current circumstances, Burke explained.
“It’s a work that was written specifically to honor people that we’ve lost,” he said.