Philadelphia joins National Music Day on Friday

Lucid Dreamers , Nyree Jauhar on drums and Mecca Bonaparte on guitar, will play at Girls Rock Philly. Grace Winter Photography
Lucid Dreamers , Nyree Jauhar on drums and Mecca Bonaparte on guitar, will play at Girls Rock Philly. Grace Winter Photography
Posted: June 20, 2013

The streets of Philadelphia will be more musical than usual on Friday.

Outside 30th Street Station at 8 a.m., singer-guitarist Scot Sax will greet commuters in an interactive, bring-your-own-cowbell performance of Paul McCartney's "Silly Love Songs." (Smartphone cowbell app participation is also encouraged.) That will be followed by the Settlement Music School's Kyo Daiko ensemble, banging on Japanese Taiko kettle drums.

Those free performances, and more than 130 others at more than 50 venues throughout the city, will be part of Make Music Philly day, Philadelphia's first participation in National Music Day. The event, born in France, came to the United States in 2006 and has grown to include municipalities such as New York, Chicago, Santa Fe, N.M., and Kalamazoo, Mich.

The Philadelphia event is cosponsored by the city's Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy and University of Pennsylvania station WXPN-FM (88.5). Station manager Roger LaMay first got excited about the idea in the fall at a National Public Radio board meeting in Washington.

The Make Music Philly idea is to have the longest day of the year - Friday marks the summer solstice - be the one most filled with music. So if you happen to be walking north on South Broad Street at lunchtime, you might encounter Opera Philadelphia performing excerpts from Mozart's Don Giovanni in the pop-up garden across from the Kimmel Center. A left turn on Chestnut could take you past Jacobs Music Co., where a string of soloists, starting with Steve Rice at 11 a.m. and finishing with Farid Baron at 6, will be in the showroom playing jazz piano.

And if you head over to LOVE Park, there's an excellent chance you'll overhear trumpeter Daud El Bakara and sax man Korey Riker under Robert Indiana's four-letter sculpture between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Stick around till rush hour and you can hear the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia at 5, followed by indie-rock trio Norwegian Arms at 6:30.

Apart from about $15,000 that LaMay says was raised through corporate sponsors to administrate the logistically challenging event, Make Music Philly is an all-volunteer endeavor.

Gary Steuer, the city's chief cultural officer, says the radio station "carried the weight" in putting together the event, which is largely built on "sweat equity."

That goes for the performers and the venues, from the Kimmel Center (where children's act the Ticklebombs play at 10 a.m.) to the Free Library (Lucid Dreamers from Girls Rock Philly will crank up the volume at 3:30) to the Peace House Creative Space in the Art Museum area (spoken-word poet Lindo will speak his mind at 6). Details about all the shows can be found at www.makemusicphilly.org/events.

"It's great for us to be involved in this big music event, which, hopefully, will build from year to year," LaMay said. The radio station is including its Free at Noon show, this week with Southside Johnny & the Poor Fools, under the Make Music Philly umbrella. "I'm hoping that there's going to be enough going on that people are just going to come across it as they walk down the street and say, 'What's this?' "

So what's in it for the city? Steuer said his office aimed to "do whatever we can to support, promote, and highlight the creative sector of the city. Too often, we tend to draw these distinctions, and think of the arts as the Orchestra, the Opera, the Kimmel Center, and nonprofit presenters. In fact, the arts are also places like Chris' Jazz Cafe and the World Cafe Live. And people like Kurt Vile [the rocker who will play in the City Hall Presents concert series on Aug. 28], and Toy Soldiers and Meek Mill and Chill Moody."

"The great thing about Make Music Philly," Steuer said, "is that it's a platform that brings people together, in traditional and nontraditional ways."

That's good for Philadelphia, he said. "The creative juice of the city has all these ramifications in terms of the economy and livability of the city. People say, 'This is a great place to live. I want to live in the city.' "

Make Music Philly also aims to deliver a sense of surprise and discovery so people can encounter live music without having to buy a ticket to a club, concert hall, or stadium.

"Even though Philadelphia is known as a great music town," LaMay said, "people have no idea how much talent is right under their nose. This event will show just how much music there is right around us. We've just got to go out and pick our heads up and listen."


Contact Dan DeLuca at 215-854-5628, ddeluca@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @delucadan. Read his blog, "In the Mix," at www.inquirer.com/inthemix.

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