A Virtual Make Music Day

A celebration of local musicians this year observed social distancing and live stream performances

18 Jun 2020 | 04:05

In times fraught with tedium and isolation, it’s more important than ever to come together and get creative.

It’s that time of year when New York streets normally start to bustle, and crowds pack into concert halls like sardines in a can. Unfortunately, this year, the live music scene in New York has all but stopped and where there was once the sultry sounds of jazz saxophone, there is silence.

Make Music New York, a 13-year-old nonprofit organization that celebrates local musicians aimed to end the silence on June 21 with an itinerary stacked with all things music, including live performances, crafts workshops and virtual teaching sessions.

Typically, the outdoor celebration of the first day of summer features over 5000 free events in over 120 countries. Make Music Day brought people of all backgrounds and cultures together with the power of music.

This year, things looked a little different; Make Music Day observed social distancing guidelines and transitioned nearly all their events to be conducted virtually.

‘Collaborative Music-Making’

At its most basic level, Make Music Day New York provided a platform for local artists to live stream performances and showcase art developed in the confines of quarantine. Live streams weren’t all Make Music Day had to offer, however. Interactive competitions, such as “Track Meet,” pitted teams of musicians against each other in a competition to produce a creative track using the program Soundtrap.

James Burke, the executive producer of Make Music New York, made the most of virtual music, saying “The mission of Make Music New York over the previous thirteen summers is to activate social spaces and to bring people together physically, but there are some interesting things that are happening this season. One of them is the collaborative music-making experience that technology allows for.”

Make Music New York also ran 25 x 12, an education program that provides 12 hours of free virtual music lessons for 25 instruments.

“I hope that people not only listen to music, but also try to make music as well.” Burke says. “There’s lots of opportunities for people to get involved. The festival is open to people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, ages and skill levels.”

The day of celebration culminated at 6 p.m. with “Porch Stomp!” Pop-up singalongs started on various porches, windowsills, and balconies. Families strolled the streets for an hour, observing social distancing guidelines, and finished at 7pm with the whole city singing “Together” the iconic folk ballad “This Land is Your Land” to applaud our healthcare workers and first responders.

While virtual performances could never replace the experience of a live performance, Make Music New York brought back the sense of joy and community that they’ve provided in years passed. Burke emphasized that “Our mission since the outbreak, has been to support our contributing and participating musicians from over the years. The power of music to celebrate the joyful aspects of our life and bring people together is more important than ever.”

The music may have moved online, but the spirit of the celebration remains the same.

“The power of music to celebrate the joyful aspects of our life and bring people together is more important than ever.” James Burke, executive producer of Make Music New York