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Milwaukee Prepares for its First Make Music Day

Jun. 13, 2017
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As the self-proclaimed City of Festivals, Milwaukee is no stranger to outdoor music events. From Summer Soulstice to the Locust Street Festival, summers in the city have always been filled with live music. 2017 will be the first year, however, that Milwaukee will participate in Make Music Day—a worldwide celebration of music that takes place on the first day of summer. 

The event began in Paris, France in 1982. Make Music Day’s founders envisioned a day dedicated to free, live music with performances in public places. The event aims to be nontraditional; musicians are encouraged to participate both in standard venues as well as on street corners, rooftops and other outdoor spaces. The festival is open to musicians of all ages, skill levels and genre preferences. Last year, more than 750 cities participated in more than 120 countries. More than 50 U.S. cities will be celebrating Make Music Day this year.

It was Katelyn Reithel, the event coordinator at Brass Bell Music Store, who brought the event to Milwaukee. Reithel heard about the celebration while interning at the NAMM Foundation, a nonprofit focusing on music philanthropy. She was intrigued by the event and became determined to bring it to Milwaukee. She was surprised that a city with such a flourishing music scene and high volume of music business wasn’t already involved. Reithel became the Make Music Day Milwaukee administrator and began her quest to get the city interested.

The festival’s goal isn’t to book Milwaukee’s big name performers. The event encourages inclusivity, and any venue or musician can opt to get involved. Make Music Day’s coordinators have developed a matchmaking process that allows artists to select a performance timeslot of their choice. Participating venues can reach out to interested musicians and schedule performances.

Make Music Day festivities will take place at outdoor spaces like the Mitchell Park Domes and Riverwest’s Kadish Park, as well as at indoor venues like Stage Right Pub and Brass Bell. Performers range from rock bands to Native American flute players. “We have more people wanting to perform than we have timeslots available,” says Reithel.

Milwaukee rocker Nyanna Krajewski is performing twice on Make Music Day with her bands Gas Station Sushi and Slimabean. “We want to support local artists and play music wherever we can, especially at places that are all ages,” Krajewski says. “We are underage and find it hard to get gigs. It’s not easy to get people our age to come to our shows.” Her bandmates are eager to perform in a space that is welcome to the public. “It’s a great opportunity, and I’m always excited to perform, no matter where it is,” says Slimabean vocalist Tess Minette. “Performing makes me feel more confident and comfortable socially. Music is something that brings people together.”

Other than performances, Make Music Day will create opportunities for music fans to learn a new skill or two. Both Kadish Park and the Domes will host group ukulele lessons. The instruments will be provided by Brass Bell, and instructors will teach participants how to compose their own tunes. Harmonica manufacturer Hoener will be donating instruments and teaching harmonica lessons at the Domes as well.

Make Music Milwaukee takes place on Wednesday, June 21, at various venues. For more information about the event, visit makemusicday.org/milwaukee.

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