Musicians from all over Meadville will join musicians from all over the globe on Wednesday as for the first time Meadville joins in Make Music Day.
The 35-year-old celebration of free, live music takes place on the summer solstice in more than 750 cities spread across 120 countries. On the longest day of the year, the festival takes music out of the bars, clubs and concert halls where access is so often restricted and puts it on the streets for all to enjoy — and participate in.
“I was looking at the internet and ran across this thing,” said guitar player and Meadville Area Middle School teacher John Hyatt. “I thought, ‘Gee, that should be something that we should do here in Meadville.’”
Hyatt pitched the idea to local businessman and community activist extraordinaire Dan Hunter, one of the organizers of the Second Saturday Night Live concert series atop the downtown parking. Hunter has also been involved with organizing Winterfest, the recent Thankful Thursday cleanup efforts and a number of other community-oriented activities in recent months.
“I’m hoping that what people get out of it is to know how many musicians are actually in town and how you should be able to play music and feel open,” Hunter said. “We want to be part of this worldwide celebration.”
Meadville joins Pittsburgh and Philadelphia among Pennsylvania cities participating in the music festival that was started in France in 1982. The festival stresses inclusivity and is "open to anyone who wants to take part,” according to the Make Music Alliance website at makemusicday.org.
Hyatt envisioned Meadville’s first stab at the event as simply “dipping our toe into the pool” with the hope of having a performer on every street corner a few years down the road. They aren’t there yet, but with the help of Hunter and others, the first attempt at Make Music Day is at least waist-deep in the effort.
Plans for the day include free outdoor music at three locations around the city from 11 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
The first session takes place at Diamond Park from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., with an open stage for those who would like to sign up for performance slots of up to 20 minutes from noon until 1:45 p.m. From 3 to 5 p.m., the music moves to the Fairview/Fairmont Apartments, where Make Music Day will “overlap” with a “First Day of Summer” celebration lasting from 3 to 7 p.m. and featuring Magic Steve, fire trucks, free games, food and ice cream.
The last set will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Meadville Area Recreation Complex Community Garden. The day will culminate when everyone present is encouraged to join in a community sing-along of “This Land is Your Land,” which organizers hope to live stream on YouTube, according to Hunter.
Many of Meadville’s musicians who plan to participate on Wednesday gathered in Diamond Park earlier this week.
George Stabile, a Meadville resident for 25 years and a drummer for a bit longer than that, was excited about the event when he and other musicians gathered in Diamond Park this week in preparation for it. The spirit of the event was a natural extension of the positive environment that has long characterized the music scene in Meadville, he said.
“You just felt you could make a band and take it downtown and play,” he said. “Yeah it was friendly. ... There were stages available.”
Julie Panchura is a relative newcomer in comparison, but she has encountered a similarly welcoming environment over the past few years. Panchura and her husband, Greg, form an acoustic act called 50 Miles to Empty and have played at a variety of locations in and around Meadville.
“We’ve discovered that it’s a good bonding experience for us as a married couple,” Panchura said. “I think the public really likes live music. People like to hear it because it creates a great atmosphere and music helps people connect.”
It won’t be all guitars and drums on Wednesday. Musician Chris Seeley hopes to make it to Diamond Park on Wednesday from his office in the county courthouse, where he works as an auditor. He’s not yet sure whether he’ll bring his tuba or a keyboard, however.
Seeley plays keyboard with local band NTR but has also played tuba in the Allegheny College Wind Symphony.
“When the whimsy wears off, the tuba just kind of becomes a public nuisance,” he said. The whimsy has yet to wear off for Seeley, apparently, who has been playing the big brass instrument about 20 years.
Make Music Day is about celebrating music, of course, but for Hunter it’s also about celebrating the dedication of people like Seeley and doing it in a way that draws attention to Meadville’s musical resources and potential venues.
“I can’t play anything, but I can whistle pretty good,” Hunter joked after the musicians’ gathering on Monday. “We’re hoping to bring to light that we are making music in Meadville. ... We need to use our public space and filling it with music is one way to do it.”
Everyone, Hunter said, has an open invitation to join Meadville’s musicians in making some music on Make Music Day.
Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can go
Make Music Day in Meadville is Wednesday at Diamond Park from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Fairview/Fairmont Apartments, 494 Willow St., from 3 to 5; and from 6 to 7:30 at the MARC Community Garden, 800 Thurston Road. Make Music Day will overlap with a first day of summer celebration from 3 to 7 at Fairview/Fairmont Apartments.