Musicians to take to boro streets for Make Music NY

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For the second year in a row, local musicians will come together to bring a powerful display of the city's love for music to Queens and the other boroughs with "Make Music New York," a free concert event on June 21, the first day of summer.

On Saturday, public spaces throughout the city will be transformed into impromptu musical stages and dance floors for thousands of amateur and professional musicians of every genre.

The grassroots event is a collaborative effort set forth by the Queens Council on the Arts and Jamaica Center for Arts and Performance, along with several local organizers spread throughout all five boroughs.

Artists joined "Make Music NY" by signing up online at Time Out New York's Web site, which turned no one away. Artists will perform on sidewalks around the city, but other venues include parks, community gardens and plazas. St. James Place in Fort Greene, Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Jamaica, West 4th Street and Cornelia's in the West Village are among a few of the venues.

Last year "Make Music NY" showcased 560 concerts and 1,927 musicians. The number of musical performances has grown to about 850, with an estimated 250,000 listeners citywide.

"Part of the concept is that all of these events are free and outdoors in public spaces, so people who are wandering around on June 21 are able to hear completely different music all around the block," said "Make Music" creator and director Aaron Freidman. "They can discover different kinds of musical concerts without making a real commitment to something."

Since last year's event featured shows mainly in Manhattan and Brooklyn, organizers this year focused on bringing more music to Flushing, Astoria, Long Island City, Jackson Heights and Jamaica.

"Make Music NY" was inspired by France's nationwide music festival, "Fete de la Musique," which is also held on the summer solstice. Friedman lived in France for a short time after college, but did not experience "Fete" until he returned for a visit in 2006.

Friedman said he was inspired to bring the concept, which began 25 years ago, to New York City because of the communality of the different music. Festivals like "Fete" are celebrated on the same day in more than 300 cities in 108 countries, including Germany, Italy, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Australia, Vietnam, Congo, Cameroon, Togo, Colombia, Chile, Mongolia, and Japan. An estimated 11 percent of the French population takes to the streets to play music on that day. Freidman compared "Fete" to "being on the set of a musical comedy with random people singing on the streets. According to Freidman, it is this feeling of community participation that drives "Make Music NY."

"Make Music NY" organizer and musician Sami Shumays, who is the director of the Queens Community Arts Fund for Queens Council on the Arts, said since the solstice is the longest day of the year, it is easier to get sound permits for daylight hours, which is partly the reason they hold it on that particular day. A violinist, Shumays plans to walk through neighborhoods in Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn as he performs.

Shumays, along with QCA Arts Services Director Chris Henderson, helped facilitate the event by setting up meetings with other organizations that could act as local organizers for "Make Music NY." Although Friedman is the chief organizer, each venue has its own local group to oversee the concerts.

Astoria resident and musician Frank Barile, who is a member of the band The Anywheres, is set to do a solo acoustic performance on Astoria Boulevard near the N and W subway station.

"I've always wanted to get into playing outside, because I'm new to New York City," said Barile, whose musical sound is reminiscent of the likes of John Mayer and Damien Rice. "It is my first time playing this event and the first time I'll be playing acoustic in a long time."

Like Barile, many musicians see "Make Music NY" as an opportunity to explore creative, more experimental sides of their music. Friedman attributes the eclectic nature of the event to its ability to draw crowds all over the city and said residents can expect "tons of R&B Hip-Hop, 75 punk rock bands on Governors Island, some New York City Opera, music from Carnegie Hall, Rock, Salsa. It's everything you'd experience in New York."

Also performing are Collective Soul, Reagan Youth, Copyright Chaos, The Strokes and The New York Philharmonic Principal Brass.

Freidman said he and other organizers plan to continue "Make Music NY" each year on the summer solstice. A full schedule of this year's performances is available at

Posted 6:40 pm, October 10, 2011
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