Make Music Day 2016 in Pittsburgh

Wendy Kumer | September 2016

    On June 21, 2016 Pittsburgh hosted its second annual Make Music Pittsburgh in each of its inner city neighborhoods. Make Music Day is a festival designed to show local musical talent and inspire others to play music as well. Originally started in France in 1982, there are currently over 700 cities in 120 countries playing music on June 21 each year as part of a global celebration. Whether it is hip hop in the north side, gospel in the east, bluegrass in the south, classical in the inner city, or kids playing the harmonica in the west end, Make Music Day represents what each city decides to make of it.
    On June 21 the usually quiet spaces in Pittsburgh were filled with live music. Everyone was encouraged to participate – either by playing music outside, providing an outdoor space, volunteering, or walking around and listening to the various concerts. Performers of all ages, levels, and styles of music were welcome.
    The Pittsburgh Flute Club merged with the Flute Academy performed an hour of flute choir music and solos on a city overlook high up on Mt. Washington. Fifteen flutists ranging in age from 10-93 played everything from Amazing Grace and America the Beautiful to The Entertainer and Finlandia in 2-6 harmony parts. Several members played solos and duets. It was a great way to entertain the city and highlight the flute in all its glory. Tourists, pedestrians, friends and family, and even the traffic at the stop sign appreciated hearing live music on a fair summer’s day.
    To participate in this festival in 2017 in your city, go to You can use a link to see whether your area has hosted a Make Music event. If they have, there may be a website set up for your city already that will let you know how to participate next year. Some cities (Chicago, Cleveland, New York, St. Paul) host a Sousapalooza as part of the event – where you can grab your instrument and join in the fun. If your area is not already involved in Make Music Day, the website has a cool toolkit to download to get one set up.
    Choosing music for an ensemble of all ages and levels is easy. Make the folders in advance and mark each piece with a performance order number – use a sharpie. Choose easy-to-sightread, 2-, 3-, and 4-part pieces. You can download many of these arrangements for free from the internet. Our group decided to tell people to just show up and play, but you can also plan in advance and hold rehearsals, which allows for more advanced repertoire. Be sure to bring clamps and clips to hold your music in place when playing outdoors. Choose a variety of styles, tempos, and keys to keep it interesting. Mix it up even more by having soloists play between the ensemble works. Have sing-alongs and encourage dancing or movement from the audience. If the venue is amenable, chat with the spectators and invite them to take up an instrument. Here’s to Make Music Day 2017. Let’s have music playing outside all over the world!