Street Music

15 06 2008

One of the many great things about Lawrence in the summertime is the street music. We were out for a ramble this evening and three young guys were parked on a bench downtown, drumming on pickle buckets and a fancy bongo drum. I’d bet my last buck that the lead drummer grew up practicing Native American drumming and the other two probably started with public school band. But these guys were great and they were stopping a crowd. The two on pickle buckets were using sticks, but they were pounding on the buckets, the bench, a newspaper machine, a metal utility cover and their coffee can tip jar.

There is another group that performs New Orleans-style jazz on Friday nights and they always draw a crowd too, with people occassionally dancing around them on the sidewalk. I love the impromptu nature of street music and the obvious joy of the musicians, but I support them financially because I think they make such a huge contribution to the community. Great sidewalk music is the ultimate in arts accessibility, to my mind. Music speaks to almost everyone and requires no explanation, unlike many of the sculptures scattered around town. And good street music stops everyone in their tracks. A common cross section of almost any sidewalk audience will include college students, affluent couples, young parents with kids in strollers, homeless people, silver hairs and everything in between. Those audiences boil down to the common pleasure of music with equal accessibility regardless of education, race, money, transportation or any other factor. I wish the Lied Center and other arts venues could gather such a diverse audience.

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