In the early '80s, France began holding the yearly Fête de la Musique, or Make Music Day, where amateur and professional musicians fill public spaces with live music. The festival, which always takes place on June 21, the longest day of the year, has since spread internationally, with celebrations in more than 700 cities.
The concept has been a little slower to take hold in the States, but has cropped up in various cities over the years. This Sunday, June 21, Pittsburgh hosts its very first Make Music festival.
"We're known for sports and steel, but we have this wonderful music scene," says founder and organizer Jasmine Kurjakovic. "It's a great opportunity for people to show off their skills. It doesn't matter their age or style of music or their level of playing, the idea is just to get out."
Kurjakovic experienced Fête de la Musique firsthand, while studying in France. "There's music on the streets, music is just everywhere in the whole country. It's just an awesome day," she recalls. "The French government said ‘We want music outside, we want it to be played everywhere.' It's always outside, it's always free. The goal is to expose people to music who wouldn't normally be exposed to music, and to inspire people to play instruments."
While coordinating a city's worth of outdoor performances may sound like a potential logistical nightmare, the event website allows things to naturally work themselves out. Musicians seeking places to play are matched up with shops, restaurants and other venues willing to host artists. Once a musician and venue each agree to the match, it is automatically added to an event schedule: Currently, the list includes singer-songwriter Charmaine Evonne at East End Book Exchange and multi-instrumentalist Dhruva Krishna at Yoga Hive in the Strip District, among others.
There are some larger associated events — Steel City Ukuleles will perform at Schenley Plaza, in Oakland, and the Pittsburgh Children's Museum will feature some young musicians. But signing up isn't required — all it takes to participate is to find an empty spot, be it a street corner, a park or your front porch, and start playing.
"I love music," says Kurjakovic, who grew up playing violin and piano. "Getting more people involved and making them more aware of music ... anything to do that is just awesome in my book."