After experiencing Make Music Salem 2016 last year, I could not wait for the next one to come around. And here we are – Make Music Salem 2017 is upon us. If you were downtown for last year’s event, you know what a magical and community-building event it was. Salem broke all the records for participation with over 70 bands and 15 venues, and we’re on track to shatter those numbers this year. But first, a little background.


“Make Music Day” is an all-day music festival that always occurs on June 21st – the Summer Solstice. It started in France in 1982, and there are a few rules. All performances must be outside (weather permitting) and must be free to the public. France’s Fête De La Musique has since spread worldwide to over 700 cities in 120 countries. New York was the first city in the US to celebrate this musical tradition, about 10 years ago. Since then, the festival has spread to over 30 cities nationwide. Last year was Salem’s hugely successful inaugural event. The National Make Music Alliance that organizes Make Music Day in the U.S., has recognized Salem’s event as the most successful launch in their 12-year history. Not too shabby, Salem.

Photo by Frank Miller

Make Music Day was brought to Salem in 2016 by Mark Green (RiverCity Rock Academy), Carlee Wright (TedX, Moxie Initiative), and Doug Hoffman (The Space, City of Pieces). This is an all-volunteer endeavor and is a fiscally-sponsored organization through the efforts of Pioneer Trust and the Salem Foundation, which allows donations to be tax-deductible. They organize all the activities and take all responsibility for licenses, insurance, software, staging, equipment, and promotional materials through donations from the community. In short, there’s still time to volunteer, donate, and/or sponsor.

This year’s team has expanded to include Brian Hart, Karen Green, Danielle Green, Katy Ohsiek and yours truly. It takes quite an effort to pull this off, especially given this year’s numbers, which currently stand at 112 performers and 28 venues all concentrated in the downtown core. Those are numbers that make Salem’s event the largest Make Music Day on the West coast before Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland. Those are numbers that has gotten the attention of the international organization! Salem has been recognized by representatives of the French government, and Salem will be featured in an upcoming video recognizing Make Music Day around the world, along with Salem’s own Hot Sheets. AND, if that wasn’t enough (and don’t you think it oughta be?) our own City of Salem and Mayor Chuck Bennett recognized in a proclamation that June 21st is officially Make Music Day Salem. The only thing that was missing were the trumpets and unfurling heraldry.


The 113 performers this year are predominantly from Salem, with some representation from Corvallis, Eugene, and Portland. They’ll be representing a wide range of genres and abilities. Anywhere from first time performers to seasoned veterans; from Montessori students to a 90-year-old singer/tap dancer. It is an inclusive and nurturing environment fueled by our community. It really does provide a place for amateurs to test the water. Last year, Hot Sheets played their very first song at Make Music Salem and now they’re gigging just like they always knew how.

Photo by Frank Miller

In addition to musical performances, there will be free music lessons – what they call, “Mass Appeal” events. This year there will be lessons and jams including harmonica, guitar, ukulele, bucket drumming, beat boxing, and boomwhackers (google that). There will be free harmonicas, boomwhackers, drumsticks, and lesson books for those in attendance, while supplies last. There really is something for everyone at this event.


Make Music Salem is on Wednesday, June 21st from 10am to 10pm. Yes, it’s a Wednesday, so you’ll want to take the day off, call in sick, or quit. It’s all outside and mostly in the downtown core. This year I’m an organizer, so I’ll most likely be fairly busy. But last year I was a spectator and found it very helpful to pack an umbrella to make your own shade or keep off the drizzle (it is NOT going to rain). Last year was perfectly sunny, and I appreciated having the umbrella to keep the sun from beating down on my head. Bring a refillable container for water. Consider taking the bus in or riding your bike. I rode my bike last year and it was very helpful to be able to zip around and see as many performances as I could. Or on the other hand, bring some camping chairs and pick your favorite stage and soak it all in. No matter what, you’ll be in our beautiful downtown with lots of restaurants and venues that helped make this happen. You won’t starve.


As of press time 6/6/2017, we have two more weeks to get all performers placed and confirmed. And performers: you will be placed. Please know that everyone who signed up will get to play. We promise. Again, we’ve still got two weeks so this schedule presented is not final. The best resource is the website. You can download the Make Music Day app or go to keep updated on the progress and to see where your favorites and new favorites are playing on the day of. See you downtown – June 21st.