Busking is an exercise in art and community. It's Street Music Week in my town, Spokane, WA. The scheme is a dream of Doug Clark, one of the columnists for The Spokesman-Review*. Doug sends out a plea for musicians to come downtown and play for an hour. His column, plus his getting into communities of musicians, results in a pretty fair turnout - upwards of 50 players on street corners. One guy even lugs a piano down on the back of a flat bed. Most of us will remain unrecognized and never be able to quit our day jobs :) - Support a busker!
I consider it an exercise in community for three outstanding qualities:
- A community is inclusive - Everyone is welcome regardless of skill level. Kids are always the best - they have no fear. True community must welcome a variety of voices - in this case sounds. I play a bit on the guitar - mostly with a rag tag bunch of bluegrass pickers from the Inland Northwest Bluegrass Association. This is the second year for me to join the fun.
- A community is sharing - At some point, playing music is about having people listen. Hopefully, it is enjoyable. The smiles - rare as they are from some people - are priceless. We were playing "You are My Sunshine" and a couple carrying a2 month old baby happened by - what timing! Music comes from the heart. Sure you have to learn notes and chords and tunes - but you need the desire to begin the practice. At some point in every music makers life is an "influencer" who shared the love of the sound. Strong community is centered around the desire to share and pass along.
- A community is caring - all proceeds from this week are donated to 2nd Harvest Food Bank. In order for a community to grow in strength, it must care for everyone in the community. Similar to the welcoming characteristic, it goes beyond welcoming. Once a member is part of the community there is need for genuine care.
There are varying degrees of red tape that most cities require musicians to unravel. Here you can buy a license which is good for 90 days. So long as you don't block a doorway or harass people on the sidewalk, it's cool. Doug wrote a story Tuesday expressing how tough it is to stand on a street corner and play music. Essentially he talks about the rejection of people walking by without any acknowledgment. Most people are busy and have limited time for lunch break. There are days when all I want to do is get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Maybe its time to slow down?
Here's the part that blows my mind. Even virtuoso violinists like Joshua Bell can't get people to stop. Read the Washington Post story from an April experiment. This is a man who commands $100 for a seat at a performance. His playing will send chills through every living cell inside you.
It makes me wonder whats happened to our senses? How does it impact our communities?
BlueWaters Bluegrass Festival - See you there?
Trailer Park Girls - the MySpace thing
Joshua Bell - the youTube thing - over 1000 people = $37-40
Paul Sings Opera - more YouTube - trust me, if you've not seen this guy, it will send you over the edge - even if you have seen it...WOW!
*full disclosure - that's the paper where I work :)