My Own Town!
March 2010: A call goes out recruiting local artists to audition for an Inaugural Program that will pay musicians, actors, jugglers and more to perform on Old Town street corners throughout the summer.
April 6: I am the last on the schedule to audition at Bas Bleu Theatre for this evening's session; double-booking of the venue means we have to sit quietly backstage until the Reader's Theater performance is completed. Then I play both kinds of dulcimers and coax the auditioners to sing along with me to "Celebrate Life!"
mid-May: Notified that I've been chosen as one of 57 acts for performance this summer. Dates that are compatible with my summer touring schedule are agreed to. Contracts are signed. Add to my gig calendar and Facebook notifications.
May 26: Answer questions for a bio form that will be posted on the BeetStreet.org website.
May 27: Film an email Invitation, edit, render send to the Beet Street Office. When it is posted make links from my calendar and Facebook pages.
June 1: I open this summer's Noontime Notes Concert Series at Old Town Square and once again discover the excitement that bubbles through the crowd when I offer the invitation to come downtown for live entertainment on weekends throughout this summer.
Friday, June 4: Send a final email blast to my local list to remind them about Streetmosphere and let everyone know that I'll be on one corner, rather than packing up and moving around (like I previously thought)
3:30 pm call at the Warehouse on Linden Street to check in (in order to be paid!) and to connect with the volunteer (Chris) who will pull the wagon with all the Streetmosphere Gear to our corner at Olive and College (in front of Mugs). Bryan the juggler is warming up and other volunteers and Brenna from OpenStage arrives. The excitement is building.
I park in the city lot along Remington and schlep my gear to the destination corner. The shade is perfect, the temperature and breeze are gentle.
Chris works at HuHot (right next door) and, as he expects, is familiar with many of the people who walk by or hang around to listen.
4- 8 pm is my shift. The goal: (8) 20 minute sets with a 10 minute break between each. The alarms on my cell phone ring for the first time and I learn that I can't count! I keep playing 30-minute sets instead of 20-minute ones. And, since I'm not used to using the alarms, I keep wondering where that ringing sound is coming from?!
We are at the southern entrance of Old Town and at the 4 pm beginning, people are still a bit unsure about what is going on. Folks take seats in the Mugs' outdoor seating, or on the benches beneath the shade along College Avenue to listen. Tourists walk through, pulling their luggage as they prepare to check in at the Armstrong Hotel. The diesel thrum of trucks and busses on the street provide a much more vigorous competition than capuccino machines that I'm used to at coffeehouse gigs. But when the light changes, they move away.
Some pedestrians are nervous when Chris tries to hand them a schedule for the summer's events. Another volunteer wonders if they think we are promoting "Dulcimer Church" (Not a bad idea, I think!)
A little girl starts dancing when she hears the music and brings her parents over to better see and hear. When she asks I let her try the hammers. Another young couple with little children is visiting from Minnesota, scouting the area as they plan to move to Fort Collins next year. Another young family is drawn to the instrument because Dad is a drummer who just has to get his hands on the hammers to try this. The infant, hanging in a front pack on his Mama's chest is smiling, kicking and waving his hands to the music! One of my son's Poudre High School teachers stops by and commends my son (a 2010 grad) to me. People passing in cars with windows down smile and nod their heads as they wave.
When the music stops people applaud and ask "what IS that instrument?" A trio of my-aged men stop to listen. People with flourescent-dyed hair walk by and grin. When people leave their tables at Mugs, others scramble from their bench to take the coveted seats. Dogs' leashes are tied and untied, bicycles parked and re-ridden, people stop and tap their toes, nod their heads and smile. Some hang back to observe, others walk right up and ask questions. The bride, whose wedding I'll play for next week, and her mother come by and sit down to listen. A Coloradoan photographer shoots from several angles and is drawn to the disarray of my many hammers as they lay in preparation for their turn to jump on the strings.
I've set a goal not to repeat ANY tunes during my shift, and when we begin to pack up 4 hours later--I am successful! A couple arrives and sadly says, "Oh no, are you done already? We've been looking all over for you." I still have more tunes and play them a vigorous finish of Snowbow at Sky.
"When will you be playing again?" they ask. Since I'm on tour in June and July I give them my August schedule and they promise: "We'll be back and we'll bring the kids!"
Now is the zen-like experience of packing up and returning this corner to its usual use and myself to home for some supper. That is a very satisfying finish for a musician's gig, since often when it is over I'm not anywhere near home!
This was a great start to an exciting summer of music at home and on the road. Thanks BeetStreet, thanks Chippers (the sponsor of my corner), thanks Fort Collins!
(Photos by Scott, another Beet Street volunteer)