When Maria Finkelmeier was approached to coordinate the first Make Music Boston summer solstice celebration, she needed a second to take in what the event would mean for Boston musicians — and if she was the right person for the job.
“It’s really important for musicians to have accessibility to their city,” said Finkelmeier, director of Make Music Boston and a performing percussionist. “By doing this job, I realized I’d have the chance to say, ‘Hey I have this platform for you,’ and then musicians could have ownership over their art.”
With that in mind, Finkelmeier accepted the challenge. In conjunction with the city’s parks department and arts organizations, she has arranged for nearly 40 free performances throughout the city this Saturday. From the Common to the South End, solo acts, instrumental groups, and bands will play for passersby from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., using the acoustics of their surroundings to enhance their music.
Make Music Day is based on the French summer solstice celebration Fête de la Musique, which began more than 30 years ago and has spread to more than 800 cities worldwide — from Beijing to Normal, Ill.
Aaron Friedman, president of Make Music New York, inaugurated the American equivalent of the French tradition in 2007. Although he attended Fête de la Musique in 2006, his real motivation for bringing the festivity stateside was to provide “more pleasing sounds” to the boroughs of New York, after waging a successful campaign to ban the installation of new car alarms in the city.
“I started organizing Make Music New York in early 2006, based on what I’d been reading about the Fête de la Musique,” Friedman said. “And then I finally was able to see the event myself on June 21, 2006, in Paris, and it was just as amazing as I’d hoped.”
The New York celebration started with small-scale, grassroots presentations throughout Central Park, but has evolved into a presentation comprising more than 1,300 performances across the five boroughs this year.
Along with bands, ensembles, and solo acts, participatory events — called Mass Appeal events — have become an integral part of the day. Make Music Boston will include two Mass Appeal performances, sponsored by Hohner Harmonicas and Zildjian Cymbals, at Frog Pond on Boston Common.
Bringing Make Music to Boston and having Finkelmeier coordinate the event was a no-brainer for Friedman. After meeting her during the 2012 Make Music New York celebration and learning more about her through one of his work colleagues, Friedman approached Finkelmeier about coordinating the event here.
“She was clearly excited by its creative and community-building possibilities, and she’d do a great job of running the show,” Friedman said.
The City of Boston was eager to accommodate the solstice celebration. Interim park commissioner Chris Cook said the city is very excited about the direction the event is taking to help bring people to Boston’s parks with great local music.
“It’s one day where the whole city will be able to be activated and alive,” he said.
Last year the Community Music Center of Boston organized its own version of Fête de la Musique, called La Nuit de la Musique. When David Lapin, executive director of the Community Music Center, heard about Make Music, he was eager help coordinate the events.
“For us, we wanted to present music performance to people of diverse background,” Lapin said. “Then I heard about [Make Music Boston] and thought, what better way than to do this all together.”
It took a few friends of Finkelmeier’s to get the word out about Make Music Boston. Anne Gregory and Beth McDonald, who organize summer pop-up concerts in Jamaica Plain through August Noise JP, helped Finkelmeier handle the logistics of organizing a high number of shows for free.
“The city is hungry for this kind of thing,” Gregory said. “This is a day where we can just give people what they want and a chance to perform.”
With the festivities on the horizon, Finkelmeier couldn’t help but smile and look toward the end result.
“This event has the potential to reach so many neighborhoods and types of people,” she said. “Boston will make it its own; I’m just here to help connect the dots.”
For a complete guide to Make Music Boston events, see www.makemusicboston.org.