First Person

Watching over musicians in Harvard Square

As one of three street-performer monitors for the Cambridge Arts Council this summer, city resident Leslie Condon works to keep order on the sidewalks.

Leslie Condon holds the meter she uses to check sound levels of Harvard Square musicians.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Leslie Condon holds the meter she uses to check sound levels of Harvard Square musicians.

It’s kind of surprising — the nights that are really, really hot and you don’t think anybody’s going to be out, and there’s a million people and musicians out. And then there are beautiful nights that are quiet with just three or four performers, and YOU’RE STROLLING AROUND CHECKING THEM OUT. It is a six-hour shift, and you kind of do a figure-eight lap around Harvard Square and run down Mass. Ave. a little bit.

When we start our shift we go over to the Charles Hotel and pick up our sound monitor. We have to be 25 feet away [from the musicians], and THEY NEED TO BE UNDER 80 DECIBELS. I’ve also got to make sure they’re not angering a business they’re in front of. It’s kind of a low-key job.

BUT IT’S NOT ALWAYS SUNSHINE AND LOLLIPOPS. There are some people that are very territorial, veteran performers who feel a much greater sense of ownership, and someone comes along and tells them they’re being too loud, they don’t really appreciate that. But you try to project the sense that you’re there to represent and support them. WE’RE NOT TRYING TO POLICE THEM or maintain them. We’re trying to promote this whole performance atmosphere here.


That’s my least favorite part of the job, when I have to come over and tell somebody, “You’re too loud,” or “You have to move,” or “You’re too close to that business.” Mostly I like coming over and saying, “HOW’S YOUR NIGHT GOING?” Seeing that they have a big crowd around and they’re having fun, that’s the best part, being able to stop and enjoy that, too.   

— As told to Joel Brown. Interview has been edited and condensed.