Make Music New York is based on France’s “Fête de la Musique,” a national musical holiday inaugurated in 1982. Ever since, the event has become an international phenomenon, currently celebrated on the same day in more than 700 cities around the world.

Its first appearance in New York came in 1989, when Martin Segal’s New York International Festival of the Arts organized a “Fête de la Musique” with 187 concerts, in honor of the bicentennial of the French Revolution. For the next seventeen years, aside from occasional June 21st concerts presented by the Alliance Française, the event was absent from New York City.

History of Make Music New York


MMNY 2007

MMNY 2007

Having experienced the Fête de la Musique in Paris in 2006, Aaron Friedman was inspired to create a comparable event in New York. Alongside founding board members Robert Singerman & Steven Swartz, and with support from Citizens Committee for NYC, Mr. Friedman brought together a group of volunteers and organized the first “Make Music New York,” with free concerts throughout the five boroughs. The name came from the event’s French slogan, “Faites de la musique!” (“Make music!”).

560 performances included:

a kazoo jam session outside a Morningside Heights church • dozens of indie bands blanketing Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg • Tuvan throat singers outside the Rubin Museum of Art • high school Christian rock bands in Sunset Park • the NYPD jazz band at Coney Island • a kick-off on the field at Shea Stadium with former French Minister of Culture Jack Lang and guitarist Sylvain Luc • In C on Cornelia Street in the West Village

Press:

All-Day Festival of Sounds, From African to Operatic,” by Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times, June 23, 2007

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MMNY 2008

MMNY 2008

With June 21st falling on a Saturday, Governors Island welcomed “Punk Island” for Make Music New York, and musical block parties multiplied. Time Out New York magazine created a matchmaking website to help unattached musicians and locations hook up. Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference with Roberta Flack to launch the event. For the first time, MMNY concert listings became available on nyc.gov, and on the city’s 311 hotline.

850 performances included:

over 70 punk bands playing throughout Governors Island (nicknamed “Punk Island” for the day) • a Lincoln Square block party, with performances by the NYC Opera, NY Philharmonic, Jazz at Lincoln Center, ASCAP, American Composers Orchestra, and American Opera Projects • Bronx middle school jazz bands in Central Park, joined by Roberta Flack • Grammy-winning trumpeter Roy Hargrove at a Jazz Gallery tribute to Miguel “Anga” Diaz • additional block parties organized by The Tank, After The Jump, Composers Collaborative, House of Yes, etc.

Press:

A Fine Day for Music, No Matter Your Taste,” by Colin Moynihan and Ray Rivera, New York Times, June 22, 2008

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MMNY 2009

MMNY 2009

MMNY inaugurated “Mass Appeal,” a participatory series bringing together hundreds of musicians, from the amateur cellist to the professional harmonica player, to play pieces written for a single type of instrument. Punk Island continued to flourish, becoming an annual tradition. The Bronx Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Queens Museum of Art, Staten Island Museum, and Guggenheim all came on board. WNYC became MMNY’s official radio partner.

875 performances included:

Henry Brant’s Orbits for 80 trombones at the Guggenheim Museum, named one of the year’s “ten memorable performances” by the New Yorker • a jazz block party on the Upper West Side with Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, and three Jazzmobile concerts • French pop star Yannick Noah at Central Park Summer Stage • hundreds of guitarists playing Beatles songs in Union Square, a 40-member “Accordion Forest” in Park Slope, a 4-piano block party on Cornelia Street and other Mass Appeal groups • African Jazz with pianist Randy Weston at the Jazz Gallery

Press:

Symphony of the City,” by Alex Ross, The New Yorker, July 6, 2009

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MMNY 2010

MMNY 2010

MMNY grew to encompass over 1,000 free concerts. Harlem led the charge, jumping from 8 concerts in 2009 to 72 in 2010, and new Business Improvement District partners in Brooklyn came aboard. MMNY also partnered with Sing For Hope to place 60 pianos on streets and parks for two weeks beginning on June 21st, left outside for anyone to play.

1,080 performances included:

an open-air performance of Xenakis’s Persephassa, with the audience listening from rowboats in the Central Park Lake, surrounded by percussionists. The concert, sponsored by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, was named one of the year’s ten best by New York Magazine and Time Out New York • New Orleans-style Second Line jazz parades across three Manhattan neighborhoods, led by the Jazz Gallery, Hungry March Band, and Jazzmobile • an interactive music series in the Meatpacking district • hard-rocking corporate executives competing in Bryant Park (“Play Hard: the MMNY Corporate Challenge”)

Press:

Rocked by Waves of Drumrolls,” by Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, June 22, 2010

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MMNY 2011

MMNY 2011

Inspired by Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night, MMNY launched its first winter festival, “Make Music Winter,” with twelve participatory musical parades on the winter solstice (December 21st). Meanwhile, the summer offerings became larger-than-life: 99 percussionists, 88 street pianos, 24 hours of theremin under a bridge, a “Funk Island” on Rikers complementing “Punk Island” on Governors, dozens of participating NYPL branches, and more music around the Central Park Lake.

1,035 performances included:

12 funk concerts by Christian McBride, Pimps of Joytime, Burnt Sugar, and others for inmates on Rikers Island (“Funk Island”) • an historic “Griot Summit” with dozens of West African musicians at Wave Hill in the Bronx • 99 percussionists playing John Luther Adams’s Inuksuit outside in Harlem, presented by Miller Theatre • Louis Andriessen’s Hoketus played from the balconies of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street • Yoko Ono’s Secret Piece in Central Park at 5AM • a 24-hour-long interactive electronic piece under the Manhattan Bridge by British artist Nick Franglen

Press:

One Day, Who Knows How Many Performers: Make Music 2011,” by Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR Music, June 21, 2011

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MMNY 2012

MMNY 2012

Mayor Bloomberg took a harmonica lesson in Central Park, part of MMNY’s Mass Appeal; Colombian Chiva buses circulated on a “World Tour” between concerts presented by the French Embassy, Goethe Institut, Consulate General of Israel, Americas Society, Museum for African Art, and others; NPR Music commissioned a new piece by Philip Glass for the occasion, premiering in Times Square. And MMNY founded the “Make Music Alliance” to foster collaboration between each of North America’s Make Music city celebrations.

1,049 performances included:

a sing-it-yourself, world premiere performance of Philip Glass’s The New Rule in Times Square, conducted by Kent Tritle, in partnership with NPR Music • Alvin Curran’s Maritime Rites performed by the West Point Band from boats on the Central Park Lake • a complete, 18-hour vibraphone performance of Erik Satie’s Vexations on Wall Street • a 24-hour Indian Raga marathon at WKCR • a gospel parade through Park Slope • 64 toy pianos at the South Street Seaport • human tower builders from Catalonia accompanied by traditional instruments

Press:

On a Solstice, Music Can Pop Up Anywhere,” by Daniel J. Wakin, Anthony Tommasini, Zachary Woolfe, and Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, New York Times, December 23, 2012

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Download 2012 Program (pdf)


MMNY 2013

MMNY 2013

Musical instrument companies got in on the action: Casio, GAMA, Hohner, Remo, and Yamaha donated instruments and sponsored free lessons and performance opportunities. Concert listings became available for the first time on iPhone and Android apps. At Rikers Island, inmates were offered ten weeks of percussion lessons to prepare for a final MMNY performance on June 21st.

1,065 performances included:

Jed Distler’s music for 175 keyboardists on Cornelia Street, setting a new Guinness World Record for the largest keyboard ensemble • Beck’s “Song Reader” on stage at a Joe’s Pub block party • a live sing-along piano bar on the street at eight locations, with a keyboard accompanist performing from the back of a pickup truck • 10 weeks of percussion classes for Rikers Island inmates, culminating in a final concert for the full jail population • Archway, a piano wire installation/performance in DUMBO under the Manhattan Bridge, by Eli Keszler and So Percussion • 144 singers on the Central Park Lake, presented with the Americas Society, conducted by George Steel • New York’s first single-day performance of Cornelius Cardew’s 9-hour manifesto The Great Learning, with Mantra Percussion in Lower Manhattan • hip hop showcase with Rakim and IAM at Central Park Summer Stage

Press:

Behind Bars, in Boats or Under a Bridge: One Day, a Thousand Concerts, to Celebrate Summer,” by Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, James R. Oestreich, Steve Smith and James Barron, New York Times, June 23, 2013

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Download 2013 Program (pdf)


MMNY 2014

Make Music New York grew to 1,355 performances, 30% larger than ever before, thanks to expanded partnerships across the city and support from the Stavros Niarchos and NAMM foundations. In January, MMNY launched Make Music Monthly, a podcast discussion series about the meaning and craft of music-making, with guests including Gunther Schuller, Samir Chatterjee, Alex Skolnick, and Frank London.

1,355 performances included:

100+ BPM, Red Baraat’s new piece for 350+ marching band musicians, co-presented with NPR Music • dozens of bluegrass bands on Governors Island in the first “Porch Stomp” • three smartphone apps transforming lower Manhattan into musical landscapes • the second year of Rhythm on Rikers (ten weeks of percussion lessons for 20 inmates) culminating in a final performance with Vinny and Carmine Appice • Henry Brant’s Mass For Massed Flutes in Central Park, and 17 more Mass Appeals • Casio’s live piano bar from the back of a pickup truck, featuring the songs of Billy Joel • Berlioz in Bryant Park, a play-it-yourself event for 200 wind band musicians • an old school hip hop block party by the Bronx Music Heritage Center with DJ Kool Herc • a musical World Tour with “-M-“, Jarana Beat, Uri Sharlin, and two Indonesian gamelans • In Key, 11 premieres based on Terry Riley’s In C on Cornelia Street

Press:

From Billy Joel Sing-Along to Rhythm on Rikers: Make Music New York’s Record-Setting 1,350 Shows,” by Andy Gensler, Billboard.com, June 18, 2014

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Download 2014 Program (pdf)


MMNY 2015

Make Music New York introduced Street Studios, Exquisite Corpses, and Sousapalooza — three new citywide forums for spontaneous music-making. A “Concerto for Buildings” debuted for full orchestra and 24 percussionists, using the buildings of Greene Street in Soho as instruments. Daily concerts in Times Square for the month of June showcased the year’s major MMNY events.

1,207 performances included:

new Mass Appeals for theremins on Roosevelt Island, Indian percussion in Central Park, Bach singers on Cornelia Street, and Klezmer violins at Joe’s Pub, plus 14 more • six Exquisite Corpses, continuous chains of improvised duets in six burial grounds, led by Jazz at Lincoln Center, Jazzmobile, and others • twelve Street Studios, small mobile recording studios on sidewalks throughout NYC, with 24 producers engaging passersby in the collaborative production of original music, in collaboration with Found Sound Nation • music by Merche Blasco triggered by vehicles and pedestrians passing by the High Line • for Frank Sinatra’s centenary, a Clavinova Piano Bar offering live Sinatra karaoke on the street from the back of a pickup truck • Sousapalooza, a participatory performance of Sousa marches in Bryant Park • site-specific music by Valéria Bonafé in a Central Park tunnel, commissioned by the Americas Society • a Haitian Rara band, Greek chanteuse, Israeli Afro-beat, Belgian rockers, and other international highlights

Press:

Make Music New York Teaches Buildings How to Sing,” by Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, New York Times, June 22, 2015

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Download 2015 Program (pdf)


MMNY 2016

For its 10th anniversary season — and the first since the departure of founder Aaron Friedman — Make Music New York launched “Inside The Bird Chorus,” a dialogue between improvising musicians and songbirds in each of the five boroughs. Times Square teemed with free guitar lessons from three dozen teachers, among them The Naked Cowboy. “Making Music,” a new weekly radio show on WBAI produced by MMNY, explored the public and hidden lives of music makers and presenters.

924 performances included:

Glass on Water, a concert on Riverside Park’s Pier i by Philip Glass, joined by 42 middle school and high schoolers playing the composer’s Etudes • 23 Mass Appeals, including Sxip Shirey’s “Gauntlet” sung by a tunnel of 40 singers on the High Line, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Brian Chase leading “Shimmer” for 16 cymbals in Madison Square Park, composer Angélica Negrón’s piece for 50 music boxes in Greenpoint’s Transmitter Park, and Survivor’s Dave Bickler singing “Eye of the Tiger” during the seventh inning stretch at the Staten Island Yankees game, accompanied by fans playing 700 Boomwhackers • hip hop emcee Baba Israel at the Museum of American Finance, and the PUBLIQuartet at the National 9/11 Memorial, part of a “Night at the Museums” • a make-your-own instrument workshop for kids at the Brooklyn Public Library • Alberto Ginastera’s Serenata performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) at Central Park’s Naumburg Bandshell, presented by the Americas Society • four grand pianos in the middle of Cornelia Street featuring the music of New York school composers Earle Brown, Morton Feldman, and others • another Concerto for Buildings in Soho, an Exquisite Corpse at the First Shearith Israel Graveyard, Sousapalooza in Bryant Park, eight Street Studios in four boroughs, Punk Island and Porch Stomp on Governors Island, and other returning MMNY favorites

Press:

Variety and Verve at Make Music New York,” by Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, David Allen, Anthony Tommasini, Andrew R. Chow, Vivien Schweitzer, and James R. Oestreich, New York Times, June 22, 2016

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Download 2016 Program (pdf)

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