It’s that time of year where we want to feature each of our Special Projects so that you, the Make Music New York community, can have a better understanding of the many great ways to enjoy Make Music New York on Thursday, June 21st (mark your calendar!). Look for regular blog posts outlining events across neighborhoods and boroughs, featuring amazing and engaging musicians from the New York area.
Make Music New York’s Executive Director, James Burke, is back! This week he spoke with Clara Schuhmacher from the DUMBO Improvement District about partnering on a special project for the popular “Live At The Archway” series.
James Burke: Hi Clara, thanks for joining me! Make Music New York has a long history of activating special projects in the DUMBO neighborhood in partnership with the DUMBO Improvement District. Perhaps you could share how the relationship began?
Clara: We’re always down to do crazy and amazing things in Dumbo, and especially in the Archway, which is an epic public space in an epic city (no, we’re not biased or anything). So when an interesting project comes our way, we’re game – and MMNY always has interesting projects!
We were first connected to MMNY in 2011, when Nick Franglen proposed playing a 24-hour-duet with the Manhattan Bridge and its cyclists (he played Theremin). Two years later, MMNY helped us turn the Archway into a giant string instrument, for the premiere of a piece by Eli Keszler featuring So Percussion. Those two projects have lived on as office legends, but there have been many other wonderful projects, both in summer and in winter.
It’s been great fun working together from the Dumbo perspective. And of course my personal connection to MMNY runs deep. My brother was one of the original volunteers, and I got looped in organizing Bushwick when I first moved to Brooklyn. Fast forward to 2013, when I joined the organization as Director of Operations for three festivals. And now here we are, continuing to work together to make magic happen in public spaces. I love how New York works this way.
JB: Live At The Archway provides such a cool vibe for the community to enjoy live music. What is your philosophy in curating the space and celebrating the community?
Clara: Thanks James, appreciate the kind words! One of my favorite things about my job is that I get to spend most of my days out and about, chatting one-on-one with retailers, business owners, artists, residents – everyone who touches the neighborhood in some way. It’s the best way to get direct insight and feedback into what the neighborhood needs and desires. A lot of my curation comes down to gut. I know this place, it’s my place now too, and I trust my instincts on what works and what doesn’t work.
What’s fun – but also challenging – about curating Live at the Archway is the diversity of the audience: all ages, all kinds of relationship to the neighborhood and myriad musical tastes. It’s always a balance, thinking through acts who will offer something to such an audience. Of course, I can’t appeal to everyone every week, which is why the season is so eclectic–my core audience comes back week after week, and they know that if they’re not super into an act one week, chances are the next week will be their favorite. And then there’s the practical side: the Archway is massive, and acoustics challenging. I’m looking for acts who will sound beautiful in the space, and who are dynamic performers, have that extra bit of stage flair, and can hold the “room.”
What really makes #LiveAtTheArchway a celebration of community, however, is that it’s not just a concert series. It’s music, it’s visual art, it’s spectacle, it’s tech. We build a pop-up gallery on site every week, show the work of a different DUMBO artist inside, and lead the audience in a community art project on the outside. We feature a different creative company from the neighborhood weekly as well, and invite them to bring their work out into the public, test it, show it off. And of course, we program a lot of DUMBO musicians too.
JB: We’re excited to be partnering with you to present Natalia Clavier as part of our June 21st music celebrations. How would you describe her music to Make Music fans? What can Make Music New York expect of the show?
Clara: The question all musicians dread! I’m not sure if Natalia would agree, but to me her music feels very tango electronica, without being tango. (Full disclosure: I’m Argentine and love this kind of stuff.) It’s got great beats, it’s a little hip hop, it’s a little jazz, she sings in Spanish and in English. Really: it’s all chill, summery vibes – perfect for sitting in the Archway with a drink on the longest day of summer! Bring a picnic, get a drink from our Archway bar, and enjoy. Show is early, 6:15pm. And if Argentina wins their World Cup that day, get ready for some cheering too! 😉