If you pick it, they will strum: thoughts on the 2014 Porch Stomp

We asked our fabulous 2014 fellows to reflect on their experiences organizing special projects for MMNY 2014. Here is the third installment: Nicholas Horner’s reflection on organizing the first-ever Porch Stomp.


While I frequently reflect on my childhood as a self-loathing hick in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania, it still doesn’t make sense why it took me so long to fall in love with bluegrass music. Perhaps it was one too many awkward elementary school square-dances, or maybe it was the fact that I just didn’t look good in overalls. Either way, I’m still in awe that it took me until November 2012 to return to the music that played such an important role in shaping who I am. I can still remember guitarist Luke Chohany gifting me “Sleep With One Eye Open” by Chris Thile and Michael Daves and saying, “Man, just listen to it. It’s good. Really.” I haven’t put it down since.

Porch Stomp logo by Nicholas Horner
Porch Stomp logo by Nicholas Horner

That one record signaled my return to my musical roots and foreshadowed what would be a six month exploration into the world of folk, old-time and bluegrass music that ultimately yielded the first annual MMNY Porch Stomp.

Having just purchased a banjo and just finished my tenure at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, I packed up and moved to New York City in late 2013 intent on making the most of the city that rarely sleeps less than four to a room. After a few months of pawing around, I landed myself a gig with Make Music New York and found myself frequenting traditional folk performances around town.

Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer.
Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer

Reader take note: New York has always been and continues to be a hub for folkies and folk revivalists. I remember reading Dave Van Ronk’s memoir reflecting on his time in the Village in the ’40s and ’50s and describing his cacophonous Sundays in Washington Square: blue-grassers here, old-timers there, sea chanters, folk songwriters and folk historians all sharing the same plot, all sharing the same lineage and respect for that which seemed to be the musical runoff of the melting pot of the American tradition.

I’d be lying if I said I had any clue about this scene when I first envisioned the Porch Stomp; in many ways, the process of creating this project was my way of getting to know the folk scene here in New York. Starting the first week of February, I was out four to five nights a week: frequenting jam sessions, concerts, and workshops (often until 2 or 3 in the morning) and absorbing this strange yet all too familiar sonic world. I’d meet the artists who’d introduce me to new friends and frequently point me toward another jam or gig that would ultimately fractal into a world of other artists, records, and tunes with countless variations that I simply had to check out.  To me, it was almost completely virgin territory.

Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer.
Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer

However, unlike the Washington Square of the 1950s, this folk scene was not the tight-knit web Van Ronk once described. Instead, threads were spread thin. While overlap exists within some tangential circles, there is a clear disconnect between many of New York’s American folkies. Certain hubs like The Jalopy Theater and School of Music do a great job at cultivating a scene of mutual respect for each of these traditions, but by and large these artists seemed to be performing on different stages in different parts of the city to an audience who (to my knowledge) had an appreciation for all sorts of folk music, most of which exist as dialects of the same musical language.

Upon seeing this in person, the opportunity became clear: create an event to bring together all of these talented musicians in hopes of celebrating our common heritage; a family reunion, if you will. First and foremost, Make Music New York is about community, and to me, there is no music more community-oriented than American folk music.

Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer
Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer

The next five months were to become a blur, and while it’s tough to ascertain how these experiences will affect me down the road, there are a few highlights that I’d like to mention. First, my involvement with the NYC Sacred Harp Singers not only yielded a unique understanding into the history of written music in America (especially as it intersects with the folk tradition) but opened me up to an incredible body of committed individuals creating music solely for the love of the art itself. Second, I am grateful for my experience learning new pieces at various jam sessions, in particular the Mona’s Jam on Avenue B, whose tight-knit body of musicians allowed for the session to explore an widely diverse pallet of material, and the Lowlands Jam in Gowanus which served as my re-introduction to old-time music and allowed me to develop an appreciation for the subtleties of its rich aural history. Third, I am deeply indebted to the various folk communities that have allowed me to Jane Goodall my way into their ranks both as a viewer and often as a musician in hopes of bettering my musical self and understanding their traditions. Places like the Jalopy Theater, The Cowgirl Seahorse (a newcomer to the folk scene which hosts an incredible community of artists), and Sheriff Bob’s Jam allowed me to fixture myself into the scene, opening me up to new music and a world of new experiences.

Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer
Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer

So, how did the Porch Stomp go? We ended up with 30 artists, a number of jam sessions and workshops, totaling 15 bluegrass, 5 old-time, and 10 folk performances on the green of Nolan Park. With beautiful weather to boot, it was a marvelous day of music-making. Furthermore, it was an true testament to the value of the folk community that so many came out to show support. We still have a long way to go before we reach ’50s Folk Revival status, but we can dream!

Our participating artists included:

The Alex Mallett Band
Ellery Marshall and Friends
The Bromley Mansionettes
Brooklyn Express
The Crusty Gentlemen
Curtis Becraft
Eva Salina
Fausto Bozza
Feral Foster
Fiddlin’ Damian Boucher
5 Mile String Band
The Idiot Brigade
Jan Bell
Kings County Ramblers
The Lilted
The Locksmiths
The New Students
NorthEast Corners
NYC Sacred Harp Singers
The Pens
Phil Cohen
Red Hook Irregulars
Sara Bouchard & the SALT PARADE
Stephanie Jenkins
Stephen Bak
The Triple A String Band featuring Alan Friend, Amy Melson & Howard Weinberg
Union Street Preservation Society
Willy Gantrim
Wyndham Baird

I’d like to cordially thank a few people for their support: the MMNY crew (including volunteers Martie, Tricia and Stephanie), Lynda and Liz at Governors Island, Jack Klempay and WKCR for their help promoting and documenting the event, Larry Legend and Karen Brown for their insight, Michael Daves for his support (not only to the Porch Stomp but the NYC Folk Scene in general) as well as Feral Foster, Alex Kramer, Theo Boguszewski and Aldo Ceresa for curating stages and the rest of the musicians coming together for a wonderful day of music. Special thanks to Luke Chohany, Ryan Solomon, Robert and Krissy Bock, and Oriane Vittu de Kerraoul for their personal support. Thanks for an incredible journey!

Porch Stomp artists live in the WKCR Studios with Jack Klempay:

For more information about Porch Stomp during the year, and to listen to a field recording of the day, check out Porch Stomp on Facebook.

Until next summer!

Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer
Porch Stomp 2014. Photo by Marie Holmer


The decisive role of neighborhood communities in MMNY 2014

We asked our fabulous 2014 fellows to reflect on their experiences organizing special projects for MMNY 2014. Here is the second installment: Oriane Vittu de Kerraoul’s reflection on organizing diverse neighborhoods within the Make Music New York world. 


In 2013, I interned for the French equivalent of Make Music New York, La Fête de la Musique. Born and raised in Paris, I’d grown up with the Fête de la Musique, and after interning at the headquarters, I expected the festival to work the same way in each of the 400+ cities where it is now celebrated. When I decided to come to NY and experiment with another version of this international music festival, I did not expect to learn so much, both about the festival organization itself, and the sociological landscape of the Big Apple.

Performers at Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island
Performers at Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island

As a street festival, Make Music New York happens in the everyday environment of each NY citizen. Regardless of whether New Yorkers take part in the festival as musicians, they cannot fail to notice changes in their immediate surroundings — the sound of downtown is different than usual, the neighborhood library is invaded by marching bands, the East River Ferry is taking you on a world tourMake Music New York is an event that invites citizens to modify their habits for one day, offering them a new, big-picture perspective on the City as a whole.

Corona Youth Music Project in Corona Plaza
Corona Youth Music Project in Corona Plaza

However, as I began to work on MMNY, I realized that the festival should also be considered from a smaller, more local and intimate perspective because Make Music New York is, more than anything else, an occasion for neighborhood communities to gather and create an event together. Similar to how it is in Paris, what happens on the local community level is as important — if not more so — than what happens on the large-scale “special project” level. Unlike Paris, however, New York is infinitely more nuanced, and each neighborhood is its own, distinct entity within the larger Make Music New York world. No two neighborhoods are organized or participate in the festival in the same way!  

Performers at The Cast on the LES. Photo by Chuck Guarino.
Performers at The Cast on the LES. Photo by Chuck Guarino.

Over the course of my five months in New York, I came to understand the diversity and scope of these participating communities, and came to appreciate the role they each play in creating a successful festival.

Here are just three examples of different kinds of community engagement that I came across during my Fellowship:

Atlantic Ave BID

When I start talking to Josef Szende, who manages the Business Improvement District on Atlantic Avenue, I understood that what was important to him was to enhance the visibility of the Downtown Brooklyn Businesses by creating harmony between them. For this, he had the idea to assign musicians from many different nationalities to different locations along Atlantic Ave, creating a cohesive celebration. I worked closely with Josef on this project, finding artists to play at each location. When I explained to artists that Josef’s idea was a local initiative that made sense within his precise community, musicians were enthusiastic about participating, because they understood they would be part of a local celebration. Josef’s project is a great example of why community interlocutors are of the utmost importance — they know what works in their communities, and know how to rally participants around an idea. All we have to do is take care of the logistics!

DVA plays in front of the Waterfront Ale House on Atlantic Ave
DVA plays in front of the Waterfront Ale House on Atlantic Ave


Another example of the work I did on a local level is the outreach within Harlem’s community. This community is both easy and difficult to reach. It’s “easy” because the neighborhood has a long history of music and performance. It’s “difficult” because there are many musical events and festivals taking place within this community, and they are often in competition with each others. (It was a major concern for several venue managers who held a meeting at the Apollo theater last January). Despite this, we were proud to gather 36 Make Music New York locations all over this neighborhood in 2014!

Soul Unlimited plays at Harlem Haberdashery
Soul Unlimited plays at Harlem Haberdashery

To be honest, I knew that the celebration would be great in Harlem this year. I knew it from the moment when I called the owner of one participating location and he told me: some businesses in my street are participating in the event so I checked it out and I really want to be part of it too!” It reminded me of something my Communication Sciences professor told me: even though new technologies of communication are more and more efficient, word of mouth is and will remain a key factor in a successful communication plan. My work for Harlem’s community was the occasion to prove him right.

In this case, the community word-of-mouth came in the form of the amazing Harlem resident (and now Manhattan Community Board 10 member) Tuesday Brooks. Our organization told Tuesday about Make Music New York; Tuesday told Harlem businesses about it; and then the festival became a topic in the community’s discussions. The reason why this communication channel is a key factor of success is that it invites the individuals living in the same neighborhood to acknowledge their role as members of their community. The very concept of making music implies that people need to create, to shape their own musical celebration, and that can only be transmitted, explained from person to person within a community.

New York Public Library 

It is important to recognize that community is not necessarily a geographic designation–there are also ethnic, associative or professional communities. One example is the New York Public Library network which has more than 50 branches throughout Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Working with Kelly Yim, the Adult Programming Specialist at the NYPL, I had the opportunity to help 46 of these branches book shows for the 21st of June. Here again, Kelly was a precious intermediary between me and the Branch Managers because they knew and trusted her as a member of their community.

Travelling Jewberries play at the NYPL City Island Branch.
Travelling Jewberries play at the NYPL City Island Branch.

People like Kelly Yim, Tuesday Brooks and Josef Szende, who act as spokespersons in their communities, are critical to MMNY. Not only do they increase the visibility of Make Music New York, but they also help us ensure that the event fulfills its goals and remains faithful to its principles: a free, popular and participatory celebration that makes sense within each community where it is celebrated.

Brooklyn Public Music

We asked our fabulous 2014 fellows to reflect on their experiences organizing special projects for MMNY 2014. Here is the first installment: Susan Karabush’s take on 100+ BPM. 


A wedding in Jaipur? There’s a band for that. A funeral in Sicily? There’s a band for that. A festival in Guča? There’s a band for that. A parade on Bourbon Street? There’s a band for that!

Photograph of the 8th New York State Militia Band, Elmira, New York, in Arlington, Virginia, 1861, photographer unknown. From the Band Music of the Civil War Erawebsite, Music Division, Library of Congress. http://memory.loc.gov/music/cwband/cwphoto/0290.jpg
Photograph of the 8th New York State Militia Band, Elmira, New York, in Arlington, Virginia, 1861, photographer unknown. From the Band Music of the Civil War Erawebsite, Music Division, Library of Congress. http://memory.loc.gov/music/cwband/cwphoto/0290.jpg

It seems like just about every culture has their own iteration of the mobile band tradition, so it’s about time we started one right here in Brooklyn! A solstice celebration in the big apple? Now there’s BPM! This year, as part of Make Music New York and with the help of Red Baraat and NPR Music, 350 mobile musicians converged on the steps of Brooklyn Public Library to participate in the world premiere of 100+ BPM, written by Clinton Hill resident Sunny Jain of Red Baraat. A double entendre for ‘beats per minute’ as well as ‘Brooklyn public music,’ Jain’s clever title for the piece brings together the spirit of the brass band tradition and the MMNY celebration alike. NPR’s field recording, stunningly directed by Mito Habe-Evans, captures the uproarious joy that we all felt in Grand Army Plaza on the 21st:

What you don’t see in the video, however, are the hours leading up to the convergence. I’ve always been inspired by the multinational histories of brass and mobile bands, especially our own American tradition of the NOLA second line and jazz funeral. So, for my special project as a fellow for Make Music New York, I wanted to bring the spirit of the second line, which aligns so well with the purpose of Fête de la Musique, to my own neighborhood.

he LES-bred Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello and their infamous cameo in the 2005 film adaption of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated
The LES-bred Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello and their infamous cameo in the 2005 film adaption of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated

4 Reasons Why Mobile Bands are Great:

1. No amplification needed! Forget hauling around an amp, mic stands, cables, etc. Brass instruments are designed to be not only loud, but portable.

2. No sound permit needed! If your music is unamplified, mobile, and you’re a group of less than 25, you don’t need a permit to play on the sidewalks of NYC.

3. They’re popular! From high school marching bands, klezmer ensembles, mariachi groups, drum lines to bagpipes, so many musicians are mobile!

4. You can dance! If you can walk while you play, you can dance while you play. What’s better than multitasking?

A traditional sicilian banda leads the funeral procession in The Godfather (Part II).
A traditional Sicilian banda leads the funeral procession in The Godfather (Part II)


To bring all of these awesome elements together, and with the help of the wonderful Sara Valentine who organizes the yearly HONK NYC! Fest, I invited over 200 Brooklyn-based mobile bands and musicians to come join us at Grand Army Plaza on June 21st.

Throughout the afternoon, euphoniously weaving in and out of neighborhoods, over 250 of those musicians made their way from their familiar stomping grounds to Brooklyn’s central plaza, converging for the premiere of 100+ BPM.

My role in bringing together this sundry group of musicians, from drum lines to violins to brass bands, was incredibly rewarding.

While paying tribute to the great american legacy of New Orleans’ second lines, it was important for me to reinterpret what the spirit of the second line means today. All of these groups are so wonderfully unique, it would have felt out of place to ask them all to play ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’. We need a new and distinctly Brooklyn tradition! As part of my brainstorming process, I was aided by Helen Regis’ fantastic essay “Second Lines, Minstrelsy, and the Contested Landscapes of New Orleans Afro-Creole Festivals” in which she writes that what’s erased from representations of New Orleans second lines is “the experiential meaning of the second line for the performers themselves,” gained from the local, neighborhood context of the parade. The most important part of the second line tradition, and the core of what I wanted to express through this special project was that the second line is more than just a party. Rather, its tradition works to counteract trends of socio-spatial segregation, decreasing the fear of local crime through the power of loud, mobile, and collective celebration. Make Music Day In New York City

Brooklyn is such an incredible borough, but many longtime residents can tell you how corporate development, city planning, socioeconomic and ethnic segregation all too often divide the people who call this 100-square-mile stretch of land home. Public music might not be the answer to all of these problems, but if it helps us feel more connected to our community, its history, and our borough, then it’s a step in the right direction!

Make Music Day In New York City
Hundreds of musicians gathered for 100+ BPM on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza


I’m so grateful to everyone who participated, especially

Alvaro Paulino Jr. and the NYC Mariachi Conservatory

Desmond Hill and the Black & Gold Marching Elite

Gregory Gatewood and the Brooklyn Legion of Sound Marching Band

Osei Smith and the Royal Knights Marching Band

Sergio Carter and the Approaching Storm Marching Band

Shaun Gallant and the NY Sticks, G Line, and Aviators

Stacy Kovacs and Batala NYC

Make Music Day In New York City


By combining the widely shared, global musical tradition of brass bands with our distinctively national tradition of second lines, I hope that creating Brooklyn Public Music together will bring us a new tradition that celebrates our disparate histories through our shared, joyful sounds! Make Music Day In New York City

Learn more about mobile music around the world: Jazz Funerals of New Orleans Balkan Brass Bands Indian ‘Baraat’ Wedding Bands Sicilian Funeral Bands Guca Trumpet Festival Mexican Mariachi Ensembles Activist Street Bands

Introducing this year’s MMNY Fellows

MMNY is thrilled to announce that this year, four MMNY Fellows are joining our team from February to June to work on the Eighth Annual Make Music New York.

There’s Oriane, who comes to us from Paris, and brings with her first-hand experience of the original fête; Nick, a vocalist, composer and educator who’s recently been digging deep into New York’s bluegrass scene; Elana, who plays saxophone, piano, bass and ukulele, and co-founded the East Coast Basements and Bedrooms (ecb&b) record label; and Susan, who, when not studying philosophy at The New School, can be found outdoors (good for MMNY!), contemplating how art can affect social change.

You can read more about each of these Fellows, what they’ve done, and what brings them to MMNY, over on the staff page. And if you’re interested in becoming an MMNY Fellow yourself, applications for 2015 will open this fall.

For now, join us in welcoming Oriane, Nick, Elana and Susan!

2014 MMNY Fellows

Oriane Vittu de KerraoulWhen Oriane started her studies in Communications Sciences in Paris a few years ago, she never imagined that it would one day lead her to New York and MMNY. It all started in 2013 when she had the opportunity to work for the inspiration for MMNY: La Fête de la Musique, the French celebration of the summer solstice. At La Fête, Oriane was responsible for  International Coordination, which allowed her to work with cities and countries around the world on their own Summer Solstice celebrations. She is excited to bring her French experience (and accent!) to this tremendous event here in NY, and is more than happy to be part of the team which will make MMNY a success again this year!

Nick Horner. Nicholas Horner is a vocalist, composer and educator originally from the mountains of central Pennsylvania.  Since graduating from Bucknell University in 2011 (BM Vocal Performance), he has performed and taught across the east coast and midwest which has included recent tenure at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Northern Michigan. He also attended the 2011 Banff Center Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music and currently resides in Brooklyn.

Elana Ehrenberg. Elana is a composer and musician, originally from upstate New York, and a graduate of New York University. She plays saxophone, piano, bass and ukulele, however she finds that she enjoys organizing and facilitating concerts way more than she enjoys performing in them herself. She is a co-founder of East Coast Basements and Bedrooms (ecb&b) record label and has written scores for various short films. Elana is looking forward to helping Make Music New York grow in volume and size this upcoming year!

Susan Karabush. Inspired by Grant Park and Ravinia Music Festival in her hometown of Chicago, Susan likes music best when it’s outdoors. When she’s not inside, reading philosophy texts and studying at The New School, Susan spends every minute she can outside. She can often be found traipsing around Prospect Park, canvassing streets for a political campaign, or staring up at the stars from her roof, contemplating how art can affect positive social change. She comes to MMNY after an internship at Roulette Intermedium, which sparked her interest in new and experimental music, and where she can still be found intermittently, working in the box office.