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Cedar Rapids joins global music celebration

Legion Arts hosts city's first-ever Make Music Day

Ellie Danley, 14, of Cedar Rapids, learns to play a ukulele as part of the Make Music Day festivities in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, June 21, 2015. Ukulele player Tim Riven of Marion provided a short lesson outside NewBo City Market. (KC McGinnis/The Gazette)
Ellie Danley, 14, of Cedar Rapids, learns to play a ukulele as part of the Make Music Day festivities in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, June 21, 2015. Ukulele player Tim Riven of Marion provided a short lesson outside NewBo City Market. (KC McGinnis/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The city became part of a global celebration Sunday when it hosted its first Make Music Day.

Non-profit arts group Legion Arts chose to put on Make Music Day — a variety of musical activities around the city from dawn until sunset — in Cedar Rapids after connecting with Make Music Day’s national branch in New York. Cedar Rapids joined about 20 other U.S. cities and more than 700 around the world that offered free, public music on the longest day of the year.

“We want to introduce people to art. We want to perpetuate art,” said Taylor Bergen, program associate for Legion Arts. Make Music Day fits with that mission, Bergen said, because of its accessability.

“ ... It’s not like this standoffish thing that’s only accessible to the people that can afford it or feel like they can get on stage.”

The day began at sunrise at the Tree of Five Seasons with morning-themed music from various cultures. The performance included songs on a Native American flute, hymns from the Eastern Orthodox tradition and a Hindu morning raga.

Legion Arts also hosted a variety of “mass appeal” events that are part of all Make Music Day celebrations. They included ukulele, guitar and harmonica workshops where people gathered outside NewBo City Market and learned basic skills.

The Cedar Rapids event also included offerings such as an instrument petting zoo, where children could try out a variety of instruments, and a campfire sing-along to close out the night.

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Mel Andringa, co-director of Legion Arts, said many events were designed to make community members comfortable with participating in music, rather than just being a spectator.

Bruno Rwayitare of Cedar Rapids brought his 3-year-old son Mateo into the instrument petting zoo after seeing it while walking by The Firehouse in NewBo. He said he wanted Mateo to play with the instruments because music can teach discipline, willingness to learn and awareness of sounds and emotions.

“I hope these kinds of activities continue to happen,” Rwayitare said, because there are few opportunities “for kids to experience so many instruments at once.”

Tim Riven of Marion helped to lead the ukulele workshop. Riven said he wanted to get involved with Make Music Day because it sounded like a good community event, and the ukulele is a fun instrument for people to both listen to and play.

“Music generally is just a very accessible thing. It’s something that most people can enjoy,” Riven said. “If there is something that brings people and kind of helps form a community, music is one of those things.”

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