On Make Music Day 2016, Stop Whatever You're Doing and Play

What started in France 34 years ago as a new musical holiday has spread to 700 cities in 120 countries, and this year it’s arriving in South Florida.

In a partnership with Riverwalk of Fort Lauderdale and School of Rock Coral Springs and West Broward, Make Music Day Fort Lauderdale is encouraging singers, rappers, and other artists to pick up an instrument of their choosing on June 21 and perform in their community.

“Music is blind. It sees no difference in skin color, political views, religion or ethnicity."

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Musicians who want to play in a specific space or venue, as well as venue managers, must register by Thursday, June 9. However, the holiday is really about musicians of all skill levels just coming out and performing — so the Make Music Day staff encourages everyone to join the ukulele, harmonica, and acoustic guitar jam at Huizenga Plaza Tuesday, June 21 at 6 p.m., which does not require registration.

When School of Rock general manager Burny Pelsmajer read about Make Music Day online last year, it seemed like a no-brainer to bring the outdoor music celebration to South Florida. “I’m from Cleveland and I spent a good amount of time in New York before I moved down here, and I just think that Fort Lauderdale offers much more of a cosmopolitan atmosphere than people realize.”

Since he had only heard about it a month before, Pelsmajer and the School of Rock did a few quick performances in honor of Make Music Day in 2015, but it wasn't the full-scale celebration that will happen this June.

For this year, Pelsmajer brought the idea to Cristina Hudson, director of operations at Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale, and she fell in love with it. “Riverwalk is always looking for new ways to activate the district,” Hudson says. “This international celebration of music is a wonderful opportunity for Fort Lauderdale to support local artists and allow us to share our diverse cultures.”

“This is the first year we got something happening because partnering with Riverwalk opened a lot of spaces for us and gave us more traction,” Pelsmajer says. “With any moderate success that this year gets pulled off, there’s a lot of machination to really expand on this next year.”

Some of the spaces that will have performers include Esplanade Park, Huizenga Plaza, and the Historic Downtowner. In addition, the regular Fort Lauderdale City Commission Meeting at City Hall will begin at 6 p.m. with live music.

Along with the School of Rock students, scheduled musicians include Fort Lauderdale’s Flint Blade, who creates ambient psychedelic music with a Chapman Stick, a guitar/bass hybrid that is played by two-handed tapping. In addition, classic rock cover band Poker Night, hard rockers Shatterglass, Homestead’s Above the Skyline, and alternative group Wallace are scheduled to perform, as well as the South Florida Pride Marching Band.

Founded in 1982 in France as Fête de la Musique, Make Music Day began when then-Minister of Culture Jack Lang discovered in a study that one in every two children in the country played a musical instrument. He then began thinking of a way to get people out and performing in the streets, and thus the festival was born.

Make Music Day is already celebrated in more than 38 U.S. cities, and it has gained a large following in Chicago, Cleveland, and St. Louis. In New York, bands such as the Kingsmen and Yeah Yeah Yeahs will be performing this year. Fifty guitar teachers will be on the sidewalks of Times Square, ready to teach anyone how to play, regardless of age. 

Riverwalk plans on doing plenty of social media advertising for the event, so Pelsmajer says this will be a good chance for venue managers to get the word out to musicians about their spaces, and in turn this publicity could affect their success after the day is over.

“One of the cool things about Make Music Day is that a lot of it can be automated,” he says. “People’s awareness of the bands is going to be expanding, and the bands’ awareness of where they could be is also expanding.”

Hudson says that whether someone is an artist or just a listener, music is something everyone enjoys, which is why they should perform June 21. “Music is blind. It sees no difference in skin color, political views, religion or ethnicity,” she says.

Make Music Day 2016
6 p.m. Tuesday, June 21 at various locations along Fort Lauderdale's Riverfront. For more information, visit