Summer Solstice, aka the longest day of the year, is June 21 and Chicago is celebrating with a day-long, citywide music festival that will bring out the musician in all of us. Make Music Chicago is completely different from any other music festival as it invites every kind of musician — young and old, amateur and skilled — to congregate on streets, parks, plazas and porches to share music with friends, neighbors and strangers. Read on to hear how you can participate and how the fun doesn’t stop when the sun sets on June 21.

Photo: courtesy of Elliot Mandel via Make Music Chicago

Is this just a Chicago thing?
Nope. Not at all. That’s part of the coolness factor. Make Music Chicago is based on the French Fête de la Musique and was first presented by Rush Hour Concerts at the request of French Consul General Graham Paul in 2011. In its 7th year, Chicago is just one of 750 cities in 120 countries across the globe that participate, making the Fête de la Musique the world’s largest single day music celebration.

Photo: courtesy of Elliot Mandel via Make Music Chicago

What’s in it for families?
A day of free concerts on Wednesday, June 21 . . . that’s what! Look for a performance near you or use one of the following community events as an excuse to get out and explore another ‘hood.

Wiggleworms in Welles, 10 a.m.-noon. Experience the legendary Old Town School’s early childhood music classes for kids 4 years and younger (along with their parent or caregiver). The Welles Park Gazebo, 2333 W. Sunnyside Ave, Lincoln Square.

The Lucky Trikes, 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. This read and sing-along for littles features story time with live classical and improvised music performed by The Lucky Trikes, the award-winning children’s chamber band. Envision at Kruger Center, 4919 N. Clark St., Andersonville.


ShaZah, 3:30 p.m.-4:15 p.m. Shanta and Zahra (ShaZah) love to explore eastern and western instruments, folk songs and vocal traditions near and far. They form the nucleus of the ensembles Classic Black, Sitarsys, and Freedom Song Leaders. Both performers have appeared in festivals, museums, colleges, schools and libraries across the country and abroad. Buttercup Park, 4921 N. Sheridan Rd., Uptown.

Suzuki Play-Along, 5 p.m.-6 p.m. Kids all ages who are familiar with the popular Suzuki Method for Music are invited to join in playing popular tunes such as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Go Tell Aunt Rhody, along with the Merit School of Music’s Suzuki program and other Chicago Suzuki programs. Mary Bartelme Park,  115 S. Sangamon St., West Loop.

Ukelele Jam with Lanialoha Lee, 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. The Aloha Center Chicago’s Kanikapila Jam, lead by Lanialoha Lee, leads an island style play-along for ukulele players of all ages and experience levels. Aloha Center Chicago, 1626 W. Lawrence Ave., Lincoln Square.

+9v: A Community Concert for Battery Powered Instruments, 4:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. This is an open-door, experimental concert that invites music makes of all ages to play-along using battery powered instrument including synthesizers, circuit bent toys, keychains and more. Comfort Station, 2579 N. Milwaukee Ave., Logan Square.

Harmonica Blowout, 6:15 p.m.-7 p.m. Joe Filisko will lead a harmonica play-along. Hohner will be giving out free harmonicas for all who want to participate. McKinley Park Monument, 3700 S. Western Ave., McKinley Park.

Photo: courtesy of Elliot Mandel via Make Music Chicago

Is this just for kids and families?
Not at all. There are over 150 confirmed performances at more than 60 locations across Chicagoland. There is surely something that will appeal to everyone, so be sure to check the schedule for an event near you. If you’re a musician, no matter how skilled, you can even sign-up for a play-along, sing-along or jam session.

Photo: Pianos in the Park

Anything cool to do musically after the one-day fest?
So happy you asked. Make Music Chicago wanted to keep the music playing all summer long, so they partnered with Keys 4/4 Kids and Night Out in the Parks to bring Chicago Pianos in the Parks. Pianos will be placed in 7 outdoor spaces around the city beginning June 21 and will remain for park patrons to play until August 1.

Photo: Pianos in the Park

This year, pianos can be found in the following parks: Loyola Park (1230 W. Greenleaf Ave), Buttercup Park (4921 N. Sheridan Rd.), Washington Square Park (901 N. Clark St.), Kelvyn Park (4438 W. Wrightwood Ave.), McKinley Park (2210 W. Pershing Rd.), Hamilton Park (513 W. 72nd St.) and Calument Park (9801 S. Avenue G).

Have you taken part in this fest in the past? We’d love to hear about your experience in the Comments below.

— Maria Chambers

Photo: courtesy of Elliot Mandel via Make Music Chicago