make music new york

Get Ready to Make Music on June 21!

Metro is a proud sponsor of Make Music New York for the tenth year in a row.

This unique festival of 1,000+ free concerts in public spaces throughout the five boroughs of New York City all happens on June 21st, the first day of summer.

MMNY takes place simultaneously with similar festivities in more than 700 cities around the world – a global celebration of music making. As the exclusive print media partner, Metro will print and distribute 75,000 copies of the MMNY program to more than 200 locations across NYC. View it online here!

In addition to printing and distributing the program guide, Metro will have continuing coverage online throughout the festival on June 21.

We sat down with James Burke, executive director of Make Music New York, to find out more about this year’s event and how people can take part.

Music has been a big part of your life. How did your background lead you to music festivals in New York?

We approach the Make Music New York festival as musicians ourselves. I first caught the music bug as a teenager in suburban Detroit. My high school had dozens of rock bands (and of course, all with a disaffected story to tell), but a dearth of bassists, so I saved up my lawn cutting money and bought a rig and was soon enough playing regularly. And it was music that brought me to NYC in the early nineties, to co-found an indie band called Idle that was signed by a small label and played all the downtown clubs from that era. To segue into the “industry” as a career was natural and by 2001 I began a thirteen year stretch with the SummerStage festival, where I served as the executive producer from 2007-2013. Bringing people together to celebrate music is hard work but very rewarding and sixteen years later, presenting free, outdoor concerts remains my passion.

And our deputy director, Jordan McLean, is an established composer, band leader, trumpeter and music educator who performs regularly with a multitude of artists, including the acclaimed Afro-beat outfit Antibalas. He was also Associate Music Director, composer, arranger and trumpeter for the TONY-winning Broadway production FELA! 

What are some highlights about this year’s Make Music New York?

The real highlights are the thousand plus concerts performed by local New Yorkers for New Yorkers! But we do have a handful of “special projects” as well that we are very excited about. I plan to be at the first stop of our mobile Ella Fitzgerald Piano Bar at 11:00 AM sharp in front of the iconic Apollo Theater. The piano bar then travels to additional hot spots through historic Harlem and East Harlem before ending the day of the National Jazz Museum of Harlem.

We are also proud to present Gérard Grisey’s Le Noir de L’Etoile, a rigorous and brilliant composition created for six percussionists and featuring the sound of radio signals produced by pulsars, taking place at the American Museum of Natural History from 12:30-2:00 PM. The concert is led by conductor Douglas Perkins and includes a pre-concert talk on pulsars by AMNH curator Mordecai-Mark Mac Low.

As part of our 11th annual music holiday, four grand pianos will be placed on the corners of the 9/11 Memorial plaza to allow for three continuous hours of Bach performances by a rotating cast of dozens of pianists of all skill levels in a special program called WTC @ WTC: The Well-Tempered Clavier at the 9/11 Memorial plaza from 5:00-8:00 PM.

And a final can’t miss program called The Mp3 Experiment Number Fourteen presented in collaboration with Improv Everywhere, takes place at Battery Park from 7:00-8:00 PM. That’s all I’m going to say on this one; I’ll leave the rest as a surprise!

In what ways does Make Music benefit and support the local music community?

Make Music New York exists to inspire and celebrate the musician in all of us, to connect artists with each other and with new audiences, to bring to life bold new artistic creations, to unite diverse communities in a spirit of celebration, and to energize the shared social spaces that compose the neighborhoods of New York City. Our mission is ambitious, inclusive, adventurous and fun, so come join us citywide all day long on June 21st!

Metro has been a media sponsor of Make Music for ten years now. How has the partnership benefited Make Music?

We so appreciate our partnership with Metro New York because it empowers us to reach real New Yorkers across all five boroughs. The same folks that rely on Metro New York to keep up with the cultural life of the city form the core of our participating artists, our host venues and the everyday New Yorkers that the festival is designed to serve.

How can Metro readers get involved with this year’s event?

Pick up Metro New York’s Make Music New York program guide and use it to map out your day’s music journey. Or visit our website at and click on the schedule page to view our interactive map and download our handy app.

Most importantly, it is not too late to join the celebration and to make music yourself! Our Mass Appeals concerts welcome artists of all skill levels to join in the fun–just bring your instrument. Meet us at one of the five stops along the mobile Ella Fitzgerald Piano Bar to sing your favorite Ella tune. Drop in on one of the Street Studios to record your skills with the sidewalk as your stage. You can even learn how to sing along with the birds in one of our Inside the Bird Chorus sessions.

Or just relax and let your senses guide you. Look for the Make Music New York logo displayed at participating venues and follow your ears…

We look forward to celebrating with you across NYC this summer solstice!


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