Connected \\ May 17, 2022

For the Love of Music

One of the earliest memories I have of singing in front of an audience was for my fourth-grade musical production of Strega Nona (who knew the Tomie dePaola classic could turn into a musical). Gazing out into the crowd of many unfamiliar faces was nerve-wracking, especially for a 9-year-old dressed as an elderly Italian woman. But as time went on, performing became less intimidating. And much more fun. Now, nearly 20 years later, I sing and play music in my own band, The Far Out, with many of the same childhood friends that joined me on stage all those years ago.

Our band really assembled as a result of the pandemic. Quarantine allowed us to explore and expand our musical talents whether it was songwriting, learning new instruments or taking virtual lessons. After reuniting in June 2020 for a small back porch concert, we decided to form our own band and have continued to play music across the North Shore and Boston almost every weekend.

Ellie Dolan, PEM’s social media associate, performing with The Far Out at The Jungle in Somerville, MA. Photo by Bernabeo Photography.

Ellie Dolan, PEM’s social media associate, performing with The Far Out at The Jungle in Somerville, MA. Photo by Bernabeo Photography.

The Far Out in June 2021 before their first gig.

The Far Out in June 2021 before their first gig.

There’s something about music that intrinsically brings people together. It’s why we finish the lyrics to songs, or pack into crowded music venues to hear the latest from our favorite artists, and it’s why we stop to listen to someone playing saxophone on the street. Whether you’re a musician connecting with your fellow bandmates on stage or simply attending your first concert, there’s always a magnetic pull that draws people together for the love of music.

Video screenshot of street musicians performing as part of Carlos Garaicoa’s Partitura. © Carlos Garaicoa.

Video screenshots of street musicians performing as part of Carlos Garaicoa’s Partitura. © Carlos Garaicoa.

This is what artist, PEM Prize recipient, Carlos Garaicoa explores in his work Partitura. Garaicoa reimagined a new type of orchestra with 40 different recordings of street musicians from Madrid and Bilbao, celebrating the possibilities of collaboration through music. You may have visited the installation during its time at PEM or at the very least heard its energetic score coursing throughout the museum!

Partitura: A Musical Score for Several Parts, exhibition documentation. Photography by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

This weekend, PEM will have the unique opportunity to honor Carlos Garaicoa and his PEM Prize award by recreating his Partitura installation live with local street musicians. “We wanted to create an atmosphere that was as authentic to street performances as possible,” says Catherine Dillon, PEM donor relations and event coordinator. Dillon and her colleagues, Director of Donor Relations and Events Lauren Fairweather, Curator of the Present Tense Trevor Smith, and John Andrews of Creative Collective received 80 applications of local street musicians from PEM’s Call for Musicians. From there, the PEM Prize committee and advisors narrowed down the group to the final 26 musicians who they felt best represented the local community, exemplified a wide span of musical genres and, most importantly, could captivate an audience and any passersby.

One of these final musicians includes Ilana Katz Katz, a blues and roots fiddler, singer and subway busker, who describes herself as a “busker at heart.” As she says: “From the moment I played my first note busking in Boston’s subway in 2008, I knew I was meant to be there. I love giving people a mini live concert – as a surprise – amidst the frenzy of public transportation. I always tell people I love everything I get to do, from my solo performances in the subway to the main festival stages.” After watching just a few minutes of her performance videos, it’s clear her energy and chemistry with her fellow musicians is infectious.

Ilana Katz Katz busking on the Red Line, Park Street.

Ilana Katz Katz, one of the musicians selected to perform at the PEM Prize Festival.

At both the PEM Prize Party this Saturday (May 21) and the PEM Prize Festival on Sunday (May 22), there will be pop up performances from all of the selected PEM Prize musicians. Surprises will wait at every corner of Saturday’s party as musicians will spontaneously perform at various spots throughout the museum at different times of the night. During Sunday’s festival, visitors can expect to see musicians perform at eight separate stages spread out across Essex Street. At these festivities, the emphasis is on community, as we invite local musicians to come and perform and bring their most authentic selves to the space. “We hope these events will continue to foster new connections with local musicians here in the Salem community,” adds Dillon.

Katz describes the essence of the event perfectly. “I love that this celebration has me as a small part of something bigger. This celebration of Carlos Garaicoa is something that is very beautiful in that it is about art, individual expression, and connecting and celebrating a community of individual artists.”

As PEM and our community prepares for the excitement of the weekend’s festivities, please enjoy these video clips of a few of our selected PEM Prize Musicians, including Katz, School of Honk and Reynaliz Herrera’s Ideas Not Theories.

Join us this weekend, May 21 and 22. See the full list of musicians here and to see the schedule of the PEM Prize festivities click here. Always remember to support your local musicians and make sure to stop by the museum for free admission on Sunday, street performances and more!

TOP IMAGE: Carlos Garaicoa, Partitura. 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Galleria Continua San Gimignano. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Ken Sawyer/PEM.

Reynaliz Herrera founded and directed "IDEAS, NOT THEORIES", a theatrical percussion company for unconventional instruments that offers several programs featuring Reynaliz’s original music for bicycles and other instruments.

School of Honk is a radically inclusive brass band and all ages music school, powered by volunteer mentor musicians.

Ilana Katz Katz is a blues and Appalachian fiddler, singer, songwriter

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