Celebrating Mile 10 of Mile of Music, community members in the Fox Cities and beyond have been gathering for a free musical celebration in downtown Appleton in early August for the past 10 years. This year, more than 200 artists from across the country performed and engaged with the community August 3-6 at a variety of venues in downtown Appleton. People of all ages, abilities, backgrounds and interests were able to enjoy music from various cultures and genres, as well as interactive workshops from Mile of Music – Music Education Team.
Watch the Mile of Music – music education workshops WBAY interview at your Fox Cities P.A.C. to learn more about the workshops that took place during Mile 10.
Of the 32 offered workshops throughout downtown Appleton including Heid Music and Lawrence University, 8 of them were held at your Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. These included drumming and dance from Ghana and Guinea, Southeast Asian dance, all abilities inclusive music-making, mariachi, and more. Filling Thrivent Hall’s stage, more than 1,000 family members, friends and more embraced music, dance and culture. From baby to senior, everyone was welcome to take their place engaging in or observing the workshops at their comfort level.
More than 130 community members on Friday and 211 more on Saturday joined several Mile of Music’s music education team staff members and their drums on stage during the drumming and dance workshop from Ghana. Following the master Ghanian musician and workshop instructor, Nani Agbeli’s movements and direction, people felt the driving beat of the percussion move through them, settling into a comfortable rhythm of easy movements and vocalizations. There were smiles and laughter from the flowing energy in the room as feet stomped and arms swung, honoring a culture that may not be familiar to many.
One workshop attendee, Erin Larson, has been celebrating Mile of Music since it began in 2013. She accidentally stumbled on it while enjoying dinner at Spat’s in 2013 when there was a Mile of Music performance taking place there. Since then, she has celebrated every Mile of Music. Knowing how family-friendly the celebration is, particularly the interactive workshops, Erin was joined by other members of her family, including her young son, Finn. Finn acted as an honorary assistant to the Ghana drumming and dance workshop instructor and helped teach dance steps to other community members.
Another drumming and dance workshop opportunity highlighted Guinea culture and traditions. Before beginning, 144 workshop attendees were led through a series of stretches to warm up their muscles. Once again, community members took their place on the stage alongside drummers and their percussive instruments. While there were some similarities between the music and movements between Ghana and Guinea, there were also some differences. The dancing featured movements that were bigger and sweeping while still retaining a sense of fluidity. During the workshop, attendees formed four lines and traveled from one side of the stage to the other, channeling high energy into large jumps and loud claps to the driving beat of the drums.
After the high energy dancing, attendees had a chance to switch gears. They sat down on stage and learned a call and response between themselves and the drummers. There was still a sense of continual rhythm, but it was more about slowing down and embracing the feeling of togetherness in this musical dialogue. It had a feeling of singing around the campfire in the calm of the night, a great way to bring everyone together and form bonds in a shared experience. Closing out the workshop, community members had a chance to ask questions and learn about Guinea culture, dance, music and more.
Gathering for the Mile of Music – Music Education Workshops, it was evident how much the community enjoyed taking time to learn something new about and celebrate diverse cultures through music and dance. The Music Education’s team primary goal is for people to become the music, to feel comfortable at any skill level, from beginner to expert. The atmosphere was welcoming and open to all, providing a comfortable learning environment that respected culture and the community.
Written by Philomena Dorobek, Brand Storyteller
Fox Cities Performing Arts Center