Santa Rosa’s Maker Music Festival goes global online
In 2018, the first Maker Music Festival, with creative people making and playing musical instruments, made its debut at the Chimera Arts collective in west Santa Rosa.
The idea was simple: inventors would make musical instruments, often novel-looking contraptions, and perform on them to show how they worked.
Scheduling conflicts prevented the festival’s return in 2019, and in 2020 came the coronavirus pandemic, which halted many events. But this month the Maker Music Festival finally makes it return, as an online event.
“Our goal is that there will be a Maker Music Festival when the world returns to live events,” said Sherry Huss of Occidental, one of the event’s organizers.
Something important happened in the meantime that will make this new Maker Music Festival much different from the original.
When the free event returns May 15-16, it will not only be online, like many productions during the pandemic, but it will be patterned after last year’s very original Decameron Project, co-created by Huss, her husband Joe Szuecs (pronounced “Sooch”) and partners from around the world.
“Of course, the pandemic happened and many people in the events business looked at alternatives to physical events,” said Szuecs, a software developer, instrument maker and musician. “We found ourselves immersed in this world by working on web-based pandemic art projects and reimagining live events.”
The Decameron Row project brought together artists and musicians from all over the country and the world. Each created a 1-minute video — of music, musings on the pandemic, poetry, performance art — which were then displayed on a virtual city street on the Decameron Row website. Visitors to the site (decameronrow.com) could watch the videos by scrolling over any of the lit-up windows on the street and clicking on it.
“Our work on Decameron Row set the foundation for what could be done, in an imaginary place, online,” Huss said. “And at the beginning of 2021, Joe decided that this was time to bring together the Maker Music community, and he had a vision for what could be done online.”
The organizers put out a “Call for Makers” on March 3 this year and set a deadline of April 15. The call drew 200 participants from around the world.
“We got a lot of global musicians and instrument makers, from Central America, Australia, China and more,” Huss said.
Entries include Flairdrum, a recycled plastic bottle percussion unit from Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, and musical robots and instruments made from rush-covered straw tatami mats created by Robot Band from Japan
Like the Decameron Project, the new Maker Music Festival will be set up online like a neighborhood, with 10 to 15 imaginary buildings, each featuring 10 to 15 instrument makers and musicians, each in their own virtual rooms.
Visitors can go to makermusicfestival.com and choose virtual buildings to visit and artists’ videos to watch.
“We will also have about 20 hours of live programming that will include performances, presentations and workshops that will be accessible from our site via Zoom,” Huss said.
Presentations will include learning to solder with hacker and inventor Mitch Altman, formerly of San Francisco and now living in Beriln, and how to tune a handpan, a drum made of two metal half-shells glued together, with Colin Foulke of Santa Rosa.
Huss has been involved in the makers movement, encouraging people to create objects, instruments and inventions of all kinds, since 2006, when she co-founded the Maker Faire in San Francisco with Dale Dougherty.
There are more than 40 large-scale Maker Faires — including events in New York, Paris, Rome and Berlin — as well as more than 170 community-driven, independently organized Mini Maker Faires in the United States and in 43 other countries around the world.
For Huss, the newly reinvented Maker Music Festival is another step along that road.
“We have an opportunity to create the world’s largest gathering of music makers, and even better, we have created a place where their works can be archived and organized for others to enjoy,” she said, “as we build a community that will continue to grow along with projects from makers from around the world.”
You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.