How did it start?
It all started 41 years ago in France.
In 1982, Jack Lang and his staff at the Ministry of Culture dreamed up an idea for a new kind of musical holiday. They imagined a day where free music would be everywhere, all around each city: street corners, parks, rooftops, gardens, and store fronts.
And, unlike a typical music festival, anyone and everyone would be invited to join and play music, or host performances. The event would take place on the summer solstice, June 21, and would be called Fête De La Musique. (In French, the name means both “festival of music” and “make music”.)
Amazingly enough, this dream has come true. The Fête has turned into a true national holiday: the country shuts down on the summer solstice and musicians take over. Almost 11% of French people (7 million people) have played an instrument or sung in public for the Fête de la Musique, and 64% of the country (43 million people) comes out each year to listen.
Four decades later, the holiday has spread throughout the world and is now celebrated in more than 1,000 cities in 120 different countries.
How did it come to the U.S.?
Fifteen years ago, the Fête de la Musique crossed the Atlantic with the debut of Make Music New York.
Starting as a grassroots initiative by a team of volunteers, the event quickly became a critical and popular success. Today, thousands of New York musicians – amateurs and professionals, of all ages and musical persuasions – perform in hundreds of free, outdoor concerts each June 21, earning praise for their “inspiring” (New York Times) and “thrilling” (New Yorker) performances.
In recent years, cities across the country have launched their own Make Music celebrations on June 21, making this musical holiday a truly national phenomenon.
On June 21, 2023, 117 U.S. cities organized 4,791 free concerts, with over 100 each in Cincinnati, Madison, New York, Philadelphia, and Salem OR…all on a single day.
In 2014, to coordinate and expand their efforts, Make Music organizers from across North America founded the Make Music Alliance.
Make Music Around the World
The Make Music Alliance coordinates with organizers around the world to celebrate music on June 21.