Downey music festival still needs support

DOWNEY - Preparations continue for Make Music Downey, a music festival with over 30 performances scheduled for the downtown area on June 8. Organizers Bea Romano and Carol Kearns, of the Downey Arts Coalition, say that additional venues had to be added to accommodate all of the performers who wanted to participate.

The main stage will be on the lawn of the First Presbyterian Church at the corner of Downey Avenue and 7th Street, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. People are invited to bring blankets and lawn chairs.

Kearns says that the title of the event, Make Music Downey, reflects its participatory and public nature. The event encourages everyone to celebrate the joy of making music - amateurs as well as professionals.

The festival's line-up for June 8 covers a wide spectrum of genres and performers, including students from Warren High and Sussman Middle School, as well as classic rock bands, indie rock groups, and a traditional Hawaiian music group. Sligo Rags, a professional Celtic/jazz/bluegrass group that is often seen at Disneyland, will headline and close the event.

Romano says the community response to this grassroots, all-volunteer effort has been tremendous. First on board were the churches, with First Presbyterian volunteering its wide lawn as a main venue, and the nearby Catholic church and school, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, contributing extra parking and equipment.

One volunteer designed the logo, another volunteer designed the flyers, two different people worked on the web page, and music professionals are helping with the sound systems and donating equipment. Money is still needed, however, to pay for advertising, licensing and permit fees.

The registration period for performers is closed, but Kearns says that the community can still participate as volunteers and donors by going to the website

Romano and Kearns say they were inspired in this effort by other Make Music festivals which have become a global tradition each June. Romano and her husband have twice played professionally at Make Music Pasadena, which will be hosting its sixth public festival this year.

Make Music New York is one of the largest events, with over 1,000 performances, big and small, in a single day.

The idea for a one-day, free, public music festival began in 1982 in Paris. Its appeal was immediate, and other cities organized similar celebrations, including Stockholm, Chicago, Denver and Vancouver.

While Downey's festival is starting small, Romano and Kearns say it will be a success if everyone has a good time. They say the time and location will make it easy for local residents to attend. It is within walking distance of the Saturday Farmers Market, and some of the small venues, such as Mambo Grill, are right at the market.

This is not Romano's first contribution to the music scene in Downey. Four years ago she organized the Folk Jam which is held on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Barbara J. Riley Community and Senior Center at Apollo Park. "Folk" music for this group is a loose term, because the group is as likely to play jazz standards and Beatles tunes as well as Irish jigs. She and her husband used to perform at the Nordic Fox before it closed, and now perform at Mambo Grill.

Kearns is a board member of the Downey Symphonic Society, which produces three subscription concerts at the Downey Theater each year and a free concert in the park every summer. The Symphonic Society also sponsors the Music in the Schools program that serves 17 local public and private elementary schools.

Romano and Kearns urge everyone to get involved with Make Music Downey by visiting the website Performance schedules and additional venues will be posted the last week of May.