In just two short weeks, Salem will be celebrating the Summer Solstice in a very musical way. This will be the third year Salem will participate in the worldwide event, “Make Music Day.” If you were downtown for last year’s event, you know how magical this day is. If you weren’t, there’s still time to ask for Thursday, June 21st off from work so you can fully enjoy all this day has to offer. Not familiar with Make Music Day? Here’s the rundown.



“Make Music Day” is an all-day music festival that always occurs on June 21st – the Summer Solstice. It started in France in 1982, and there are a few rules: All performances must be outside (weather permitting), must be on the Solstice, and must be free to the public. France’s Fête De La Musique has since spread worldwide to over 700 cities in 120 countries.  2016 was Salem’s hugely successful inaugural event. After 2017’s dazzler, the National Make Music Alliance that organizes Make Music Day in the US has recognized Salem’s event as the biggest on the West Coast – ahead of Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland. Way to go Salem.

This is an all-volunteer endeavor and is a fiscally sponsored organization through the efforts of the Salem Foundation, which allows donations to be tax-deductible. The Salem Foundation organizes all the activities and takes all responsibility for licenses, insurance, software, staging, equipment, and promotional materials through donations from the community. In short, there’s still time to volunteer, donate, and/or sponsor. Even though it’s a free event to the public, it takes some cash and people power to pull off this city-wide music festival.



As of press time, there are 159 performers signed up at 34 venues – 189 performances so far! This year will host about 40 more performers as last year. The festival runs from 10am to 10pm and is an all ages event. The bulk of the venues are concentrated in the downtown core. The heart of the festival occurs in the alleys that run behind JC Penney’s, 1859 Cider Co, Reed Opera House Mall, and Taproot with the “main stage” at 101 High Street, behind the Franklin Building. But there are venues scattered all around downtown but also outside of the core at Beehive Station Food Pod out on South Commercial and the Boys and Girls Club on Summer Street. New venues this year include: Straight From New York Pizza, Kraftworks, Guitar Castle (in back), Elsinore Theatre, Grand Theatre, Archive Coffee Bar, Friends of Felines, Mint Baby Body Decor, Venti’s downtown, and Sanders Shoe Service on Marion.

In addition to performances, there are crowd participation events called “mass appeals.” This year there will be a ukulele jam session at ABC Music at 5pm (free ukulele books); bucket drumming at 10:30am at the Reed Opera House alley stage (free drumsticks); harmonica lesson and jam session at 5:30pm at the Carousel (100 free harmonicas); and SousaPalooza at 6pm at the High Street stage. What’s SousaPalooza? It’s a pop-up community band. They’re still seeking brass, woodwinds, and percussionists. They’ll assign the music ahead of time – you just show up prepared with your instrument. There is still plenty of time to get involved in SousaPalooza. If you’re interested, please email and they’ll get you started. And of course, the wildly popular “Silent Disco” in the alley next to Venti’s at 10pm.



Even though last year’s event was a rousing success, the organizers did get some constructive criticism from members of the community. As of 2016 numbers, Salem is about 22% Hispanic/Latino/Nican Tlaca. Those populations were noticeably absent from the participants the last couple years. The Make Music Salem team took this criticism to heart, and has actively worked to get everyone in Salem’s community involved. With the help of CCTV’s Saul Cortes and Vicky Falcón Vázquez – Vice President of Instituto de Cultura Oregoniana, they’ve made sure to post on Facebook in Spanish and recorded promotional videos in Spanish as well. Organizers believe it is important that all of Salem’s citizens feel included and involved. Big props for their efforts.



Make Music Salem is on Thursday, June 21st from 10am to 10pm. Take the day off, seriously. It’s all outside, so it would be wise to pack an umbrella to make your own shade or keep off the drizzle (it’s only rained once in the last 20 years on this date). Bring a refillable container for water. Consider taking the bus in or riding your bike. I rode my bike last year and it was helpful to be able to zip around and see as many performances as I could. Or on the other hand, bring some camping chairs and pick your favorite stage and soak it all in. No matter what, you’ll be in our beautiful downtown with lots of restaurants and venues that helped make this happen. It’s a great day to explore what our downtown has to offer.



Since there is two weeks to go, the schedule is not finalized for us to print. Please pick up Salem Weekly from multiple downtown locations the day of the event, and you’ll have a ready printed schedule of all the performances and locations.

You can also download the app, or go to to keep tabs on the progress.

See you June 21st! Make Music, Salem!