Coping with Concerts in the Summer of COVID

DStreet Music Foundation Cancels Parkapalooza Freeland & Focuses Outside the Box

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, , Artist Feature,   From Issue 896   By: Robert E Martin

14th May, 2020     0

As we enter upon our ninth week of Lockdown, under Governor mandated orders that are the strictest in the nation and under challenge for their constitutionality, May is usually the time of year when the Summer Concert season starts to launch into gear.  However, with the current ban on large gatherings, several major summer festivals such as Electric Forest and the Interlochen Summer Music Festival have already been cancelled; and in the Great Lakes Bay Region, the DStreet Music Foundation has regretfully cancelled their annual Parkapalooza Freeland music festival, which for the last two years has served as the unofficial kick-off of free regional music festivals that entertain and celebrate the musical richness we are all fortunate to share in the Tri-Cities. 

The DStreet Music Foundation started out 2020 on a strong high-note with the success of the annual Band Roulette Fundraiser, which is organized by musician Jeff Poirier and happened in late January before the COVID-19 lockdown hit and helps fund the many worthwhile programs and festivals DStreet stages throughout the summer months, in addition to the many other resources the organization provides throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region. 

When the COVID-19 quarantine hit on March 16th and as it is still continuing, how has the organization been dealing with navigating themselves through these challenging times?

Almost immediately after the "stay home, stay safe" order was issued, our DStreet board members started tossing around ideas on how we could help in a way that aligns with our mission, responses Board President Georgie Poprave.  “We contacted area music teachers to see if there was anything we could do to assist with their distance learning needs, and though their need is not great at this point they know they can count on us to do what is necessary to continue to get music to students during this time.  Our board did make the decision to contribute to the Review Magazine Go Fund Me campaign as we feel it is important to keep music information and communication flowing in our community.   Given that the annual Parkapalooza Freeland Festival has been one of the organization’s most successful events over the last couple years, unfortunately the Board had to cancel the festival this year, given that it is scheduled for early June.  

Is DStreet planning on rescheduling this for a later date, or are their eyes going to be focused upon the original Sanford Parkapalooza Festival that is usually held the first Sunday after the Labor Day holiday?

As the DStreet Board met virtually this month, our focus shifted from finalizing the details of the Freeland Parkapalooza to making the disheartened decision to cancel without rescheduling,” reflects Georgie.  “We still intend to award the June Scholarship that is traditionally given at our Freeland Parkapalooza event. We have been brainstorming new ways to serve the community which, given the current circumstances, has forced us to think “outside of the box”.   We have come up with some surprises for our Parkapalooza fans!  Information regarding this will be on our website as well as on our Facebook page in the near future. Our current focus is to support the community in the here and now, yet at the same time continuing with the plans for the Sanford Lake Park Parkapalooza set for September 13, 2020.

As society starts opening up throughout the month of May, the last phase of re-opening being bandied about involves larger concert venues and gatherings - with several states opening these up in early to mid-June.  Assuming Michigan were to follow a similar template, are there any other events besides Parkapalooza Freeland that DStreet has planned for Spring & Summer?

Once Governor Whitmer lifts the bans and allows “larger gatherings” we can look at some of the options that we have been discussing as a board.,” notes Georgie. “DStreet is working on ways to bring music to the community in a smaller and safer manner. These ideas are in the conceptual phase, although we are excited to make them a reality.  Last winter, we offered a songwriter symposium that was well attended. We may not repeat this exact event, but similar events are in the works.”

As an organization, what is DStreet doing to assist musicians who were really hit perhaps the hardest during this quarantine? Do they have any programs or resources avaialbe to them?   DStreet realizes that there are several area musicians feeling the hardships of COVID-19. We have had the discussion of our role in supporting one another through networking, virtual concerts, food drives, and instrument lending,” she adds.

Almost every year since beginning about 14 or 15 years ago, D-Street has awarded a college scholarship to a deserving music-minded student. What makes their scholarship unique is that the student doesn’t necessarily have to have a sterling grade point average and be at the top of their class to qualify, given that many times those kids who have the most to share musically aren’t the strongest academically.

“​We provide three $1000 scholarshipsthroughout the year,” explains Georgie. “One is awarded at Parkapalooza Sanford, one at Band Roulette, and one at Parkapalooza Freeland.  We award scholarships to music-minded students. We also provide a $500 mini-grant once a year.  Plus, we coordinate our BandWagon Musical Instrument lending library, which allows us to take in used band instruments, refurbish them, and lend them out to those interested in learning to play an instrument – completely free of charge. Most recently, we’ve had a chance to partner with the AMP (All Music is Power) program. AMP brings live music into special needs classrooms and provides a free, specially tailored concert for the kids.”

As we move through these unchartered waters of the COVID-19 crisis, the most challenging component for an organization such as DStreet is the fact that it’s centered upon bringing people throughout the community together through the experience of live music, which has sadly been put on hold.

“DStreet makes its biggest impact through music,” states Georgie.  “It is true that music does not necessarily need to be performed face-to-face, but our members love to experience music withthe community we serve. It brings us joy when we see families and friends gather and celebrate life together through music. Without a festival there is a void that will be difficult for us to accept.  But we remain positive that we will all be able to gather together and celebrate local music again in September.  Our local and state government officials have had to make some very difficult decisions given the unpredictable situations that have occurred.  We look forward to the time when we can bring live music to the community once again.”

As for the most important things people throughout the region can do to assist and hold our regional communities together through this crisis, Georgie points to the importance of supportive action. 

“Supporting one another is so important to keep morale positive,” she concludes. “This can be something as simple as a smile, written letters to friends, donating food goods, putting up signs of thanks in the yard, an uplifting message on Facebook, or a "virtual" coffee break with a friend.  

“These are extraordinary times, and a chance for each of us to show just how extraordinary we can be toward others.”


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