BENNINGTON — A freewheeling, continuous jam session greeted shoppers in the Walmart plaza Friday afternoon, as a grab bag of musicians, from experienced players to children banging drumsticks on plastic buckets, celebrated amateurs-welcome improv music through Make Music Vermont.
The celebration is part of the worldwide Make Music day, which brings music-makers of all ages and experience to the sidewalks, parades, porches and public places for a free celebration of music-making.
"I've got a whole bunch of drumsticks," said Matthew Perry, VAE executive director, as the group prepared to head into Price Chopper. "We hope to hand [them] out when get to Walmart. We want to make music with people."
Some watched the group pass from their cars, others filmed them and a couple joined in their revelry.
The group of about 16 music-makers had some experienced players, and others who are not — but they're just having fun making music, Perry said.
He led the procession with a multicolored small shopping cart filled with a large drum, a clear bin full of drumsticks and roll of silver duct tape.
"Once it's in your blood, it's in your blood," said participant Nancy Feinberg, who played maracas. "Music is so important."
The group wound their way past the wine section of Price Chopper at about 12:30 p.m., stopping by the butcher's counter to pause and start another round of even more vigorous playing as several passers-by and employees watched. After an impromptu jam session by the wings counter, the group wound their way out past the Petco to Walmart, where they continued to play outside the store.
This is VAE's 34th year participating in Make Music Day in Bennington, Perry said.
Make Music takes place on the same day — June 21 — every year; this year, more than 1,000 cities in 120 countries were set to participate, including Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, China, Brazil, Italy, Nigeria and Cyprus.
In years past, VAE has taken to the sidewalks of Main Street. From 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, music-makers also planned to meet at St. Peter's Episcopal Church at 200 Pleasant St. in Bennington for an open session with area musicians.
Make Music is open to everyone, from experienced musicians to people who've never touched an instrument before. All events are free and open to the public.
Make Music Vermont is coordinated by Big Heavy World, Vermont's independent, volunteer-run music office uniting musicians across the state, according to VAE's website.
Make Music Vermont is supported in part by an award by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and sponsored by: Calamity & Crowe's Trading Post, Front Porch Forum, the University of Vermont Office of the Vice President of Research and Vermont Public Radio.
Make Music events were also planned in Burlington, Rutland, Montpelier, Castleton, Colchester, Bristol, Ferrisburgh, Charlotte, Waterbury, Stowe and Greensboro.
Make Music started in France in 1982, when France's Ministry of Culture came up with an idea for a new kind of musical holiday — a day where free, live music would be everywhere, from street corners and parks to storefronts and mountaintops, according to Make Music Day's website. Unlike a typical music festival, anyone would be invited to join and play music, or host performances. It would be held on the summer solstice, and would be called Fete de la Musique — meaning both "festival of music" and "make music" in French.
The Fete has since turned into a national holiday; France shuts down on the summer solstice and musicians take over, according to the website.
Almost 8 percent of France's population — 5 million people — have played an instrument or sung in public for the Fete de la Musique.
Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.