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Fellow street players lend generous spirit

Thu., June 11, 2009

Can anything be more rewarding than playing music to strangers on the sidewalk?

Aw, who am I kidding? There are a zillion things more rewarding.

Winning the lottery, say. Or learning that another politician has been indicted.

But going by the grins on the faces of those participating in this year’s Spokane Street Music Week, sidewalk serenading is way up there on the satisfaction scale.

I still get a huge kick out of picking my songs to passers-by during our annual event to raise money for the Second Harvest food bank.

True, most of them cruise past without making eye contact or tossing so much as a paper clip into my red collection buckets.

Like I need more critics.

But every now and then, one or two kind souls will pay attention and maybe donate a buck or two.

Time is trickling away, however. You have only today and Friday to catch the seventh annual Spokane Street Music Week, which runs during the noon hour in the city’s business core.

You will find talented minstrels scattered all over downtown, playing and/or singing for a good cause and to make Spokane a livelier scene.

Today, Peter Rivera, former lead singer and drummer of Rare Earth, will appear near the Starbucks at Main Avenue and Post Street to sing “Get Ready” and some of his other smash hits.

On Friday, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner will be at the same site to warble “Proud Mary” with me.

That’s what makes this so much fun for me – being around so many fine and generous folks.

On Wednesday, for example, 50 musicians autographed the sign-in sheet.

(Note to self: Must buy more red collection buckets.)

Street Music Week’s success is due to these people.

Frank Wagner, for example, has taught some of the finest bluegrass players around.

Or Jim Lyons, my street music co-captain. Lyons hasn’t missed a day since I opened up the event to others. He helps me with organizational work, hauls the buckets and sign-in sheets …

I’d be sunk without him.

Speaking of talent, Wally Friel, 78, played his trombone once again outside the doors of River Park Square.

The retired Whitman County Superior Court judge lives in Pullman and is half of the duo 2 Old Brass Guys. Dave Bezdecek, the other half, plays the tuba.

We’ve had some pretty cool newcomers this year, too.

Like The Irish Green Tea Society, a group of women who specialize in lilting Celtic music.

And the crowd couldn’t get enough of Wilson Rahn, who rocked out tunes by Green Day and Fall Out Boy on his electric guitar.

Wilson is 11. His dad, Greg, took him out of school so he could take part in Street Music Week.

“It’s for a great cause,” said Wilson, who plays in a band called Tropical Penguins, “so I guess I’m not skipping that much.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at

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