Despite the limitations of moving buskers off Spokane street corners and into Facebook feeds, Street Music Week founder Doug Clark says donations stayed strong throughout this year’s virtual event.
Typically, Street Music Week would mean dozens of musicians, comedians and entertainers performing for spare change throughout downtown Spokane, the Garland District and downtown Coeur d’Alene during the second week of June. The dimes and dollars collected in the event’s signature red buckets go to Second Harvest, a regional food bank that says it can provide five meals to those in need for every dollar donated.
This year, due to COVID-19, the event moved online. Clark said at first he was concerned about turnout – it’s easy enough to get performers to post their work on Facebook, but he worried it would mean fewer donations. But by the end of the virtual event, Clark was “overwhelmed” with Spokane’s dedication to the cause.
As of Monday, Clark said donations from June 8-12 totaled just over $27,000. Collected via a link alongside each virtual busker’s Facebook video, that figure comes pretty close to the $29,000 raised during last year’s in-person event.
“I was skeptical to begin with, maybe because I’m just an old coot,” said Clark, who wrote a column in The Spokesman-Review for 34 years before retiring in 2017. “But I’m absolutely just blown away with the figures we’re seeing now.”
Many longtime Street Music Week participants returned for virtual performances this year, including Carey Eyer and his family band, who shared several home performances throughout the week featuring everything from New Orleans zydeco to a French waltz. New faces joined the effort too, including middle school orchestra teacher Heather Montgomery, who transformed a song-a-day quarantine challenge into part of the fundraising effort.
Capping off the virtual event was a performance by Spokane’s own Myles Kennedy, which garnered over 100,000 views over the weekend. Kennedy, a Mead High School graduate, was a guitar instructor at Spokane Falls Community College and frontman for the Spokane band the Mayfield Four, which landed a deal with Epic Records in 1996. After the Mayfield Four disbanded in 2002, Kennedy went on to join the rock group Alter Bridge. He also records and tours with Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash.
Kathy Hedgcock, vice president of philanthropy for Second Harvest, said that while the food bank has always had an online donation link available, this year’s virtual Street Music Week led to an explosion in online donations. With Second Harvest reporting an up to 50% increase in demand during the coronavirus pandemic, Hedgcock said the “incredible generosity” of the Spokane community came at a critical time to help fill gaps in their coverage.
Since the inaugural Street Music Week in 2002, the event has raised $265,000 – enough money to cover 1.3 million meals through Second Harvest, Clark said. He’s expecting a return to the streets of Spokane in summer 2021, if all goes according to plan.
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