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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Street Music Week is a chance to open your ears and your wallet

Heather Hills and her daughter Olivianna clutch umbrellas as they pass Doug Clark as he plays the song “Secret Agent Man” during the 20th annual Street Music Week last year in downtown Spokane. The annual fundraiser for the Second Harvest food bank starts next week.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Carly Dykes For The Spokesman-Review

Street Music Week arrives next week to bring music to the downtown Spokane lunch crowd and raise money to fight hunger.

Doug Clark, a former Spokesman-Review columnist and lifelong musician, founded Street Music Week 20 years ago after being inspired by Seattle’s street music scene.

“I noticed in Seattle, the street music was really lively. They were not just around Pike Place Street market but all over the city,” Clark said. “I noticed in Spokane, we had one, one old guy who sat on a chair over by the former Macy’s, he would sit over there, and he was playing a plastic recorder like they do in grade school while he was reading a book.

“There was no melody or any kind of song that was coming out.”

The sad state of busking in Spokane inspired Clark to write a column about judging the vibrancy of a city based on the quality and level of its street music.

“I was gonna put my guitar where my mouth was, and I went out during the noon hour for 1 week, Monday through Friday,” Clark said. “I started at City Hall, and I made $503 for five hours.”

Clark took the money and gave it to Second Harvest upon learning that the food bank could provide five meals for every buck.

“Then I started thinking about it, and it morphed into, why don’t I do this again next year, but open it up to other players?” he said.

The next year, Clark began Street Music Week with the slogan: “It’s not about virtuosity, it’s about generosity.”

“I made the rules really simple: you can participate one day or every day. It doesn’t make any difference to me. You show up to the check-in spot, which is in downtown Spokane right by the Starbucks on Main. You show up a little before noon, you check in, sign your name and we give you a red bucket.”

Musicians find a place on the sidewalk and perform for about an hour and then, based on the honor system, return the red bucket and cash, which is donated to the food bank.

The event has also gained a few corporate sponsors, such as Kootenai County Health, that donate every year.

Street Music Week has raised more than $315,000 dollars in 20 years, with most of it coming from the nearly 300 musicians who take part every year.

Over the past two decades, the event has attracted attention from Spokane Symphony players and iconic musicians such as Myles Kennedy. However, Clark continues to uphold the message that Street Music Week is open to performers and musicians of all levels.

“We have had dancers and we’ve had magicians,” Clark said, “we’ve had a standup comic who went around telling jokes. We’ve had people who can barely play, you know, they’re just basic players, but they come out.

“One little lady had a concertina, and she could play Home on the Range.”

JayDean Ludiker, a fiddler of 50 years and the owner of Ludiker music studio, has been bringing her students to Street Music Week for 10 years.

“We just do it for the cause,” Ludiker said. “There’s a lot of interaction. If there’s a child that comes by and looks really interested, I’ll walk up to the child and let them try to play my instrument.”

Street Music Week originated in downtown Spokane, but has since spread to the Garland District and Coeur d’Alene, and has inspired others to begin similar events nationwide. Two women who attended the event as folk players spread the event to Appleton, Wisconsin, where it has since been adopted for the past 11 years.

Clark is preparing to hand off the organization of the event to Carrie Ayers following the unexpected passing of his right-hand man, Jim Lyons, in November. Clark will continue to participate in the event as a street musician .

Street Music Week is open to all musicians to participate, and Clark encourages those who have not participated to find more information on their website at or their Facebook page, Streetmusicweek.