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

A computer wiz, a harpist and two Street Music Week icons fill Spokane with music for event’s 22nd run

Mark Majeski plays his Celtic lap harp on Main Street in downtown Spokane on Tuesday. In its 22nd year, Street Music Week is a fundraiser for Second Harvest’s food bank. Musicians play noon to 1 p.m. through Friday in downtown Spokane, Coeur d’Alene and the Garland District.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Blues ballads, Baroque classics and a few bluegrass ditties drifted throughout Spokane and Coeur d’Alene on Tuesday as a bevy of buskers took to the streets for the 22nd annual Street Music Week.

For more than two decades, musical performers from near and far have flocked to the Lilac City to help raise money for the Second Harvest food bank by playing tunes worthy of a tip in the event’s signature red buckets. Buskers also have the opportunity to collect donations online, thanks to a new portal for those not carrying cash.

All proceeds made during the daily one-hour performance window, which starts at noon each day through Friday, go toward feeding those in need in the Inland Northwest.

The tradition started in 2002, when former Spokesman-Review columnist Doug Clark raised a little over $500 after spending a week performing in downtown Spokane. Since then, Street Music Week has raised over $315,000, has extended to downtown Coeur d’Alene and the Garland district, and has attracted more and more musicians willing to donate some time for a worthy cause.

Dozens of buskers participated in the event Monday and Tuesday, but that number is expected to grow as the week plays out, said co-organizer Carey Eyer. Donations tend to follow a similar trend, with last year’s total amassing over $27,000 by Friday.

Eyer and his family have become staples of Street Music Week after more than a decade of consecutive appearances. His daughters, 15-year-old Ivy Eyer and 13-year-old Neila Eyer, played as a duo in front of the downtown Starbucks on Tuesday afternoon.

When they were younger, Street Music Week served as a good motivator for the girls to practice their instruments. It also served as a valuable experience for them to see the value in giving back, Eyer said.

“It’s always been, ‘This is your superpower right now,’ ” Eyer said of the message he’s tried to impart on them. “And if you can use it for good, you should.”

Eyer said his daughters understand the value it brings to the lives of many, which is why they make the sacrifice of missing some of their last week of school activities each June to participate.

Among the dozen or so performers near River Park Square on Tuesday were familiar faces like the Eyers, as well as a few newcomers.

Bob LeVitus, who might be better known as “Dr. Macintosh,” is one of those newcomers this year.

Before iPhones were seemingly universal, and before the days of YouTube tutorials, many early Apple users learned how to use their new devices by picking up one of LeVitus’ how-to books.

The former tech columnist for the Houston Chronicle penned more than 75 guidebooks before his retirement in 2022, many under the “For Dummies” series that once littered store shelves.

“I was an Apple fanatic writer in my day,” Levitus said with an acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder.

LeVitus, with a smile on his face, said it was fitting he found himself in front of the Apple Store on what was his second day participating in the event. He spent Monday out in the Garland District, but wanted a change of pace for day two.

LeVitus, 69, moved to Spokane with his wife last year after spending decades living in Austin, Texas. He said Austin had grown to be too big for them and his recent retirement made it easier for them to follow their son Jacob LeVitus, who co-owns a local regenerative landscaping company, up to the Northwest.

Since relocating, LeVitus said he has been impressed by the sense of community, recreational opportunities and culinary options he’s found in the Inland Northwest.

He and his wife have been seeking out more volunteer opportunities with their newfound free time, including at the Ronald McDonald House, where the two are installing a vegetable garden.

“My wife is an avid gardener,” LeVitus said. “So she suggested that if they could find us a little space with dirt, we could grow some veggies for the people.”

Mark Majeski, a retired Mead School District teacher, strummed out angelic notes on his Celtic lap harp directly across Main Street from LeVitus.

Majeski, 66, picked up the instrument in 2007, after building it from a kit as a test of his woodworking skills.

Crafting a harp can be a delicate task, as it needs just the right amount of pressure between the soundboard, overarching arm and the strings that connect the two to achieve the heavenly tones the harp is known for.

Daily practice has led to Majeski’s performances “starting to sound real sweet,” he said.

He took those talents to downtown Spokane on Tuesday to participate in a “random act of harping” called for last week by the International Society of Folk Harpers and Craftsman, of which he is a member.

“I wasn’t able to do it last week, so I’m sort of killing two birds with one stone,” Majeski said.

Majeski said he’s nearly done with his second attempt at building a harp, this one much larger in scale, standing 5 feet tall and weighing in at 45 pounds. The instrument will allow him to play a wider array of tunes since it will have five octaves compared to the three and a half of his lap harp, but it won’t be as mobile as his current setup.

He estimates he has put at least 80 hours into building the newest iteration, on top of the 80 hours his pyrographer daughter spent burning an ornate tree design into the base of the instrument.

“Well, you see, the big argument with my wife is where we’re going to put it,” Majeski said with a laugh. “She wants it as part of the furniture in the living room, but still, this is an instrument, and I want to be able to play it. So I’m gonna be dividing my time between my old faithful here and my new floor harp as well.”

Majeski said being able to positively impact the community he’s called home for six decades is a big part of what keeps him coming back to perform at Street Music Week each year.

“This is really unique to Spokane,” Majeski said. “We have this wonderful community of musicians who will come out and spend some time, give their effort, not looking for anything in return, and just do this really altruistic act for the people in Spokane who are less fortunate than us.”