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

Even without Doug Clark, Street Music Week fills downtown with the sound of generosity

By Alexandria Osborne The Spokesman-Review

For the first time in 22 years, Spokane’s Street Music Week is absent its founder, unrelenting advocate and star, Doug Clark.

Clark, a retired longtime Spokesman-Review columnist, started Street Music Week after he visited Seattle and took in the quantity – and quality – of its busking scene.

When he returned to Spokane, he saw a man sitting on a stool, reading a book and playing a recorder, he said.

So he did what he always did: he wrote about it.

Soon, Clark turned Spokane’s sad street music scene into a cause célèbre. He wanted to test his hypothesis about how a city’s street music has a direct correlation to its vibrancy.

“In our case, it was an old guy playing random notes on a recorder,” Clark said, “so I put my guitar where my mouth was and I announced I was going out for a week, Monday through Friday, during the noon hour.”

He took his band, the Trailer Park Girls, downtown, starting at City Hall, and wandered around downtown for an hour each day during the second full week of June.

The band received around $450 that week.

“I had too much of a conscience to keep it, so I thought of a charity to donate it to,” he said. “I think the food bank is great because, I mean, nobody can argue about feeding people who are hungry.”

The next year, Clark opened his Street Music Week to the public, and 12 people showed up to play acoustic music for an hour each day. It has since spread to the Garland District and Coeur d’Alene.

In its 21 years, Street Music Week has raised $240,000 for Second Harvest. Clark said while a lot of the money came was raised by the street performers, some of it came from donations as well.

Clark retired in 2017, but he continued to perform every second week of June for Street Music Week.

Clark said one year he came up with the catchphrase “It’s not about virtuosity, it’s about generosity,” because anybody can play at any level.

Street Music Week has attracted musicians who might play only one or two songs to rock and roll legends.

“It doesn’t really matter, because you’re just doing it for a good cause and to have some fun,” he said. “It’s been a real pleasure to see it grow and carry on in time.”

Clark moved from his beloved Spokane with his lovely wife, Sherry, to Seattle at the end of last summer to do what retired folks do, get closer to grandkids. And while he cannot attend Street Music Week this year due to helping a friend with a medical emergency, he plans to come back next year.

If he has time, though, he hopes to record a song and send it to Corey Eyer, Street Music Week organizer, to post to Facebook.

Clark said he has seen a huge difference in street music in the two cities. In Seattle, a lot of the street performers are hustling because that is how they make money, while a lot of street performers in Spokane volunteer their time for Street Music Week so they can raise money for Second Harvest.

“We’re raising money for the food bank and having a good time,” he said. “The level of professionalism, or your acuity on an instrument, it doesn’t matter.”

Eyer said he took over organizing last year when Clark moved to Seattle and has had a good experience working with the food bank.

“I have been able to be at the food bank and see the people that are there in line and getting the food,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for a long time, the raising-money part, and now I’ve gotten to see the other end, the actual impact. Second Harvest does such an amazing job of supplying food to tens of thousands of people.”

Eyer takes Clark’s phrase about generosity seriously in his role, especially with his 13- and 15-year-old children, who have been involved with music since they were young and were playing instruments and singing in front of the Red Robin.

“My kid is singing over the buses as loud as she can,” he said. “You don’t have to be good; you just have to come out and play.”

For the downtown lunch crowd and music lovers alike, there’s still Friday to revel in city’s Street Music Week – and help the region’s hungry.