Parade the Circle 2011: On The Road In Search of a New Sound

By Robin VanLear Artistic Director of Community Arts I recently spent 10 days in New Orleans for Mardi Gras in hopes of inspiration and ideas to bring more music to Parade the Circle,the museum’s annual June event. New Orleans is known for its music. Cleveland is known for its music. So, my theory is that there is no reason that we can’t bring more life and bounce in a toe tapping way to our amazing annual expression of creativity that we call Parade the Circle. For over 20 years, the artists and staff of the museum’s education department have been correcting well-meaning individuals who keep asking about “marching” in Parade the Circle. We don’t march, we explain, we dance; if not dance then at least sashay or even promenade maybe… but not “march.” Parade is not Mardi Gras, nor do we want to be. We are our own incredible opportunity for Clevelanders to show off just how creative we are. We aren’t an adult parade. We aren’t a children’s parade, and we aren’t really even a family parade. We are a parade of and for anyone: old, young, single, coupled, shy, bold, artistically adroit, physically challenged. But no matter who it is parading, when we pass out the information sheets for our parade program and line-up assignments each year, the most frequent request is: “Put us near music please!” So how to do that if our musicians don’t step up? What is it about us with our long history of both rock and jazz? Why do we feel that the only way to play music is standing or sitting on stage? Our African drummers get it. Our steel pan musicians make it work. Yet with a few exceptions our wind and brass musicians have yet to join the dance that makes Parade the Circle come to life. And that is why I went to New Orleans to see how it’s done in the Crescent City. How do we bring some of that energy and sense of comradeship to Cleveland? Well, we began with a start. Two revered jazz bands have agreed to kick off the parade this year. Members of the Townsmen Orchestra and the Joe DeJarnette Jazz Ensemble will each form a second line to set the example for energy and style at the beginning of this June’s Parade the Circle. Then, way down south in New Orleans fate smiled on us again. While dancing on my stilts on the sidelines of the Thoth Krewe parade on Dimanche Gras (the Sunday before Fat Tuesday) who should come strutting down Magazine Street but our very own Shaw High School band. As fate would have it, the parade slowed to a stop right where I was standing and Mr. Woods, one of the band directors and I began to chat. Certainly they could have a group of students who would create a small second line band to perform in this year’s Parade the Circle.

Robin VanLear with Shaw High School Band in New Orleans

But, what about the rest of you? Don’t you want to add to the rhythm and ring of Parade the Circle 2011 community style? We did it with the steel band and now we plan to try it with a second line. We are still working out the details but we need all top-flight musicians and weekend amateurs. We will be hosting rehearsals at our museum studio in The Flats beginning in May. To find out more information about how you can join the musical throng, stay tuned to our website or call or email Nan Eisenberg at 216-707-2483 or neisenberg [at] clevelandart.org. On the other hand, if your school or friends already have a small group of musicians who would like to second line on their own then PLEASE give us a call. . I can’t wait to see how all of you join your voices among voices! See you June 11.

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