Make Music Day in Fresno

Jun 10, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Mallory Moad, Music

by Mallory Moad

Dance like no one is watching. You know – don’t worry about what others may think, just jump around and wave your arms with wild abandon in an exuberant statement of self-expression. What if you sang like no one is listening? Or played a guitar or kazoo, or beat out a rhythm on a drum or box with a complete lack of self-consciousness, just for the sake of making music?

On June 21, the longest day of the year, everyone will be encouraged to do just that as Fresno presents its first Make Music Day.

Here’s how it all began: The first Make Music Day was launched in France in 1982 under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture. It was – and still is – known as La Fete De La Musique, and everybody, regardless of age, level of musical training or perceived ability, was encouraged to get out and make music. From morning until late at night, musical performances continued throughout the country in parks, gardens, street corners, and restaurants – in other words, wherever music could be enjoyed by everyone, free of charge. The holiday was so successful and motivating that it is now an international event, with more than a thousand cities in over 120 countries involved. That’s a lot of people making a lot of music, just for fun.

Make Music Day in the US is organized by the Make Music Alliance and participating cities have their own chapters. Former music instructor, John Hord is the director of Make Music Fresno and he hopes the project will ultimately be as fulfilling as it has been challenging. He explains, “2023 will be our learning year.” That could be said of the first year of just about any undertaking of this caliber. Working with a staff of five devoted volunteers and a budget of zero, long hours have been spent getting the word out, contacting performers and searching for venues all over town. As of mid-May, seven performance locations had been confirmed, from Downtown Fresno to River Park shopping center and points in between. As word spreads, the list continues to grow.

Ben Betita is a Library Assistant at the Betty Rodriguez Regional Library and a musician himself. He was ready get the library involved in Make Music Fresno as soon as he heard about it. “We are proud and excited to participate in a worldwide event that celebrates music and community!” Enthusiastic much? You bet! Spacious and comfortable areas for programs and a broad, diverse patronage make this particular library branch a great venue for live performance. Ben, along with the Friends of the Betty Rodriguez Library, began putting together a day-long program that would have something for everyone. “The event is shaping up to be pretty extraordinary, with representation for all ages and cultures in the valley.”

Laotian pop from Sid Vixay

Drawing on his experience and connections with the local music scene, Ben has assembled a selection of performers “who run the gamut from amateur to pillars of the Fresno music community.” There will be a children’s’ sing along, Caribbean steel drum, Laotian pop, vintage vocal jazz and both classical and pop/folk guitarists. Because Make Music Day is all-inclusive, and making music applies to everyone, there will be opportunities to do some musical experimenting, for anyone who wants to. “We are super excited to have a host of instruments on hand for the public to play with. Perhaps a performance inspires you to pick up a hand drum or strum a banjo…we’ll have ‘em!”

The musicians Ben is bringing on board are looking forward to being part of this event for a variety of reasons. For some, it’s a return to an institution they know and love. For others, it’s a new venture. But for all of them, it’s also about sharing what they do, and what they do is make music.

Jeff Bowman

Steel pan (or steel drum) player/songwriter, Jeff Bowman has been making music in Fresno for a long time, sometimes as part of an ensemble, other times on his own. For Make Music Day, he will be performing solo with the aid of digital tracks he has recorded. Jeff has performed in local libraries in the past, including the Central and Auberry branches, but the Betty Rodriguez Library holds special meaning for him. “I feel a great connection to libraries in general but my neighborhood library is the Betty so this is really exciting for me.” This branch also plays an important role in Jeff’s series of graphic novels that are set in Fresno. He adds, “I like the fact that they’ve organized a day, Fresno-wide, that celebrates the power of music, so why not give back?” You can expect to hear some traditional steel pan music, some history of the instrument and “some Beatles music, island style as well!”

Pieter Moerdyk

Singer/guitarist Pieter Moerdyk’s repertoire ranges from folk to classic pop and country standards. But the real reason he became a musician didn’t have anything to do with the songs he heard on the radio when he was growing up in Pretoria, South Africa. Music became a way to overcome what he describes as a severe learning disability. “I was a dreamer but I was told I was lazy,” he recalls. “I loved music, especially the guitar” and was eventually invited to join a friend in a folk singing duo. “We were successful in this endeavor and so my life changed. Girls noticed me for the first time and I loved the attention!” Sixty-eight years and many performances later, Pieter will be making his library debut on Make Music Day.

Scats on The Sly

Playing at the library is nothing new for jazz trio, Scats on The Sly. They considered the Betty Rodriguez Library to be “their” library when it was still in its old location and going by another name. Bass player, Martin Hansen likes the vibe of the place and the diversity of the audience. “It’s laid back and casual,” he says, “and when kids get up and dance, that’s really cool!” They’ll be contributing vocal jazz and jump blues tunes to the festivities. And although it’s Make Music Day, not Get Up And Dance Day, Martin observes, “Sometimes you just can’t help yourself, right?” Right!

There will be a variety of places in Fresno to experience music on Make Music Day. You might choose to travel around town and check out a variety of locations or camp out all day in one place, perhaps something close to your neighborhood. Making music is what matters most, not where it is made. And who knows? Maybe you will be inspired to make some music of your own, every day.

My name is Mallory Moad and I believe music is being made all around us, all the time. All we have to do is listen.

For more information about Make Music Fresno and Make Music Day, including performance schedules, a map of venues and volunteer opportunities, visit

Mallory Moad is a visual/performance artist, vocalist in the jazz band Scats on The Sly and a proud Central San Joaquin Valley native.


  1. Mallory, you have written such an intriguing article. I hope people absorb your vitality and get out on June 21, Make Music Day, Fresno. We will also have Jumbie Jams (small steel drums) and Flower Pot music for people to play. John Hord

  2. I loved this article, very interesting.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.