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Save the Music initiative encourages supporting artists and businesses in downtown

Catherine and Tony of the Twang Bandits play some classic country music on Franklin Street on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020 for the Save The Music Series.

The Save the Music street performance series is hoping to provide a lifeline for local musicians while supporting businesses in downtown Chapel Hill. 

The first street performance of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership's Save the Music series kicked off last Saturday with four acts. It was originally scheduled for Oct. 10, but was rescheduled due to rain.

The series encourages people to check out local musicians spread across downtown while they eat, shop or stroll. 

Kevin "Kaze" Thomas, the arts and culture director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, described it as an opportunity for people to walk by some live musicians and support a local business.

The Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership is also directing people to GoFundMe pages and fundraisers for local music venues such as Local 506, The Cave and Nightlight. 

Two of the performers last Saturday included Tony Matthews of the Twang Bandits and the Cajammers, and singer and guitarist Andrew Gilreath.

Local music venues have been closed since early March, which not only hurt the businesses themselves but also left many local musicians without places to perform.

“It’s just disappointing. It is just really depressing,” Matthews said. “As musicians, the major part for us is getting out and connecting with the community and performing. And it’s like a big part of your life has been taken away.”

Matthews said the series will give musicians a way to connect with an audience through their music for the first time in months.

Gilreath said his last real show was in February.

“I still feel as connected and having just as much fun as I used to,” Gilreath said. “I think maybe even more so because it has been a while since I've been playing.”

Gilreath performed at the intersection of Columbia and Franklin streets. Matthews and his partner Catherine Shreve performed at 400 W. Franklin St.

The Save the Music street performance series is one of the first programs that Thomas introduced to the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership. As a musician himself, he believes it is important to support the local community of artists as well as local businesses.

“I think for a long time, our town has carried itself as an art community and it’s time to make true on that promise,” Thomas said.

Thomas also highlighted the importance of social distancing in this event.

“It's not a bunch of concerts on Franklin,” Thomas said. “It's buskers … solo individual acts, socially distanced. I can't stress that enough.”

If not for the pandemic, Thomas would have loved for Franklin Street to be packed for the event but believes that social distancing is important to ensure the safety of the performers and attendees. 

The Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership selected the locations of the performances in a way that would encourage social distancing and allow people to enjoy the music as they supported local businesses, specifically outdoor dining.

If the Save the Music series is successful, the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership hopes for it to continue into November and potentially into the holiday months. Matt Gladdek, the executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, said they will play it by ear.

“We just hope this is a way to provide a little bit of normality while being very safe,” Gladdek said. “If it isn't as successful as we like then we'll find another way to support our artists and businesses.” 


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