Street Musicians of the DMV

Some background on Colin Wick’s project on street musicians of the DMV

This project serves to provide an overview of street music in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding neighborhoods, with a specific focus on the musicians themselves. The project is intended both to examine the processes involved in street performing in the District and to iron out the misconceptions and misunderstandings of street musicians many of their audiences have. In particular, Colin wishes to emphasize that street music is by no means and inferior music. In fact, it is an admirable art. Most street musicians play for both the love of music and to provide easy access to live music, in a city that often does not have the time for it. Furthermore, many musicians strive to improve access to performance opportunities and often actively encourage their audiences to play with them in some form or another. This project also emphasizes that street musicians are often not homeless beggars but active members of the music community, often making their living by playing in more traditional venues.

Colin’s interest in this research stems from his fascination with street music, both from the performer’s and observer’s perspective. Colin believes street music can play an invaluable role in the lives of a citizenry, as it is a social event, an aspect of a social situation. Street music is an organic and living aspect of public life and can have significant effects on the creation of particular social environments.

Link to Colin’s project through Google Maps HERE.

Click on the various locations throughout the DMV on the map to see and hear street musicians. Be sure to zoom in to visit both DC and Alexandria, VA!

How the project changed over the semester

Colin began this project with the intent to examine the social and political aspects of working as a street musician in Washington, D.C., researching not only what styles of music are played, but also where and why.

The fragmented nature of the widely dispersed street music community in the District created some interesting challenges. Finding musicians was, at times, difficult and even after they were found, many were not interested in participating in the research, either explicitly by providing me with a straight forward ‘no, thank you’ or implicitly by scheduling meeting times and consistently missing them. As such, this project is by no means a complete representation of the street music scene in D.C., but rather acts as an overview that raises a number of questions that will require further research.

Credits

Colin would like to thank the following musicians for their participation in my project: Bernard Aljaleel, Christopher Armstrong, Raycurt Johnson, Christopher Tate, Jamey Turner, Uch, Joyce Vandenberg, and Robert Winsler. He would also like to thank Professor Shalini Ayyagari for providing this unique opportunity for an undergraduate such as myself to carry out an ethnography in the field of ethnomusicology.

The participants in the project gave either written or verbal consent for their music, opinions, and images to be shared in an academic context, such as this.

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