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creative:impact - Anybody in Ann Arbor can 'Make Music' on the longest day of the year

Guitar and synth performers for Make Music Ann Arbor 2023.
Lia Giannotti Photography
Guitar and synth performers for Make Music Ann Arbor 2023.

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy. In the weeks and months to come, host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explores the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.

Creative Washtenaw CEO Deb Polich at the WEMU studio.
John Bommarito
89.1 WEMU
Creative Washtenaw CEO Deb Polich at the WEMU studio.


Author photo for Rich Retyi in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Melanie Maxwell
Author photo for Rich Retyi in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Richard Retyi is the author of nothing prior to this and co-creator of the podcast Ann Arbor Stories, which is something that exists. He wasn’t born in Ann Arbor, but he’ll probably die here.

He currently serves as communications and marketing manager at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Ann Arbor District Library

Rich Retyi

Ann Arbor District Library: Make Music Ann Arbor 2024

Make Music Ann Arbor


Deb Polich: Welcome to 89 one WEMU's creative:impact. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host. It is a pleasure to have you join me as we meet the artists and creatives who add color, texture, and sound to our community. The longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere--the summer solstice--falls on June 21st this year. There are many ways this midsummer day of light is celebrated throughout the hemisphere. Rich Retyi of the Ann Arbor District Library is here to tell us about a celebration that originated in France some 40 years ago that has now spread to thousands of cities. It made its way to Ann Arbor last year. Rich is a familiar name to many WEMU listeners, as he is one of the late Lisa Barry's regular guests. Rich, welcome back to WEMU and to your first creative:impact visit!

Rich Retyi: Hi! Thanks for having me!

Deb Polich: So, thanks for being here! And tell us about the origin of the fete de la musique, or in English, Make Music Day.

Rich Retyi: Sure. So, Make Music Day started in 1982 in France. The idea is that, for one day a year on the summer solstice, you can go around town--and this is starting in France--and experience live free music all over the place. It could be in bars, restaurants, on porches, wherever else. It was this sort of day-long celebration of free live music in public places. And so, the idea sort of spread from there. And now, it's a global phenomenon. 20 countries participate in this every June 21st now to do Make Music Day.

Deb Polich: And it took Make Music Day a while, actually about 25 years, to get to the U.S. And I believe New York was the first city to adopt it. And that was 17 years ago. And now, about 150 cities celebrate, and Ann Arbor joined last year. What was it about Make Music Day that caught the library's attention?

Rich Retyi: One of the things AADL tries to do, and particularly our director, Eli Neiberger, is to use use our funding and use our connections in town to make things happen that might not otherwise happen. And so, in some way, the Make Music phenomenon had overlapped in the Venn diagram of the AADL world. And it's a really cool idea. And so, Eli brought it to the library, and we've had some staff members get really excited about it. AADL does tons of music programming throughout the year. And so, last year was our first Make Music Ann Arbor. And we decided to sort of help organize through the National Make Music Day group, matching venues with artists who can just sign up. Venues can sign up artists and kind of try to see what it would be like to have the first Make Music Ann Arbor happen. June 21st last year was in the middle of the week, and it goes all day. So, it's a little trickier when it's in the middle of the week versus maybe on a Friday or, next year, it'll be on a weekend. But we were really happy with how it went. And so now, we changed how we're doing things a little bit this year, and we're super excited for this year's Make Music.

Deb Polich: So, any new project is a little hard to put together. I mean, you have the vision, but then you actually have the execution and to make it happen. Obviously, it went well enough for the library to do this again. From your point of view, what was it like last year? Did it meet your expectations?

Rich Retyi: Yes, it was great! So, part of what I did last year was to run, flash, and take a scooter around town to try and get photos and video of as many of the performances that were happening as possible. And it was so cool to start at the library where we had people downtown. We had a band downtown, then I scoot over to Kerrytown, where the Guttman Gallery had somebody. There was a coffee shop on Southview. Like, all over the city, there were these little concerts happening that were all connected to this larger event. And it was really cool to be able to to experience that personally and then to go on our big concert listing for the whole city and see, like, "Oh, you can go see the singer/songwriters over here or this, like, rock band over here, or saxophonist over here!" And so, it was just a really, really neat thing to be able to personally experience and to be able to help offer to the City of Ann Arbor for this really cool first time.

A saxophone player at Make Music Ann Arbor 2023.
Lia Giannotti Photography
A saxophone player at Make Music Ann Arbor 2023.

Deb Polich: 89 one WEMU's creative:impact continues. My guest is Rich Retyi from the Ann Arbor District Library. Ann Arbor's Make Music Day marking the summer solstice is our subject. So, what is in store for 2024? If I brought the family down to Westgate or to the main branch, what would I find?

Rich Retyi: So, last year, we tried to run two different stages: one at downtown, one at Westgate with sort of rotating bands. And we decided we're going to keep that at Westgate because it's got a beautiful courtyard and lots of things to sort of do in that zone. And rather than run it downtown outside, we're bringing everything inside the library and focusing on really cool events that are around music, like a musical petting zoo where you come in and you can try a bunch of the instruments that we've got that you can check out here at the library. DIY instrument making--you can pick an instrument that you want to make and come downtown and make, like, an actual instrument that you can take home. Modular synth workshop--we're big into synth here and working with all of our keyboards. And then, a DJ workshop, which is a continuation of a regular program that we've got here, where you get to learn to mix beats and, whether you're a beginner or advanced, we have staff here who are really good at all of this stuff. And so, you get to immerse yourself in musical programming inside downtown at the library and then also experience shows that are at Westgate or at some of the other participating venues.

A live performance for Make Music Day Ann Arbor 2023.
Lia Giannotti Photography
A live performance for Make Music Day Ann Arbor 2023.

Deb Polich: So, here's a conundrum that many of our colleagues in the arts and creative world and otherwise in our community have. And that is without a daily newspaper, without a regular ongoing source for information about stuff like that, how do you, as a communications director for the AADL, get the word out to the community members and even the artists and others that you want to get engaged with this?

Rich Retyi: Well, Deb Polich is one way to get the word out. We do that. So, everybody gets their news and their information from different places. And so, I try, as a communications marketing manager, to put it everywhere. So, in the library, we've got our brochures and our posters. And we've got our website. But then, in terms of putting it out there, the Observer--we find is a great place for all of our events. They run a great calendar, like, the best calendar or print calendar that we've ever had to help let people know about library programming. Plus, we've got our newsletters. We've got our social media. And then, there are in-town journalists, who are always looking for really cool stories. And so, here we go with Make Music Day! You're one of a few kind people who've reached out to say, "This sounds really cool! How can we talk about it?" either in print or on the airwaves.

A drummer at Me
Lia Giannotti Photography
A drummer at Make Music Ann Arbor 2023.

Deb Polich: That's great! Are you still looking for musical events to join in this year?

Rich Retyi: Yes! So, we have the ability for any. You can be an amateur musician. You can be somebody noodling on a guitar or synth or anything else. And you can sign up to be part of Make Music Ann Arbor, or if you're a venue that wants to host an artist and you have an artist in mind or you would like to be paired with somebody, we can hook you up. So, if you go to aadl.org/makemusic, there is a link there where artists or venues can sign up all the way up to the day, June 21st and be part of this really cool thing to get listed in the overall listing of all the things happening in Ann Arbor.

Deb Polich: So, quickly. If you could look forward five years down the line, what would Make Music Day look like all over Ann Arbor?

Rich Retyi: I think it's people looking forward to this one cool, longest day of the year, where they know that, for that day, I'm going to be able to walk around town and experience on my lunch hour or weekend, plan a whole thing around it to experience all this different kind of local music at local places and just really sort of immerse yourself in this joy of music. It's not about whether somebody is super-duper talented or anything else. Like, just playing music and enjoying music is sort of its own thing. And so, to be able to help slowly build that up for Ann Arbor to be part of this global day of celebration of free live music would be great.

Lia Giannotti Photography

Deb Polich: Well, we look forward to having that vision come true! Thanks for being on the show and filling us in!

Rich Retyi: Thanks so much for having me!

Deb Polich: That's Rich Retyi from the Ann Arbor District Library. Find out more about Make Music Day in Ann Arbor at wemu.org. You've been listening to creative:impact. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host. Mat Hopson is our producer. Please join us every Tuesday to meet the people who make Washtenaw creative. This is 89 one WEMU FM, Ypsilanti. Public radio from Eastern Michigan University.

If you'd like to a guest on creative:impact, email Deb Polich at deb.polich@creativewashtenaw.org.

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Polich hosts the weekly segment creative:impact, which features creative people, jobs and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor area.
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