Taryn Balwinski is a Tennessee native whose passion for supporting local and live music  brought her from Dayton, TN to Chattanooga, where she saw more opportunities to listen to a wider variety of performances and genres. She is the founder of the Chattanooga branch of Make Music Day, a worldwide music festival celebrating the summer solstice.


What is Make Music Chattanooga, and why did you see a need for it?

Taryn: Make Music Day is an international festival that originally began in France 30 years ago by the Minister of Culture who wanted anyone who could play instruments to share their talents with the community and celebrate the summer solstice. Because of its success, it sprung up in different cities around the world. About eleven years ago, the project came to the United States and started first in New York City. A little over a year ago, I ran into Make Music Asheville while looking for things to do during a trip there. I thought it was very interesting because there was a focus on only using local artists and community members to not only share their talents, but embrace how music has changed their lives. I emailed the promoters of the national branch, and received great feedback because they were hearing great things about Chattanooga and wanted to start a branch here in town.


What was your role in organizing the festival last year?

Taryn: I guess I’m officially the founder of the Chattanooga branch. My official title is Director of Operations of the Chattanooga branch. I’m more of the organizer of the people who do stuff. I didn’t know what it took to host a concert or what equipment is needed. This is where volunteers have been so important in ironing out the details of that day to remind me that there needed to be space for loading equipment in and to help point out sound bleed issues and other things I wouldn’t have thought of on my own.


How much support did you get from local businesses?

Taryn: Local businesses were a huge asset during our inaugural year. I worked intimately with Mary Howard Ade, the music marketer of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. This year she’s going to focus more on marketing than helping with logistics and launching the event. We had a ridiculous amount of people sign up to volunteer to help and perform, which was encouraging to see because we didn’t have to go out and recruit as much as I thought we would need to. The scope of the event kept growing because we would pretty easily find more venues to keep up with the number of artists who wanted to participate. It’s crazy, our numbers were significantly higher than those cities who had hosted this festival for three, five, or seven years.


What were some challenges you had with planning it last year?

Taryn: Because it was our first year, the most difficult part was informing the public on what Make Music Chattanooga was. It was difficult to convince people that there was free music going on throughout the day and that they could participate in it, no matter what skill level or genre they classify themselves as.


What are some goals for this year?

Taryn: We would like more genre variety in our music offering. There were some types of music that simply weren’t represented. I would love to feature more rap, hardcore rock, and experimental or avant garde music. This year we’re going to have an event called Make Music After Dark, where that type of music will be showcased and hopefully those artists won’t feel left out of the celebration. A major goal this year will be to host a rap battle with a cash prize. We would also like to start Bring Music to You, which will bring music to “weird” spaces you wouldn’t normally expect music like hospitals, blood banks, offices. We would like performers to pop into businesses that would like live music and bring music into a normal workday. Summer solstice lands on a Wednesday this year and we want to make sure that people don’t miss out.


How can people volunteer to help out?

Taryn: Right now we are accepting volunteers. They can go to makemusicday.org/chattanooga to find more information there. They can also email us at [email protected] and tell us they're interested in helping out.


Photo Credit: Ricardo Chang/Noogaside