Award #41: Pittonkatonk Collaborative Educational Workshop

Pittonkatonk crowd 2“Pittonkatonk” does not roll off the tongue easily. It sounds like an unfamiliar Native American tribe or perhaps a mechanical part to repair an obscure instrument. But it is neither. What it is, however, is worthy of an Awesome Pittsburgh grant.

So what is it? Pittonkatonk is a first-of-its-kind brass festival which is completely volunteer run.The event itself has no stages, no vending, and there is no admissions fee. The festival is supported by crowdfunding, on-site donations, and CMU’s Center for the Arts in Society. Also missing are food trucks or catering; instead attendees are encouraged to contribute a dish to the potluck. This year’s event will include over 100 performers, including national and local bands and takes place this upcoming Saturday, May 2 in Schenley Park.

Pittonkatonk is the brainchild of Pete Spynda and Rich Randall. Pete is one of the city’s most prominent event producers and DJs who is responsible for Pandemic, Weather Permitting and has served as the Director of Operations for the Bayardstown Social Club. Rich works as a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and works with the Listening Spaces Project to understand how music can be used at grassroots levels for positive social change.

The inaugural festival first took place in May 2014 and this year hopes to be just as free and family-friendly but attract larger crowds. Pittonkatonk is more than a musical festival; its focus is on community. “It’s about bringing together people who might otherwise never convene, and blurring the line between performer and spectator,” says Spynda.

Awesome Pittsburgh’s grant supports a youth workshop component to the festival. On April 20, students learned how street music has been used to send a message for change and discussed the strengths and limitations of an acoustic mobile band.  On Friday, May 1st, one of the visiting bands will meet with students and rehearse for a collaborative performance to take place as part of Saturday’s festivities.  This educational component has been a longtime goal of Mr. Spynda’s and he’s thrilled to see this goal materialize.

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