Every music festival, of course, features lots of music. How many, though, have music education as a central part of its mission?

Thanks to the talents of a 25-member team of music educators, led by Leila Ramagopal Pertl and Brian Pertl, Appleton’s Mile of Music is one such festival.

Mile of Music gumbotting workshop
Leila Ramagopal Pertl (center) leads a gumbooting workshop, one of more than 40 music education events at the annual Mile of Music festival in downtown Appleton.

More than 40 hands-on music education workshops, ranging from Ghanaian drumming to ballet, will be conducted Aug. 3-6 during “Mile 5” of Appleton’s Mile of Music festival, a celebration of original, handcrafted artisan music. This year’s festival features nearly 900 live performances by more than 225 artists from 28 states and three countries representing virtually every music genre at 70 venues along College Avenue and the Fox River.

Beyond the concerts and artists featured at Mile of Music, as always, Mile 5 will feature plenty of hands-on, participatory music education events.

Ramagopal Pertl, a 1987 Lawrence graduate, is fond of calling music “a birthright.”

“Mile of Music is the only music festival in the country with a dedicated team of musicians to engage community in reigniting their musical birthright and to help them find ways throughout the year to develop this musicianship,” says Ramagopal Pertl, the music education curator for the four-day festival. “The music education component of Mile of Music is a fantastic opportunity for Lawrence University, teachers from the Appleton Area School District and our MET Kids to engage a multi-generational community in joyful and inspiring music-making. A musical community is a healthy community.”

Ramagopal Pertl’s enthusiasm is obvious when she talks about the results of past Mile of Music education workshops: the person who started playing an instrument again; the person who wrote their first song or formed a band, the person who discovered Irish dance and now is in their third full year of learning Irish dance, the person who produced their own CD of songs.

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“The music education component of Mile of Music is a fantastic opportunity to engage a multi-generational community in joyful and inspiring music-making. A musical community is a healthy community.”
— Leila Ramagopal Pertl
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“Those kinds of outcomes are our heart’s desire” said Ramagopal Pertl. “They are a powerful statement as to the importance of dynamic community music making.”

Brian Pertl, dean of Lawrence’s conservatory of music, joins his wife Leila in leading the music education team. He is excited about the expanded opportunities this year’s festival offers.

“Last year we debuted the P-bone jam, hip-hop workshops, the Building for Kids Immersive Music Day, vocal workshops, ukulele workshops, the NAMI Panel on the Power of Music and Mental Health and we expanded our deep listening activities,” said Pertl.

Mile of Music didjeridu workshop
A didjeridu workshop led by Brian Pertl, dean of the Lawrence conservatory of music, has been a staple of the music education program of the annual Mile of Music festival.

“We are thrilled to expand our offerings this year by adding mariachi, Afro-Cuban drumming and singing, and Recycled Rhythms: Creating Music with Found Objects,” Pertl added. “All of this is in addition to our traditional favorites like the Great Mile Sing Along, samba drumming, Balinese gamelan, instrumental workshops, song writing workshops, the all-inclusive community hand drum circle and singing story books. We can wait to make music with community members.”

Among the dedicated team of music educators assisting the Pertls are 16 workshop leaders with ties to Lawrence.

In addition to the education aspects of Mile of Music, Lawrence will be represented on the performance side. Among the groups performing, one group with a number of representatives is Porky’s Groove Machine.

An all Lawrence alumni band, Porky’s Groove Machine performs four times during the festival, including twice on the festival’s opening day — Thursday Aug. 3 at 10 p.m. on the Mile of Music bus and again at 11:50 p.p. at the Gibson Music Hall.

They return to the stage Friday Aug. 4 at 8:50 p.m. at the Radisson Paper Valley Grand Ballroom and Saturday Aug. 5 at 7:10 p.m. at The Alley Project.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.