Tag: Mile of Music

Mile of Music festival comes roaring back; Lawrence music team is all in

Mile of Music returns for four days beginning Aug. 5. Lawrence University will once again be an important partner. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Mile of Music is back, and with it comes a return of the Music Education Team, led by Lawrence Conservatory of Music faculty, students, and alumni.

The COVID-19 pandemic put the annual all-original music festival on hold last year, but it’s returning to downtown Appleton Aug. 5-8 for Mile 8. Launched in 2013, the Mile of Music festival has become one of the signature summer events in the Fox Cities, drawing upwards of 90,000 people to outdoor venues, bars, and coffee shops over four days. Pandemic-related adjustments are being made this week, including a larger percentage of the more than 600 live music sets taking place outdoors.

Some of the performances will again land on the Lawrence campus, with both Memorial Chapel (masks required) and the lawn in front of Ormsby Hall (listed as the Lawrence Listening Lawn on the Mile 8 schedule) in play. The festival, presented by Willems Marketing & Events, stretches for a mile along and near College Avenue, from the Lawrence campus on the east end of downtown to Richmond Street on the west end.

The festival schedule—admission to all performances is free—was released over the weekend and can be found here.

Lawrence has played a key role in the festival’s success from the beginning, with instructor of music education Leila Ramagopal Pertl ’87 serving as music education curator, leading a robust Music Education Team that connects with festival-goers for an array of interactive music experiences that augment the live shows. She will again get a leadership assist from Jaclyn Kottman Kittner ’12, a teacher at the Lawrence Community Music School who serves as the director of operations, and Dean of the Conservatory Brian Pertl ’86.

A bevy of other faculty, students, and alumni will be part of the team. Among the 25 featured interactions: Balinese gamelan and angklung (pitched bamboo rattles) taught by I Dewa Ketut Alit Adnyana, a gamelan master, and Sonja Downing, professor of ethnomusicology at Lawrence, and angklung teacher and author Indah Erdmann; Nestor Dominguez ’15 is back to teach mariachi, joined by Jando Valdez ‘24, who recently led the formation of a Mariachi Ensemble at Lawrence; and Brazilian samba drumming and Ghanaian Ewe drumming and dancing courtesy of Alex Quade ’22, Kenni Ther ’16, and Mindara Krueger-Olson ’22.

The music education events will take place in various settings throughout the downtown, including the green space outside of Memorial Chapel and the lawn north of Brokaw Hall known as The Grove.

Get to know the Music Education Team here

Leila Ramagopal Pertl ’87 will again lead the Music Education Team for Mile of Music.

“This year, because of COVID safety concerns, we are not including any activities that include group singing or playing brass or woodwind instruments,” Ramagopal Pertl said. “There will, however, still be plenty of powerful music-making to explore. We want our sessions to help participants find ways to heal from the stress and isolation of the pandemic. So, a main focus this year will be to empower personal and collaborative expression through songwriting, drawing, drumming, and movement.”

“Everyone is equally valued and heard”

Bernard Lilly Jr. ’18, who performs as B. Lilly and will again be a performer during Mile of Music, will lead songwriting workshops, as will Wade Fernandez, also a Mile 8 performer.

The majority of the music workshops are for all ages and are being supported by community partners Heid Music and the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.

“I’m elated to once again lead a songwriting/song-making workshop,” said Lilly, a talented Chicago-based recording artist who will juggle his music education duties with five performances (two on Thursday, three on Friday) during Mile of Music.

He called the workshops an opportunity to connect with the community on a more intimate level.

“In our sessions, everyone is equally valued and heard regardless of age, gender, race, and musical experience,” he said. “It’s truly a safe space. Our multi-generational rooms create an atmosphere that is welcoming, vulnerable, open, and available to the moment. In my opinion, that is the formula for creativity to commence.”

In addition to his songwriting workshops, Bernard Lilly Jr. ’18 will perform five live shows as B. Lilly. Thursday: 6:15 p.m. at The Bar on the Avenue and 8:20 p.m. at McFleshman’s Brewing Co.; Friday: 11 a.m. with Decoda at OuterEdge, 6:50 p.m. at Deja Vu Martini Lounge, and 9 p.m. at Gibson Community Music Hall.

The songwriting workshops, and, really, the entire roster of interactive experiences, are built on collaboration and conversation. That is something that is special for those leading the workshops as well as those on the receiving end, Lilly said.

“It’s therapeutic and, for me, powerful to witness,” he said. 

The Decoda Chamber Music Festival, running from July 28 to Aug. 6 at Lawrence, will include multiple Mile 8 performances, and its instructors and students will partner with the Music Education Team to present interactive sessions. This is the first time the Decoda festival has been held in Appleton, and Michael Mizrahi, a professor of music and a founding member of the Decoda collective, said the opportunity to connect with Mile of Music was a driving force in bringing it here. Read more about the Decoda festival here.

In a partnership between the Decoda festival and the Music Education Team, some of the Decoda students are working with Lilly, creating arrangements of his song, Dear America.  They have been collaborating for the past week and will perform with Lilly at 11 a.m. Friday at OuterEdge.

Brian Pertl called the collaboration “particularly powerful” and a joy to watch unfold in real time.

“The classical musicians from the festival are learning so much from Bernard,” he said. “It’s really beautiful.”

That communal relationship feels that much more important this year as we inch toward something resembling normalcy, even as the pandemic continues to keep us from being fully immersed in our surroundings.

“At a time when we are just emerging from being isolated from community, collaboration and self-expression in music-making become deeply important,” Ramagopal Pertl said.

The student connection

Moreau Halliburton ’22 is part of the Music Education Team.

Moreau Halliburton ’22 will be among the Lawrence students joining the Music Education Team. She will partner with Ramagopal Pertl to present Art-istry of Music and Body Percussion! workshops.

The Art-istry of Music will give participants the opportunity to interpret live music through drawing and then have musicians “play their drawings,” Ramagopal Pertl said. The Body Percussion! sessions will explore our ability to make music in the simplest of ways.

“We are excited to show the greater Appleton community the power of connecting through song and rhythm using our beautifully diverse bodies,” said Halliburton, who has a self-designed major in music identity studies. “I fell in love with body percussion because you can play music anywhere with anyone.”

This is Halliburton’s first chance to take part in Mile of Music. It’s an experience she didn’t want to miss before she graduates in June.

“I think this kind of music and arts outreach is important because I believe in the magic of community-building through music,” she said. “I also appreciate the connections built between LU students and faculty and the Appleton community through Mile and the playful work done there. This past year has been really difficult for me to connect to the Appleton community because of COVID-19, and now, more than ever, I appreciate and want to find as many of these opportunities as I can before I graduate.”

More music

Sarah Phelps ’07, meanwhile, will focus her energies on the Mile’s youngest participants, presenting Beyond Singing Storybooks with Melissa Fields, an Appleton Area School District teacher. Keira Jett ’18 and Betsy Kowal Jett, the Conservatory’s community programs manager, will present workshops on songwriting for teens and storybook sound exploration for younger children.

“These workshops, along with many others, presented with COVID safety in mind, will bring back a joyful, engaging, and much-needed sense of community through something we all share—our musical birthright,” Ramagopal Pertl said.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Music is everywhere as Mile 7 gets rolling; partnerships grow deeper

With a whistle in his mouth, Kenni Ther gestures while leading the Brazilian samba drumming workshop Thursday at Mile of Music.
Kenni Ther ’16 leads the Brazilian samba drumming workshop in Houdini Plaza during Thursday’s opening day of Mile of Music.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Kenni Ther ’16 had his young charges hanging on his every word, eyes focused, sticks in hand, a mix of drums and upside-down buckets in play on a gorgeous afternoon in downtown Appleton’s Houdini Plaza.

“I get tired of talking sometimes,” Ther told the gathering of several dozen kids and the adults they brought along for this high-energy teaching session on Brazilian samba drumming. “That’s why I have the drum. I’ll let the drum do the talking for me.”

And, so he did. And the young drummers followed suit as a couple hundred spectators nodded their approval.

A few hundred feet to the east, a crowd overflowed from the patio at Bazil’s Pub as singer-songwriter Christopher Gold played a heartfelt set and shared stories of joy and despair and the wisdom gained from both.

It was the middle of the afternoon. On a Thursday. Welcome to Mile of Music.

The annual four-day all-original music festival kicked off its seventh edition on Thursday, mixing nearly 900 live music sets in 70-plus venues with more than 40 interactive music education workshops, a blend that differentiates this festival from most any other music event on the planet. It continues through Sunday — and, yes, admission is free.

The Music Education Team, supported by a grant from the Bright Idea Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, is a full-on Lawrence University juggernaut, led by music education instructor Leila Ramagopal Pertl. It features more than 25 instructors, many of them, like Ther, alumni who developed their musical skills and nurtured their passion for music while students at the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

Full lineup of Mile 7 music education workshops here.

Meet the Lawrence-led Music Education Team here.

Like the festival itself, the music education workshops have grown in size and scope since first launching in 2013. More than 7,000 people are expected to take part in the hands-on sessions before the finale, a ukulele workshop, brings it to a close on Sunday afternoon.

“It’s great to get out in the community and have people learn music in not a classroom setting,” Ther said after the samba drumming workshop ended. “Sometimes people think you only get to learn music in your private lessons or in a school band or orchestra or choir. No, music is for everybody. Everyone listens to music, so everyone has the right to be their own musician and figure out music on their own.”

Nestor Dominguez ’14 talks to the audience during a mariachi workshop in The Grove, a green space next to Brokaw Hall.
Nestor Dominguez ’14 is joined by Mariachi Jabali as they lead a mariachi workshop Thursday in The Grove, a green space next to Brokaw Hall, during Mile of Music.

A few blocks down College Avenue, on the green space next to Brokaw Hall known as The Grove, Nestor Dominguez ’14 was leading a mariachi band — Mariachi Jabali, featuring students from Appleton North High School — as they introduced the music to a couple hundred onlookers. They ran through a variety of music within the mariachi genre, from jarabe to bolero to ranchera to polka.

“Just get up and wiggle around and come up with a dance,” Dominguez encouraged the crowd as the band showcased the popular jarabe style. “If you’re going to be here with us, you need to get up and dance.”

Then there was bolero, the mariachi music of romance. Dominguez, who plays and teaches mariachi music in Chicago, encouraged the crowd to make and maintain eye contact with the person next to them as the music played.

“Eye contact is so important,” he told them. “Let’s connect as human beings. … I’m not saying you’re going to fall in love with the person next to you, but that would be all right.”

A world of music in our back yard

As the music education offerings at Mile of Music have evolved over the past seven installments, they’ve taken on a more global feel, Brazilian samba drumming and mariachi being part of a festival mix that also includes, among others, Ghanaian drumming and dance, Afro-Cuban singing, and Balinese gamelan. New this year are sessions on Native American music and dances of India.

That’s not by accident. Ramagopal Pertl said the team has purposefully set out to showcase as many cultures and styles as possible, a theme embraced by team members and the audience alike.

“That is really important, especially for the little ones,” said Francisca Hiscocks of Appleton, a native of Spain who attended Thursday’s Brazilian samba drumming session. “Just for their education, to be exposed to something different, that’s important. For me being from a different country, I think this is so great.”

More on the connections between Lawrence, Mile of Music here.

Porky’s Groove Machine returns to Lawrence, Mile of Music. Read more here.

Thel, who teaches music at a middle school in Oshkosh, said cultural variety in the festival’s music education outreach is all about being inclusive and enlightening.

“Maybe hip hop is your thing, that’s great,” he said. “Maybe acoustic guitar playing is your thing, or the ukulele workshop, that’s your thing. Everyone has a specific rhythm in their heart that they can relate and respond to. We’re just trying to help people figure out what that is.”

Mile of Music was drawing rave reviews as it got rolling Thursday. Music could be heard coming from everywhere along and near College Avenue — in bars and coffee shops, in Memorial Chapel, on patios, in alleyways and on green spaces on the Lawrence campus. Even from a camper parked on the Ormsby Hall lawn, home to the Tiny House Listening Lounge, a new venue for this year’s festival.

“I think this is just all really cool,” said Sarah Fischer of Appleton, taking in the festival’s opening day.

Bernard Lilly ’18, who performs as B. Lilly, puts on a songwriting and performance workshop at Copper Rock Coffee Company during Mile of Music.

More photos of the 2019 Music Education Team workshops here.

Cool, indeed. And the opportunity to bang a drum, get a lesson in songwriting, or learn about Native American flute playing while you’re here, well, that’s a bonus that is music to the ears of anyone who cherishes the connections between the festival, the community and Lawrence.

“We all agreed from the beginning that this wasn’t the type of festival that was ogling celebrity, it was craft focused,” said Cory Chisel, the Appleton-raised singer-songwriter who co-founded the festival with marketing executive Dave Willems. “It was like, here are innovative, exciting songwriters from around the world, and I wanted to bring all those people to Appleton specifically because of the specialness of this place and the music that was inside of us and the talent level we have inside of us here.”

It isn’t just about listening to and discovering new music, although that is a huge focus of the festival. It’s also about participating in the music-making, connecting the community with the music, Chisel said. Hence, the launch and growth of the Music Education Team. The partnership with Lawrence for that piece was as important as anything else in establishing the festival as one of the bright lights of the Midwest music scene.

“Mile of Music was about that connection,” Chisel said. “And Lawrence has been deepening and strengthening that community relationship.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Porky’s finds its goofy, funky groove in return to Lawrence, Mile of Music

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

What does a hot dog, a squid, and a red Power Ranger have in common?

Well, they are the stage personas for three of the seven members of Porky’s Groove Machine, a high-energy funk band known for mixing big musical talents with randomly odd costumes and a heavy dose of silliness.

The Minneapolis-based band, which got its start on the Lawrence University campus and is comprised completely of Lawrence alumni, is bringing its love of music and fun back to Appleton for the annual Mile of Music festival Aug. 1-4. The band will be performing on stage (details below) and for the fifth year in a row will be part of the Music Education Team presenting immersive musical experiences throughout the downtown festival.

Mile of Music, Lawrence have deep ties. See more here.

Fresh off the release of a new album, Hello, My Name Is, Porky’s Groove Machine continues to build a strong fan base across the Midwest, all while dressed in incredibly random costumes.

Matt Lowe ’14, Marshall Yoes ’14, Eli Edelman ’14, Nick Allen ’14, Luke Rivard ’15, Ilan Blanck ’16 and Shasta Tresan ’17 all got their start with the band while students at Lawrence. They bonded via the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, started out playing campus parties and have maintained a close association with the school and Appleton even though they’ve all settled nearly 300 miles away in the Twin Cities.

“We were just hanging out, getting really excited about music through the Conservatory,” Allen said of the band’s start-up. “And we wanted to play. So, we just got together to jam a little bit and then, like, make up some songs.”

Eight years later, Porky’s is a thing.

We caught up with the band earlier this summer when they returned to downtown Appleton to play the weekly Heid Music Summer Concert Series in Houdini Plaza.  

Porky's Groove Machine, wearing wildly random costumes, perform on stage at Houdini Plaza.
The wildly random costumes have long been part of the show for Porky’s Groove Machine. It started when they were Lawrence students, playing campus parties. Here they perform earlier this summer in Houdini Plaza in downtown Appleton.

Goofy from the start 

The group initially formed in 2011 while all the original members of the band were students at Lawrence. What started as a cover band playing campus parties quickly evolved. Since then, the band has grown in size and outreach, rotated in new members (all Lawrentians) and wrote a ton of music, some of which is featured on Hello, My Name Is, an album released in March.

The band has grown a lot from those early days at Lawrence, but it was at Lawrence where the foundation for spreading funk and silliness was set.

The campus environment, where people were learning and challenging themselves but also having a good time, set the wheels in motion. It turns out things don’t always have to be so serious. Sure, a classical music education was part of the process, but improvisation was always encouraged and a sense of humor was embraced.

“I feel like just having gone to Lawrence and just having been in this funny environment, you know what I mean, where these particularly funny things happen, there’s already a common ground for a sort of goofiness,” Blanck said.

The band took that goofiness and supercharged it on stage. They’ve come to be known for their creative stage personas. When performing at parties on campus in those early days, they would dress to fit the theme of the party. It carried over from there, and soon fans were connecting to the random weirdness of the band’s costumes.

Blanck said he remembers that a-ha moment when he realized the costumes had become an important part of their identity as a band.

“I remember we played a show once and people tweeted at us,” Blanck said. “Someone we didn’t know was like ‘#powerranger, #squid , #hotdogtrombone, so confused but I’m so happy,’ and it was like, I guess those are alive now, and then from there on everyone started looking for it, kind of digging into it a little more.”  

Ilan Blanck wears a red Power Ranger suit while performing at Houdini Plaza.
Ilan Blanck ’16 wears the red Power Ranger suit with pride. The costumes, he said, are part of the fun and help make the band accessible.

Porky’s takes off

Porky’s became a well-known group on campus, performing at events ranging from an Earth Day celebration to a Yule Ball. And as the on-campus following grew, they started to become recognizable off campus as well, performing at bars and clubs in downtown Appleton and elsewhere in the Fox Valley.

“I remember our first off-campus show was at Déjà vu Martini Lounge,” Allen said. 

As band members graduated, many began settling in the Twin Cities. Eventually, all who stayed with the band landed there. And while they all have day jobs, many of them music related, they began dedicating more and more time to Porky’s. In 2018, they played nearly 70 shows. The band became a registered LLC in the state of Minnesota, and Porky’s, if it wasn’t before, was now a full-on passion that was commanding much of their free time. 

“We all ended up moving to Minneapolis to make Porky’s happen, so it’s a serious component of how we are making decisions in our lives,” Yoes said. 

Making music 

As Porky’s has become that serious — yet still goofy — endeavor, the music the band performs has shifted and evolved. What started as a mostly cover band with only one or two original tracks is now a band producing mostly original music. They have released three EPs and two albums to date.  

“When we first started, when we played these gigs at the bars downtown, we’d play a four-hour show, and you know we would have to fill all this time, so we played a bunch of covers and we jammed them out for 15 or 20 minutes each,” Lowe said.

“And then our originals would be like, ‘Hey, everybody, we finally wrote a song.’ We’d have one song to show off.  Now it’s more like we’ll do an all-original set and then we’ll put in two or three covers.”

The humor behind their stage personas also shows up in their homegrown lyrics. With songs like “Don’t Put Love in the Granola” or “The (Not Quite a) Ball of Trombone,” the group embraces the silliness. 

“We hear from people who see our show who maybe don’t get a big dose of goofy in their lives,” Allen said. “We often hear from people who are like, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this before, but thank you.’

“So, that always inspires me and makes me feel good to come up with something that’s going to connect with someone and give them a sort of absurdity or silliness or some kind of release that they need.” 

Beyond a band  

Porky’s Groove Machine members also apply this concept of releasing people’s silly side when they teach music workshops. And they do a lot of workshops, mostly geared toward children, spreading the joy of music-making.

“We get questions from students, like why do you wear your costumes, why do you look like that, or why are you running around and yelling?” Rivard said.

“And our whole perspective is, well, you know, rather than approaching music in a very studious and very hard to reach place, we want to make it as comfortable and as inviting to students as possible. That allows us to get students to improvise and to write music on the spot because they feel comfortable. They know that no matter what they do, they’re not going to look dumber than we do.”

The workshops that are part of Mile of Music are among their favorites. Through working with the festival’s Music Education Team, led by Lawrence music education instructor Leila Ramagopal Pertl, the group has been able to share that love of music in Appleton. It’s one of the things that has inspired them to create workshops of their own where they are able to teach students improvisation, music fundamentals, and thinking outside the box.  

Staying Connected  

Being able to teach music as a band and perform several times a year in the Appleton area has given the members the opportunity to stay tight with Lawrence, the Conservatory in particular.

“We are back here all the time, seeing the dean and our teachers,” Lowe said. “We performed at the Lawrence Academy camp (two summers ago), and we’re working with the Mile of Music Education Team, which is deeply linked with the Lawrence Conservatory.” 

For Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory, the success of the Porky’s band speaks to the commitment and joy each of the band members finds in music. And their willingness to give back through Mile of Music and other music workshops is a great reflection on Lawrence and the mission of the Conservatory.

“I have had the great pleasure and privilege of working closely with almost every member of Porky’s,” Pertl said. “In particular, Matt Lowe and Nick Allen took didgeridoo lessons with me for their entire four years at Lawrence.”

Don’t let the goofball costumes fool you. The music that Porky’s is creating is stellar. That it’s mixed with energy and fun, and delivered with a full heart, all the better.

“I love that Porky’s seamlessly combines high-level musicianship, a sense of humor, and a deep commitment to music education,” Pertl said. 

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office. 

Where to see Porky’s at Mile of Music

Friday, Aug. 2: 9:30 p.m. at Deja Vu Martini Lounge, 519 W. College Ave., Appleton

Saturday, Aug. 3: 7:40 p.m. at Emmett’s Bar and Grill, 139 N. Richmond St., Appleton

Saturday, Aug. 3: 10 p.m. on the Mile of Music bus.

Deep connections: Lawrence, Mile of Music in sync from the start

Leila Ramagopal Pertl participates in a sing-along at an earlier Mile of Music festival.
Leila Ramagopal Pertl, a music education instructor at Lawrence University, has been the leader of Mile of Music’s Music Education Team from the start.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

There has been a special blend of music in the air in Appleton each August since Mile of Music was founded in 2013.

From the debut six years ago through the upcoming seventh edition, Lawrence University has been tightly connected to the all-original music festival every step of the way, most notably by leading the robust music education component, but also providing performance spaces and counting its alumni among the performing artists.

Mile of Music returns for Mile 7 Aug. 1-4, with 900 performances taking place in 70 venues along a mile stretch of College Avenue in the city’s downtown. Nearly 50 music education workshops will be included, organized by the Music Education Team (MET), allowing festival-goers to get interactive instruction in diverse forms of music and dance.

I talked with Brian Pertl, dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, and Leila Ramagopal Pertl, a Lawrence instructor in music education and the festival’s music education curator, about the five deepest ties between Lawrence and Mile of Music.

1. Lawrence’s fingerprints have been on Mile of Music from the start

In the spring of 2013, Mile of Music co-founders Dave Willems and Cory Chisel approached Brian Pertl with a vision of using the new festival as a way to support music education in the community. Pertl referred them to Ramagopal Pertl, whose passion for music education led her to the motto, “Music is a birthright.”

She suggested the new festival incorporate hands-on music-making workshops, an idea that proved to be brilliant. The music education component was a hit from the get-go, and has grown far more robust in the six years since that debut. It has solidified Mile of Music’s reputation as a special community learning experience.

“It’s what sets this festival apart from probably any other festival in the world, that there’s this priority on allowing people in the community to learn,” Ramagopal Pertl said.

2. Music Education Team has a Lawrentian vibe

The Music Education Team is responsible for organizing and leading the Mile’s music education workshops, which give festival guests the opportunity to discover their musical selves through a variety of music and dance instruction. It continues this year courtesy of a grant from the Bright Idea Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.

The MET is made up of professional artists and educators with a knack for engaging a crowd. The team is heavy on Lawrence participation, from music faculty to alumni to students; the latter can receive class credit for participating.

See the music education workshop schedule here.

The seven members of Porky’s Groove Machine, all Lawrence alumni, are a big part of the MET. The Minneapolis-based funk band, also a popular festival performer, has been returning for the festival for five years, in large part because of the opportunity to engage with people in the workshops. Each of the band members — Matt Lowe ’14, Marshall Yoes ’14, Eli Edelman ’14, Nick Allen ’14, Luke Rivard ’15, Ilan Blanck ’16 and Shasta Tresan ’17 — are tied in to music education on some level, making the music workshops they do here and elsewhere a natural extension of their passions.

“Mile of Music is what really prompted us to think, ‘Oh, we can do this as a group together,’” Lowe said. “I would attribute that to Brian Pertl and his wife, Leila, who are the star music educators of the world. They taught us a lot of what we know and how to do things, and we’re definitely inspired by them.”

Other alums also are returning to lead workshops, Corey Torres ’12 and Bernard Lilly ’18 among them.

Porky’s Groove Machine keeps the funk rolling. See more here.

Meet the full Music Education Team here.

The festival’s workshops range from mariachi, hip-hop and samba to Afro-Cuban drumming, P-bone funk and Balinese angklung.

Last year, the 25-member Music Education Team led nearly 50 music education events that were attended by more than 7,000 festival-goers. By the end of this year’s festival, more than 25,000 people will have participated in the interactive events since they were launched during Mile 1.

Ramagopal Pertl said connecting people to the music — as participants, not just passive listeners — has proven to be a draw.

“It’s really important for people to come and feel what it’s like to make music in collaboration with other people around you,” she said. “Not only are you probably rediscovering something that was yours to begin with, but you have a greater understanding of why artists on the Mile play music. That was important for us here on the MET.”

Ilan Blanck, a member of Porky's Groove Machine, teaches at a guitar workshop during an earlier Mile of Music.
Ilan Blanck ’16, here teaching a guitar workshop at an earlier Mile of Music, will return with Porky’s Groove Machine to both teach at workshops and perform. The band members have been part of Mile of Music for the last five years.

3. Lawrence alumni on stage at Mile of Music

Lawrence alumni have graced the Mile of Music stages since the festival’s founding. Porky’s Groove Machine is coming back to the Mile this year in full costume to put on a funk-inspired show, and Lilly, performing as B. Lilly, will showcase his signature blend of R&B, jazz, hip-hop and gospel, in addition to leading a songwriting and performance workshop.

Both have been popular draws at previous Mile of Music festivals. Both also return to Appleton frequently to perform, their fan bases helping to establish this as a second home.

The Mile of Music performance schedule has just been released. See it here.

Porky’s will perform at 9:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2 at Deja Vu Martini Lounge, 519 W. College Ave., and 7:40 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3 at Emmett’s Bar and Grill, 139 N. Richmond St. They’ll also be performing on the Mile of Music bus at 10 p.m. Saturday.

B. Lilly will perform at 7:40 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2 at Fox River House, 211 S. Walnut St., and 6:40 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3 at OB’s Brau Haus, 523 W. College Ave. He’ll also be on the Mile of Music bus at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

For more on B. Lilly, Porky’s Groove Machine and other Mile of Music performers, including a chance to sample their music, visit here.

Lawrence Memorial Chapel is seen during an earlier Mile of Music performance.
Memorial Chapel is among the spaces on the Lawrence campus again hosting Mile of Music performances. Stansbury Theater and Harper Hall also will be utilized for performances or music education workshops, as will outdoor green spaces near the Conservatory.

4. Lawrence venues anchor the east end of the Mile

State-of-the-art performance facilities and beautiful green spaces make the Lawrence campus a great place to host music events.

Each year, Lawrence provides Mile of Music with venues for concerts and music education workshops. These include Stansbury Theater and Memorial Chapel, the latter being one of the festival’s main stages where artists from around the country enjoy resonant sound quality and intimate performance experiences.

Memorial Chapel, one of the festival’s Main Stages, will host more than 25 performances between Thursday and Saturday, including start-your-day medleys featuring three artists each at noon Thursday, 11:30 a.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday. Some of the notables scheduled for the chapel stage include Dan Rodriguez with The Talbott Brothers (6:45 p.m. Friday), King Cardinal (8:40 p.m. Friday), a combo of Tanya Gallagher, Paul Childers, Megan Slankard and Bascom Hill (6:30 p.m. Saturday) and Hugh Masterson (8 p.m. Saturday).

Harper Hall and outdoor green spaces such as The Grove and the Conservatory Green often host music education events on the east end of the Mile.

Mile of Music’s interactive workshops draw festival-goers of all ages. An estimated 7,000 people took part in the workshops during last year’s four-day festival.

5. Bonding over shared philosophies of community engagement

Lawrence and Mile of Music both emphasize community, a connection that has brought success since their partnership began in 2013. As part of that, the Music Education Team has put an emphasis on diversity, sharing instruments and music from across cultures in interactive, intimate settings.

“Our MET team has a deep commitment to celebrating the diversity of cultures and music-making that exists right here in our community,” Pertl said.

For the first time this year, Mile of Music will represent Native American and Asian-Indian music with workshops on Native American flute and dances of India.

Mile of Music is all about using music to create community. And Lawrence’s work in creating a close-knit community on campus has extended to its partnership with Mile of Music.

“Lawrence’s commitment to building community through music and music education perfectly aligns with the mission of Mile of Music,” Pertl said. “The seven-year partnership between Mile and Lawrence has helped redefine Appleton as a city that deeply values art, music and music education.”

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office. Awa Badiane ’21 contributed to this report.

Lawrence music educators bring unique aspect to annual Mile of Music festival

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.

“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

“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.