Spirituality found through music, community for street musicians

A well-known act of bravery and musicianship brings local street musicians and the Columbia community together, making each musician’s performance rewarding.

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Street musicians have been a part of American culture for years and have only increased in popularity. Walking the streets, the melodies of an instrument can be heard by a community of people and performed by musicians that genuinely care about the root of music, not necessarily the profit of the act. In downtown Columbia, there has been an increase in continuous street musicians that want to bring joy to people through their craft.

Scott Denson, an accordionist and Columbia resident, has been playing outside of Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream since 2011. After retirement, Denson had more time to enjoy his passion for playing the accordion, a skill he learned when he was a child. The accordion has always been in Denson’s life and is something that gives him enough happiness to share.

“I’ve been doing this so long now I know people that walk by,” Denson said. “I know a lot of people that come back.”

Although tips are greatly appreciated, Denson believes the experience of getting to know people from Columbia and interacting with the community is what makes performing on the street worth it. The music that Denson plays has more meaning to him than one would expect.

“I think music brings people together and that’s what I’m about,” Denson said. “I mean I’m about, you know, the human relationships...that’s how I see God.”

Up Ninth Street and around the corner, a well-known street-band called The Band of Brothers plays festive melodies accompanied with soft motion lights and speakers. Michael Miller, guitarist and Columbia resident, started sharing his musical abilities four years ago when his brother convinced him to play in public.

“When we started, we didn’t have anything like that,” Miller said. “[My brother] had a little keyboard and I had a little wooden guitar.”

Although The Band of Brothers had a rocky start to the street-musician life, the loving support from local Columbians is what keeps their music going. Playing on the streets every weekend has become a tradition to the brothers and a time to look forward to. The most rewarding part of being a street musician for Miller would be the things he sees and learns from other Columbians.

“Being able to connect emotionally and spiritually with people,” Miller said. “I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned a lot about human beings, being able to witness life on the streets, if you will, and being able to interact with people...learning more about the human spirit.”

Not all street musicians have to bring their own instruments, thanks to the 9th Street piano that sits outside of The Heidelberg. Dennis Froeschner, pianist and Columbia resident, comes to the free piano almost every week. Having musical skills makes this piano even more exciting to musicians who may not have access to one at home.

“This one is always here, for anybody,” Froeschner said. “I can spend an easy two hours here.”

Sometimes musical talent can escape a person’s memory but for Froeschner, hours of music stays in his brain, where he can utilize these notes and rhythms and bring his music to the people.

The connection that music can create to bring different people together is astonishing for musicians like Denson, and something that is highlighted with street musicians. The dedication and time that every street musician puts into their work shows the bond that they hold with music, Miller exclaimed, and the desire to enlighten those around them with the elements of melody.

Edited by Alexandra Sharp | asharp@themaneater.com

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