By: Abby Nelson, Staff Writer
In the Old Port on a Saturday night, music played by street performers echoes across the cobblestone. Whether it be a loud voice belting from blocks away or the melody of a saxophone ringing down the alleys, there is no question live music is a part of Portland’s nightlife.
Before musicians were recorded, street performing was the best way for musicians to make money and get their name and music out into the world. Passing city folk enjoyed stopping for a moment or two to listen and give money, food, drink or even gifts.
This relaxed and inviting environment is part of the reason USM third year student Jill Buote loves to sing and play 90’s rock music on the streets. Buote said she has always been a performer. She has been playing, writing and performing in school productions for most of her life. Last September, she began performing in the Old Port.
“I was amazed at how many people stopped and tossed me some money.” Buote said. She typically makes around $100 dollars each time she plays. According to Buote, Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons seem to be the best time to attract foot traffic. She tries to go out as much as possible until it’s snowing and too cold to play.
The combination of earning some extra pocket change and the enjoyment of performing is what makes playing music on the street appealing to USM second year student Josh Hyssong. “My main instrument is the saxophone. I play alto sax, tenor sax, and baritone saxophone, but mainly alto and baritone,” Hyssong said. Most of what he plays while on the street is improvisation and some jazz idiom.
Hyssong started performing in Portland last fall, although he hasn’t done it as much this semester. He said that Portland is a popular area for street performers, therefore when he performs he always tries to be respectful of the other performers by keeping his distance so their music doesn’t clash. Despite the abundance of performers, he said it is not a competitive environment. In fact, he said it opens up an avenue to make connections. Buote said she participated in an open mic competition due to a connection she made while street performing.
The welcoming atmosphere is a unique attribute to street performing. Both Buote and Hyssong began to perform on the street for the fun of it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a spectacular performer or just learned to play.
“It’s not one of those things where someone will record you and it’ll be held against you forever. I like that freedom,” Buote said, “I really like the liberty of setting up wherever I want to. I can be there as long as I want. I can sing my heart out and play people’s requests.”