Heights Music Hop combines forces with local music festivals
Three local music festivals have gained prominence in recent years. Larchmere PorchFest, in the Larchmere neighborhood near Shaker Square; Brite Winter Festival, in Ohio City; and Heights Music Hop, in the Cedar Lee Business District of Cleveland Heights, have each drawn large crowds with their unique blends of live music and area-centric culture. There are many commonalities between the three organizations, each being formed in a similar grassroots fashion and with organizers asking the questions, “What if?” and “Why not?” Now, through collaboration, these three festivals have gained staying power in Cleveland’s cultural scene.
Larchmere PorchFest began in 2008 when founder Katharyne Starinsky learned of a porch music festival in Ithaca, N.Y., and decided that Larchmere would be the perfect setting for a similar event. Featuring 20 bands performing on 20 porches throughout the neighborhood, the 2008 festival drew a crowd of about 800 people, and the success of that first year led to PorchFest becoming an annual event. This year’s festival, with 30 bands on 30 porches, is scheduled for June 20. It will feature many Heights-based musicians and will be supported by Heights merchants and organizations, including the Wine Spot, Grog Shop, WJCU radio and more. www.larchmereporchfest.org
Brite Winter joined the Cleveland festival scene in the winter of 2009, and has found great success and continues to draw large crowds. With the objective of embracing the winter weather and celebrating through music and activities, Brite Winter has cemented itself as an annual Cleveland event. “Six-plus years ago, Katharyne was one of the first people we talked to when we decided to start a music festival. We knew that planning for winter was going to be a challenge, so we sought out help from folks like Katharyne, who was already involved in making PorchFest a success,” said Emily Hornack, co-founder and board member of Brite Winter. www.britewinter.com
Heights Music Hop emerged in 2013, the brainchild of Jeff Coryell, former FutureHeights board member and current Cleveland Heights City Councilmember. A former resident of Austin, Texas, Coryell saw the success of the South by Southwest festival and believed that Cleveland Heights had the talent and resources to develop a similar event in which live music is performed in both traditional and nontraditional venues throughout a neighborhood. Through the work of FutureHeights board members and volunteers, as well as local merchants, the first Heights Music Hop was an instant success, drawing more than 1,000 people to the Cedar Lee neighborhood. The Hop will return for its third-annual festival on Sept. 19. heightsmusichop.com
Michael Kinsella, a co-founder and organizer of the Heights Music Hop, assisted with Brite Winter planning in past years and now also serves on the board and music selection committee of PorchFest. “The parallels between and energies around our three events are undeniable. Deciding to combine our efforts, talents and energies was entirely organic and truly does help take each of the events to the next level as we continue to improve upon each with every passing year. Cleveland is a relatively small town, so why compete when we can combine our passions for the benefit of all?” said Kinsella.
Starinsky, Hornack and Kinsella have been mentors and colleagues for years, and recently have worked together more formally, providing each other with marketing and sponsorship, and even volunteering at one another’s events. Because each festival resides in a different season, they quickly realized that they were partners, not competitors. The concept of “local supporting local” was relevant to all three as it became apparent that each event supported its own neighborhood.
When Hornack approached Starinsky about forming a winter music festival only months after the first PorchFest, Starinsky was thrilled to be able to offer her experience, and even shared her band list. “We had such fun bringing live, local music to the neighborhood, why wouldn’t we want to help others do it, in the winter no less?” said Starinsky, recalling the first meeting with Hornack. “And then, of course, Heights Music Hop appeared on the scene a few years later, so again, why not support like-minded people doing awesome work in their community?”
“It’s been really fun to watch all of these events pop up, highlighting how deep and broad our local music talent pool is,” said Hornack. “Even events that are not really music festivals are booking local bands. And we think that’s fantastic.”
Planning for the Sept. 19 Heights Music Hop is underway and more details will be released soon. The June 20 Larchmere PorchFest is quickly approaching, and details and music lineup information can be found at www.larchmereporchfest.org.
Daniel Budin is a lifelong Cleveland Heights resident and member of the FutureHeights Board of Directors. He is the current chairperson, and was a member of the founding committee, of the Heights Music Hop.