Outdoor Musical Instruments Coming to Downtown Syracuse

Sep 8, 2016

Symphoria Operations Manager Victoria King plays a bell lyre, a sample of an instrument that could be part of one of three clusters in downtown Syracuse.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

  Those who live, work, or visit parts of downtown Syracuse will soon be able to try their hand at playing some musical instruments.  The drums, bells, and pipes will be installed in clusters at three locations as part of an effort to bring music to the community.  Symphoria Managing Director Catherine Underhill says the instruments will be weatherproof and ADA accessible.

"They're all melodic, they're all tuned so they're harmonious one with another," Underhill said.  "They'll all be in ensemble formation, so you can just walk up and make some music."

Underhill says the installations in Columbus Circle, Lemp Art Park, and tentatively, Everson Plaza, are intended to be a community connector that gets people engaged in the instruments and music played by Symphoria.

"It happens inside the concert hall, and this gives us a way to bring that experience into the streets of downtown," Underhill said.  "It's also an invitation for people to come downtown, check out what's going on.  There's a lot of energy, activity, people, and projects happening downtown.  It's a very exciting time."   

Quinton Fletchall is project coordinator with the Connective Corridor, which is a partner in the endeavor, along with the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County.

Symphoria Principal Percussionist Michael Bull plays a set of babel drums.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

"Now that we've built this physical streetscape, we have a foundation or a stage to activate," Fletchall said.  "With these public art pieces and these instruments, it's a way of hopefully getting people on the street  walking by, or maybe inviting more people to come downtown and check out these things."

Fletchall says the cluster of instruments in Columbus Circle will be accompanied by a piece of public art called "Storytime".  It’s 10-foot clock that tells time through a narrative of important, or not so important moments in time, many of which have been submitted by residents.  Some are very personal, like the time a child was born, to 'it's 3:21 a.m.  Yes, Netflix, I'm still watching.'

"Everything from the important historical moment of the tip-off of the 1955 NBA Championship Game which the Syracuse Nationals won.  That I believe was at 3:30 p.m....to just the everyday, maybe you're walking by, and it says 'man, it's already time for my second cup of coffee.'   Time is both literal and figurative."  

The instruments are expected to be installed later this month or early next.  In the meantime, Catherine Underhill says musicians plan to do pop-up performances near the future sites to introduce passers by to get people excited about the instruments.  As for the 10-foot clock planned Columbus Circle...well, it’s running a little behind; it’s on track for later this fall.  

From left to right, Michael Bull, Victoria King, and Melissa Bassett demonstrate instruments in Columbus Circle, future site of a community instrument cluster.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News