The little girl played long and well, graciously acknowledging support with a dignified lift of her eyebrows.
I’d have missed her entirely as I rushed along College Avenue late Saturday afternoon, paced by an increasingly strong Mile of Music FOMO.
But, I looked down for a moment, caught her eye and chuckled a little. As is my habit, I snapped a picture. Later, I realized that picture told the story of Appleton’s ascent as one of the best cities for music in the country.
The little girl sat in a doorway with a school-supply recorder in her hands and an upside down baseball cap at her side. As she played people gamely and habitually dropped money in her cap. In any other town, she might have been manning a lemonade stand.
Here in Appleton, though, it is music that refreshes folks on hot summer days and I smiled to see her peddling hers so sweetly.
Certainly, Mile of Music owes its success to its co-founders, specifically Cory Chisel’s creativity and charisma and Dave Willems’ inexhaustible drive. But, Appleton’s love affair with music predates their collaboration by a good 166 years.
Lawrence University and its renown music conservatory have anchored the Avenue since 1847. Its impact on the area arts community has been profound. Just down the street, Heid Music has been supplying lessons and instruments since 1947.
Add to that an educational system, both public and private, that nurtures talent from preschool on and you begin to see a community that understands the cumulative value of music.
Just a little while after I left the enterprising young girl, I watched Traveller romped across the Houdini stage. Later that night, Molly and I climbed to the top of the Midtown Parking Garage to see Wild Adriatic fire up a record crowd.
From a quiet doorstep to a rowdy main stage, it was good to see music alive and well and growing in Appleton.