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Musicians hold concerts for voters waiting in line

Posted at 3:01 PM, Nov 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-03 15:01:00-05

As millions of Americans head to the polls today for the last day of voting, a group of artists has been deployed to help them pass the time.

With a strum of her bow, violinist Paula Johannessen is off.

“Some poll workers were really excited, too, that they were just happy to hear music,” said Johannessen.

But today, her performance is dedicated to the American voter.

“I played a lot of Irish music so far, and I'll continue to some jigs reels and waltzes,” she said.

It’s called Play for the Vote, a non-partisan effort by artists and performers to bring music to the ballot box.

“It's nice to remind people that we are still here, we're still performing, we're still here to share what we have with everybody,” explained Johannessen.

Boston-based cellist Mike Block came up with the idea after the contentious first presidential debate.

“I was just kind of thinking about what the candidates were saying about, not just who you should vote for, but the stress around the process of voting itself,” said Block.

With long lines, health concerns, and the fate of the country hanging in the balance, Block decided musicians could help ease the anxiety.

“I think it's also this is going to serve a very important need for audiences, said Block.

“Music has this unique power to create shared unifying experiences and we haven't really had that this year.”

He recruited 600 musicians to perform classical, folk, bluegrass, jazz, rock and more without a political leaning. They will play in 48 states and the District of Columbia. All of it is for voters stuck in long lines, fulfilling their civic duty.

“It's always been a melting pot of music, as well as cultures here, and it's really cool just to be able to communicate with anyone anywhere through music,” said Johannessen.

“I think encountering this at a voting location is really going to remind people of the culture and all of the things that bring us together in society,” said Block.

It’s a good reminder of what we have in common today, no matter who we vote for.