Oregon Children’s Music Festival comes to the coast

The Piano.Push.Play pianos, like the one shown here, will be introduced at the top of the morning on Aug. 24, as the first event of the Oregon Children’s Music Festival. (Courtesy photo)

This month, local teacher and parent Crystal Akins hopes to make musical magic for the kids of Lincoln County through an event that’s new to the coast: The Oregon Children’s Music Festival.

Akins has a background as a music teacher, a music therapist, a choral conductor and a children’s song composer. But this month she’s putting on one of her favorite hats: a music social activist.

“As a parent in this community, and then also as a community music maker, there isn’t a lot on the central Oregon coast that is just about kids, and something we can do inter-generationally,” said Akins. “So it really came from: what can I do with my entire family and my friends and my kiddo, where I can bring us all together and have a kiddo explore music and be curious — so that’s the number one thing is to create something that’s really for children and the entire family.”

That idea sprang forth two events: the music festival, and a children’s camp that will precede it.

The Oregon Children's Music Festival Residency Summer Camp runs from Aug. 19-23, and promises all kinds of musical fun: singing, dancing, playing instruments and even some visual art. And for all the kinds of music that the children like to play, there will be an instructor there to assist.

“I have professional musicians, teaching artists that are coming from Portland,” said Akins, “and the kids are going to be forming rock bands, working with hip hop artists, practicing beatboxing — I always talk with the kids and meet them where they’re at … so we have teachers that kind of represent the full spectrum.”

And, for preschoolers, there will be a visual arts component, because Akins knows from experience as a preschool teacher that younger children often like to combine music and art experiences.

Camp tuition is $20 per day, but arrangements will be made for families who would like to participate but cannot afford it.

“There’s no one that’s going to be turned away,” said Akins. “We never do that so every kiddo has access.”

After a week of laughter and learning, all the children will perform in their various ensembles at the festival in Regatta Park on Aug. 24. Other performers on stage that day will include Portland Taiko and Boka Marimba.

The day-long festival will kick off with an introduction to the Piano.Push.Play: an outreach project that temporarily installs beautifully grand pianos in public spaces so that communities have more access to the expensive instruments. Two of the painted pianos will be raffled off to support children’s music programming in Lincoln City.  A“Music in the Parks” dedication ceremony will be held later in the day by the Rotary Club of Lincoln City and the city’s parks and recreation department to celebrate the installation of five new outdoor musical instruments at Regatta Park.

Additionally, a community bonfire and silent disco party will be held near the 51st Street beach access for all to enjoy. The event is completely free, which is made possible through funding contributed by Akins, Explore Lincoln City and Lincoln City Parks and Recreation. Donations and the purchase of raffle tickets are welcome, but not required — funds from those two sources will go towards supporting music programming in Lincoln City, including the Lincoln City Children’s Choir.

Akins hopes the festival will inspire the community to come together after the event as well, to create more music programming for children in our county.

“If the community comes together, we can have a broader reach,” said Akins. “So we’re really looking to have people come from along the Oregon Coast … it’s really about a coming together for arts access for kiddos.”

Individuals or organizations interested in donating scholarship funds can contact Akins through www.oregonchildrensmusicfestival.com — where more details about the festival and camp can also be found.