Make Music Winter Returns On December 21

Elizabeth Dale

The eleventh annual Make Music Winter returns on December 21. The NAMM Foundation sponsors this free, outdoor, musical event. Each December, communities are encouraged to turn into music makers on the winter solstice, and this year, the celebration includes more than 35 cities.

While celebrations occur across the nation, Make Music Winter started in New York City in 2011, and since then the city has hosted some of the day's most dynamic events. This year is no different as the Big Apple and other participating cities host the first-ever “Mutant Toy Parade.” Children of all ages and their families are invited to make music and experiment with three types of “circuit-bent” modified toys designed by Argentina-based artist Laureano Cantarutti and assembled by Jochen Rueckert, an NYC-based percussionist.

Cantarutti discovered circuit bending and remembered all the sounds of his childhood. “Time passed by while I was playing with my toys, imaging stories, and soundscapes. At eight years old, I started studying music, and since then, I am continuously searching for new music-making possibilities with objects that, at first impression, can’t be used as a musical instrument.” As the world shifted over the last two years, Cantarutti found new, unique opportunities to share his music and discovered his chance to join forces with the Make Music Alliance. He credits much of his involvement with Make Music Winter to Matt Fox, Aaron Friedman, and Frank Garcia at the Make Music Alliance and to Sherry Huss and Joe Szuecs of the Maker Music Festival.

Each of the mutant toys contains a circuit inside that Cantarutti compares to its soul. He says, “We open the toy to get access to the circuit and start exploring new possibilities using a stripped wire to connect different points while simultaneously pushing the buttons that activate the toy's sounds.”

Once sounds are identified, electronic components like switches, potentiometers, photocells (LDRs) are installed to facilitate the experimentation with new sounds. Finally, the newly crafted instruments are reassembled and make their way to the hands of musicians. Participants will parade through the streets playing music via their mutant toys. After the conclusion of the parade, participating musicians are encouraged to take home their toys to continue their music-making experimentation. Mutant Toy Parades will take place in Montclair (NJ), New York (NY), Toledo (OH), Salem (OR), Altoona (PA), and Knoxville (TN).

While Cantarutti will not be able to attend the parade due to international travel restrictions, he is hoping to replicate the event in Córdoba, Argentina, and reports he will remain connected to the spirit of his parade. For more information from Cantarutti, please follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

Another proponent of making music is providing their expertise for the second year of exciting musical events. NAMM Member, Rhythm Band Instruments (RBI), ensures that the celebration spreads across the country by providing over 300 instruments to 11 cities this December. From bells to Boomwhackers, the instruments generously provided by RBI will be featured in concerts, interactive music events, workshops, and music lessons, offering aspiring musicians a chance to celebrate the power of music. Events include the “Bell by Bell” activation in New York City, where participants will receive a handbell crash course and delight audiences by playing color-coded bells. Other RBI-supported events will take place in Montgomery (AL), Toledo (OH), Salem (OR), Montclair (NJ), Altoona (PA), Federal Way and Gig Harbor (WA), and Milwaukee (WI).

MMW 2012 Bell by Bell

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RBI first got involved in Make Music Winter in 2020. We spoke with Lane Davy, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, who said, “The Make Music Winter celebration is such a positive event, and we’re happy that we get to support it each year. I can’t think of a better, more joyful way to reconnect people and heal communities during these uncertain times than to make music together.”

As a principal sponsor of the winter festivities, RBI encourages other NAMM Members to get involved. “Our best advice is not to just send products or write a check, but to leverage your platforms to get the word out about the event – bother before and after. It is such a positive event that your company or brand can only benefit from the partnership. Make the most of it!”

For more information from RBI, please visit them at

Other Make Music Winter events include:

Long Beach, CA Open Jam with OLLI Recorders, Club of Harps, and The Jazz Angels: Everyone is invited to jam with Make Music Long Beach featuring all three groups and a full music jam at Marine Stadium Park.

Boston, MA – Make Music Winter Boston:
Join the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District for an afternoon of music-making! Victorian Carolers, Downtown Holiday Brass, and Mediterranean Holiday Band will perform throughout Downtown Boston as part of their holiday market.

Pittsburgh, PA – Sing-Along with Anna:
All ages are invited to join in a sing-along worth of Arendelle’s queen. Local musician Elizabeth Chase will lead the public in singing along with classic Christmas songs, as well as those from the hit movies, Frozen and Frozen II.

Cleveland, OH – A Musical Hike:
A five-mile hike with members of the Cleveland Hiking Club through the Tremont and Ohio City areas, the troop will be stopping along the way to play popular, secular holiday tunes on kazoos and sing along from sheet music.

Litchfield, CT – Community Meditation and Sound Healing:
A daytime meditation event alongside facilitator Grace Magnusson paired with gong and singing bowls.

Macon, GA – Where Soul Rocks On!:
Free sidewalk giveaways in downtown Macon, including kazoos, drumsticks, and more to make music!

Rochester, NY – “Maracatú Workshop”:
Participants can learn to play the basic rhythms and instruments of Brazilian maracatu music and discover its cultural context. Instruments will be provided.

To find a Make Music Winter event near you, please visit