The practice is both old and new. Buskers, or street performers, turn out every weekend for crowds across the country, especially in the summer season. Young performers follow the timeless tradition of performance art. The word busker is slang for the root word—busk “to seek to entertain by singing and dancing, probably from the Spanish word buscar, meaning to
seek. (A busker seeks appreciation of their artistic performance directly from the audience.) From high wire walkers to singers to mimes, street performing is a social event where the spectators are often as active as the performers. And, best of all, there is no admission.
This weekend, ℹ The Chattanooga Market will engage these street performers at locations all around the pavilion to celebrate the age-old tradition. Behind the scenes, Stratton Tingle, founder of SoundCorps works to make successful opportunities for street performers at specific venues around town.
“SoundCorps mission is to enhance Chattanooga’s music economy,” says Tingle. “We established sidewalk stages in 2016 and continue to develop venues, hold auditions and schedule street performers for both public and private venues.” Private venues include the airport, malls and shopping destinations around the city. Drawing from a pool of 125 performers, Tingle arranges for about 800 performances per year. His organization pays a $25 stipend to the performers and they receive tips from audiences.
Some of his more popular performers include eight-year-old Emmie Rymer, who plays the fiddle, accordionist Edward Bergin, who works at the Public Library by day and an R & B saxophone player called Swayyvo. “His music makes you feel as though you’re in a romantic urban environment,” says Tingle. “It’s great for Chattanooga’s developing alley scene.”
Annually, The Chattanooga Market hosts a ℹ Buskers Festival that is listed on buskercentral.com, along with a horde of other festivals in the U.S and around the world. This year it is being held on Sunday, July 29th at the ℹ Pavilion. The possibilities are good that visitors might see a human statue, or perhaps a juggler, a fiddler or an award–winning Native American flute player.
“Who knows”, says Chattanooga Market promoter, Melissa Lail. “But don’t miss the chance the Buskers Festival offers to experience these performances.” Lail suggests that before spectators come they might want to check out soundcorps.org for sample performances. “It should be a wonderful festival.”
“These will be experienced performers, but the SoundCorps program is designed to help newcomers build skills for stage performances and learn ways to encourage and increase tips from spectators,” adds Tingle. “Bessie Smith got her start as a street performer on Chattanooga’s street corners and our city self-identifies as a music city.”
Photography by: William Johnson Photography