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The City Journals

Heart & Soul Music Stroll celebrates musicians and community

Jun 13, 2019 04:22PM ● By Jenniffer Wardell

Audiences gather to watch the Stratford Street Big Band on the main stage of this year's Heart & Soul Music Stroll. (Jenniffer Wardell/City Journals)

By Jenniffer Wardell | [email protected]

Everyone needs a little music in their lives. 

Heart & Soul proved that once again with their eighth annual music stroll held June 8 in Sugar House. The nonprofit, which organizes musical performances for people in isolated situations, brought together almost 50 performers for an evening of food, musical performances and more. More than 3,000 people attended this year’s event, which was free and open to everyone.

“It’s really just a celebration of our performers and the community,” said Ainsley-Marie McLaughlin, assistant director of Heart & Soul.

The event stretched along the streets surrounding Imperial Park, with a main stage at the park and smaller porch stages scattered in the yards of nearby homes. Many genres were represented, including R & B, Celtic music, jazz, folk, blues, country, rock and more. 

“My favorite thing is the quality of the music,” said Dan Rabe. “If you don’t like one thing, you go down the street and find a completely different style.” 

Attendees were encouraged to roam the streets during the event, which had been closed to outside traffic. All stages had a rotating list of performers.

“I love the neighborhood atmosphere,” said Michelle Bonnet. “You get to walk through a community that’s come together to put on a great show for everyone.” 

Other attendees agreed. 

“It’s everything Salt Lake needs to be doing,” said Susan Burdick. “It’s awesome.” 

According to Lisa Dengg, a member of the Stratford Street Big Band, that enthusiasm is part of what makes the event so enjoyable to perform at. 

“The audience is very appreciative,” she said. “They’re always very good to the artists.” 

“It’s so enjoyable because it’s really relaxed,” agreed Kathy Davis, a fellow band mate. “It’s very welcoming, and we always look forward to coming back.” 

All groups that participated in the event were local, which only increased the sense of community.  

“My favorite thing is getting together with everybody,” said Rob McKinnie. “I know a lot of the bands that are playing, so I get to say hello.” 

There were plenty of chances for younger members of the audience to get involved as well. Kindermusik offered free music classes for kids and set up a tent featuring a variety of child-sized musical instruments which children could try. 

“If we weren’t here, we would be at home,” said Mario Sanchez, who attended the event with his daughters. “The kids would probably be playing video games and jumping on the trampoline. Instead, they’re at an event they’ll never forget.” 

Dinner options were provided by a row of popular local food trucks, which did brisk business. 

Almost all those playing at the event had previously performed for Heart & Soul, which organizes concerts in places such as senior living centers, veteran’s homes and hospitals. The group sold tickets to a prize drawing during the event, with all proceeds going to raise money for future concerts. 

“It’s such an incredible service that they do,” said Karen Wildfoerster, who has been a volunteer at these music strolls since the first year. “People love it.”

According to McLaughlin, however, the main goal is just to let more people know about what the organization does. 

“A lot of people don’t know about us,” she said. “This is kind of to let people know what we’re doing.”

This year, that news has spread even further than expected.

“My daughter was saying she wished our neighborhood did this back in Los Angeles,” said Michelle Knipprath who came from California to visit her sister. “We love it.”