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The Power of Music to Build Communities

Power of Music in DSM

July 7, 2020

Iowa’s artists have proven time and again that imagination and creative problem solving are essential to the resilience of Iowa’s communities. Through the pandemic, most recent civil rights movement, upcoming elections and anything else 2020 has seen since January, Iowa artists have shown their creative power to not only adapt, but to use the arts to shape a world that is more just, equitable and inclusive for all of our neighbors.

Just this year, the pandemic shocked the world of performing arts, leaving performers and musicians without paid performance opportunities and stripping the arts of one of its most essential elements: community. Any musician can contend that live music is about so much more than the music itself, it’s about bringing people together, immersed in a shared physical and emotional experience. As 2020 concerts and tours are increasingly canceled and the arts are deemed “nonessential,” musicians are faced with a new challenge of how to create intimate and meaningful experiences through digital platforms and still support themselves as working artists.

The Essential Need for the Arts

Are artists and art really nonessential, though? How many of us, quarantined in our homes, turned to music to fill the silence or listened to albums just to hear the voices of our friends, to experience the perspectives of others or to lift our spirits? If you listened to music, read a book, played video games or watched a movie at any point during the past few months, I hope you recognized that as the labor of artists. Though we may not always label it as art, creativity is within us — so essential that it’s woven into the fabric of our lives.

Local Musical Talent

The arts are alive in Iowa with unbelievable talent showcasing the cultures that make our home state so incredibly vibrant. I’m grateful for the opportunity to create the In For Lunch #5 playlist that shares music by just a handful of the many skilled artists who have called Iowa home at one time or another. Note: Some songs contain explicit content. The playlist I compiled is a collection of incredible musicians I’ve had the honor of collaborating with through my work at the Iowa Arts Council and the Des Moines Music Coalition, or by sharing a stage. I would have also loved to include many more not on Spotify, in particular Comandante, MaZoo and D.Carlone, Dartanyan Brown, and the late Jay Foster, but this playlist none-the-less features the incredible strength of our musicians and artists in Iowa.

Iowa’s music industry is not immune to lost performance opportunities this year and additional challenges that plague artists as entrepreneurs. Many of the songs in this playlist reverberate with the themes of overcoming struggles and emerging from adversity with a newfound energy to build off the talents they’ve crafted right here in Iowa. I encourage any arts appreciator to support music in Iowa by:

  • Purchasing albums directly from artists or from local music stores
  • Attending livestream events and donating to the hosting organization or artist
  • Donating to artist recording or tour funds
  • Supporting venues by buying advance tickets to shows or donating the cost of canceled tickets
  • Working with your community to uniquely showcase artists in alternative venues such as performing on top of buildings, on a parade float or in a driveway
  • Visiting some of the many historic music sites in Iowa such as Music Man Square in Mason City or the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, which has showcased well-known artists such as BB King, Little Richard and Iowa-raised duo The Everly Brothers

Musicians and performing artists were disproportionately affected in 2020. Let’s continue the incredible power of music to build community by supporting artists through some of the ways listed above, but equally important, by continuing that support beyond the pandemic and embracing the arts as integral to our everyday lives.

Named as the #13 Best Place to Live in the U.S. and #7 Best City for Living the American Dream, Greater Des Moines (DSM) is the fastest growing metro in the Midwest. Learn more about what it’s like to live here.

Lindsay Keast

Lindsay Keast is the arts program coordinator for the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. Keast oversees the biennial Iowa Arts Summit and manages initiatives serving creative industries in Iowa. Previously, she worked as outreach coordinator for the Des Moines Music Coalition. She is a practicing artist, musician and composer.