Rebuilding Social Fabric Through Music - Music on Main Street

For over 40 years, there has been a movement across the United States to revitalize communities that have seen economic development move away from town centers. The nonprofit Main Street America is helping Main Streets in towns across the US bring communities together and stimulate business development.

One such town is Versailles, whose charity, Main Street Versailles, seeks to draw positive interest to the downtown area and square, creating activities and events for the community. Founded almost a decade ago, it has brought entertainment and interest to the center of the town, which now boasts Percussion Play’s outdoor musical instruments.

As a small town in mid-western America with a population of fewer than 2,000 people, the community had seen businesses gradually move away from the center, leaving a center with little economic and community activity. Main Street Versailles, led by President Holly Wehr, Director of Community Development for the Town of Versailles, spearheaded community funding to bring activities that draw the community together.

From Farmers Markets to running competitions, the square is on the road to revitalization due to community engagement and interest. This engagement was spurred by the ‘I wish this was’ campaign, which saw the community write down what they hoped the many empty buildings and spaces in the town could be turned into.

Feedback showed the community wanted an array of things, from public restrooms, live music, splash pads, and a playground with green space, benches, and picnic tables. A development plan was soon drawn up, and town officials agreed to develop a Pocket Park next to the town hall. Efforts started in May 2022 with the launch of a crowdfunding campaign. The Creating Places program offered to match the monies raised to $50k.

Holly Wehr, who ran the fundraising, says, “We aimed to create a pavilion where we could host live music and name it in honor of two music teachers who taught in the local school for 32 years. These teachers were beloved by the community, and we were delighted to raise the amount we needed within one month!”.

The Holdsworth Entertainment Pavilion was funded, but Main Street Versailles then looked to raise more funds with another $10k to add more music to the area.

The nonprofit looked for more musical elements to include in the space and was soon inspired by a roadside park on Main Street in Laurel, Mississippi, which included instruments from Percussion Play. Main Street Versailles members realized they would act as an inclusive, intergenerational activity with both children and adults being able to play together.

Two sets of Freechimes, a large Babel Drum, a Cajon Drum Circle, and Cadenza, have now been installed in Versailles and draw both young and old to the center to create music and have fun.

Holly says, “I walk around the square, and kids are out there playing the chimes. The sound of the instruments is really pretty and has a lovely tone. I also love how the instruments are aesthetically pleasing.” She continues, “We recently had a concert on the pavilion, and following the event, the keyboardist was playing the Cadenza and making beautiful music.”

Since their installation, the area has seen an increase in intergenerational play. The local Facebook group shows people of all ages enjoying the instruments.

Percussion Play’s instruments are part of a bold project happening across the United States to re-build ‘social fabric,’ something Versailles is achieving as it breathes life back into the community.