Our Musical Downtown

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Our Musical Downtown

Musicians are a common sight on the ave since the 2014 construction

Musicians are a common sight on the ave since the 2014 construction

Musicians are a common sight on the ave since the 2014 construction

Musicians are a common sight on the ave since the 2014 construction

David Mehran, Staff Reporter

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Strolling down Burlingame Avenue, I hear a variety of sounds—the conversations of people eating outside, the murmur of car engines as they cruise past and the whirr of planes flying overhead. Sometimes, if a pedestrian is lucky and in the right place, they get a chance to listen to one of the several musicians who perform on Burlingame Avenue.

After the reconstruction of Burlingame Avenue in late 2014, foot traffic increased as more customers came to the Avenue in search of the emerging higher-end stores and a bustling but relatively clean and safe downtown environment. As the Avenue attracted students from Burlingame High School, patrons from surrounding neighborhoods and cities, it became a destination to spend an afternoon dining outside, purchasing boba tea with friends and frequenting the numerous retail stores.

As the number of visitors increased on the Avenue, so too did the number of buskers, individuals making music for money. The first musician I saw on the ave was a man with a saxophone sitting underneath the trellis in front of the Gap store. The music, while completely unsponsored, complemented the mood of downtown Burlingame. Not only were many people stopping to listen to the man play, but many left tips.

Since then, I have witnessed a violinist, accordion-ist and even a man singing the blues into a microphone connected to a portable speaker, and playing the harmonica. He was named ‘Gary the Blues Guy.’  On a Friday afternoon, I observed a show from a professional three-person music group, accepting tips and selling their CDs. Throughout the month of December, an individual stands outside the Gap store, ringing a bell to attract passersby and coax them into dropping donations into a Salvation Army can. Even the clanging of the bell, which some may consider to be just noise and not music, adds to the musical flavor of the cityscape. Given that musicians keep coming back, the Avenue seems to be a location to play for a bit and earn some cash.

“I feel like I always have somewhere to go; I’m not just standing around listening to music … It’s nice, and it’s appreciated, but if it wasn’t there, I wouldn’t notice.” junior Michelle Tam said.

While pedestrians like Tam value the music of the Avenue, sometimes it goes unnoticed in the busy rush of daily activity. But for employees who spend hours working in the shops that line the street, it is a different story.

“I like it, it gives me a good feeling … and I personally believe it should continue,” an Apple store security guard said. “I’ve seen, in some other places, people on the street playing and a lot of people passing through find it interesting, and stand and watch them for a few seconds or minutes, then contribute something, and I personally like it.”

Musicians playing on the Avenue are a mixed group. Some are professional musical groups that regularly perform on the street, members of the homeless community just trying to earn tips and, particularly during the holiday season, individuals raising money to donate to charity. Regardless, they all contribute to the dynamic atmosphere of Burlingame Avenue.