100+BPM in NYC

Photo by Polina Yamshchikov

Nearly 350 musicians converged on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library on June 21 to premier a song called “100+BPM” written by composer Sunny Jain. People of all skill levels, from amateurs to professionals, answered the open call to participate.

This performance was part of Make Music New York, a biannual festival with more than 1,000 free concerts in public spaces throughout the five boroughs of New York City.

Radio station NPR commissioned the piece and sponsored the performance. “It was a great opportunity for me, and something I was really excited to do,” Jain says.

Jain’s piece took on many meanings throughout the writing process. “I wanted to call it ‘100+BPM’ with BPM referring to beats per minute,” Jain says. “The 100+ referred to the starting tempo of 122 beats per minute.”

BPM also took on the meanings of Brooklyn Public Music and Brass Percussion Music, referring to the location and instrumentation of the performance while 100+ also referred to the number of musicians estimated to perform. “I had no idea if it would be 100 or 1,000 [musicians],” Jain says. “The title took on what the piece was supposed to be—this idea of everything coming together.”

A wide variety of individuals and ensembles, from concert violinists to marching bands, joined Jain’s brass band, Red Baraat, in the performance. Some professional groups, including the New York Jets Aviators Drumline, also participated.

“It was really cool to do something in Brooklyn,” says Aviators percussionist Michael Howell. “It’s always cool to get in and play with a bunch of different types of musicians. It was unlike anything [the Aviators] have ever done before.”

The performance day went very quickly. “Everyone congregated on the steps at about 4:30,” Jain says. “We rehearsed, ran through it once, touched on things, played it twice, and that was it.”

Howell adds that the performance was brief but very cool. “It was really well led, especially for a larger group of people,” he says.

For both Howell and Jain, this performance was the first of its kind, but it will not be their last. If given the opportunity, Howell says that he would absolutely do something like this again. Jain adds that the fact that he had never done a performance like this before was what made it so exciting. “Hopefully this is the first installment of many things we can do around the country,” he says.

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