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The City Declares 2020 as The Year of Chicago Music

Written by on October 22, 2019


The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy.

They are led by the organization’s Commissioner Mark Kelly and have recently declared 2020 as the year of Chicago music. Mark joined us in conversation about what folks can expect from the upcoming year. 




Jill Hopkins: There are so many different aspects of Chicago’s culture that you could’ve chosen to highlight, what was behind the decision making process for deciding that music would be the thing for 2020.

Mark Kelly: Chicago’s music scene is incredible today, right here and now. Think across genres, whether it’s hip hop or experimental, whether it’s alt-country, whether it’s classical, whether it’s house, the list goes on. Chicago is a place of great experimentation of new music coming forward. This is the fourth year of using a theme to strengthen a specific creative sector of Chicago when I became Commissioner. The question I was asking myself is “how does DCASE, with a staff of only 65 people, build the creative landscape and not just be another presenter of great work within that landscape?” So every year, having a theme where we laser focus on a part of the creative and the landscape helps us to develop a new strategic direction. This year, I have a steering committee of 40 Chicago music professionals who have come together to focus on topics like music legacy, youth in music, our festivals and how they can better celebrate the Chicago music scene. It’s about our clubs and venues and the list goes on. We have to come together and work as a cohesive whole towards a common goal. We need to establish Chicago as a music capital, because we are but we’ve never thought like it. We’ve never acted like it. It’s that second city culture. 

Let’s talk about the announcement event last week at the beautiful Promontory in Hyde Park. What was that event like for you? 

It was soul stirring. Everyone was talking about the importance of this moment in time, the opportunity, the possibility. Imagine this city building a culture where all of our youth feel inspired to love and make music. Not to become the next hit musician, but  to just create. What could be a better unifier of our neighborhoods than music?

What can we look forward to as Chicago music fans right now?

There’s going to be a 17 Day Celebration of Chicago Music in the summer of 2020. These are the sounds that came from the south and west sides of the city, and then the festival is a celebration that places a spotlight on the Chicago music scene of today. Our festivals are great, but this isn’t about selling tickets. This is about a big love affair with the music scene of Chicago. 



To keep up with upcoming events, follow DCASE on Twitter

Interview edited for length and clarity by Olivia Cerza

Photos courtesy of DCASE

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