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Sean Starowitz
Assistant Director of Economic & Sustainable Development for the Arts

Jeff Cannon to Compose Bloomington Bicentennial Community Song

Bloomington, In. - The Bloomington Arts Commission (BAC) has selected musician Jeff Cannon to compose an original musical work marking the city’s bicentennial year.  A Bloomington resident for more than two decades, singer-songwriter Cannon will work in collaboration with the public to create a song that captures the spirit of the city. 

The BAC solicited proposals from musicians to create a song honoring the bicentennial that would engage residents in the creative process. The project was conceived in response to one of the commission’s goals, as stated in its strategic plan, to “advance initiatives that promote citizen participation in the arts.”  With Cannon’s artistic direction, the Bloomington Bicentennial Community Song will be workshopped with those who attend several public bicentennial events.  The collaborative composition will then take on a life of its own as commission members share it at community events scheduled during the bicentennial year and beyond. 

Among the submissions the BAC received, Cannon’s proposal distinguished itself for its accessibility to musicians and non-musicians alike, and its adaptability across genres and arrangements. “I wanted to create a song that could work across genres, one you could easily sing and play on piano or guitar and naturally arrange for country, folk or pop,” Cannon explained, “but also teach to kids in music class, or adapt for choir, marching band or most contemporary genres. So the theme had to be simple and memorable, but with enough melodic development that it would provide breadth for an orchestral arrangement or a jazz improvisation.”

A veteran of the New England folk music scene, Cannon has released five recordings spanning folk, alt-country and other musical styles, has been a folk music radio host, and is writing a novel about the street performing community. In addition to his musical pedigree, Cannon’s passion for collaboration and community engagement resonated with those involved in the selection process -- commissioners Sally Gaskill, Lynn Schwartzberg, Alain Barker, Nick Blandford and Abby Henkel.  

“The arts commission’s intent with this project is to engage Bloomingtonians with the arts as a way to celebrate the city’s bicentennial,” said Gaskill, BAC chair. “We can’t wait to hear people of all ages making music together by singing our new community song.” 

The theme of the song Cannon is creating is “the ride,” which takes its inspiration from Bloomington’s thriving bicycle culture and in distinction to “the race” one associates with Indianapolis. “I wanted to get across that here, it’s not about the race. Bloomington is about the ride,” Cannon said. 

“From Hoagy Carmichael to our homegrown record label, Secretly Canadian, to the latest graduates of the Jacobs School of Music, Bloomington has been the cradle of some of the world’s most magnificent and eclectic music,” said Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton.  “During our bicentennial year it is fitting that we should salute our city’s rich musical legacy with a project that will bring our community together in song.”