Music Hop opens spaces for musicians in downtown Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo’s first Music Hop started with a handful of questions. The big one: Can Kalamazoo become the music center of the North?

Will Alderman has a dream that the city can make this a reality. And Music Hop--an event that he anticipates will act as a catalyst for growth of the music scene in Kalamazoo--was born of that dream. 

Alderman, raised in Plainwell, grew up in the local music scene, went to WMU for his undergraduate degree in music performance and earned his masters in in music performance from Ithaca College. About a year ago, he and a friend, Kyle Gulau, were talking over the state of the music industry in the United States. Given that Kalamazoo is home to a renowned music school at Western Michigan University, that there are countless local venues where musicians can take the stage, and a deeply rooted music scene here, the two concluded given the right conditions it’s possible that Kalamazoo could be the next Nashville.

They next identified what kind of event would attract musicians and an audience of music lovers. For them, it was lots of performance venues, both traditional ones, like restaurants or bars, and non-traditional, anywhere else, as Alderman says. Other elements were quality talent, including a variety of genres, and multiple groups performing at the same time. They saw it as a free, small music festival in downtown that takes place once a month. Music Hop.

They started working out the details and shortly thereafter created a website. The event started taking shape.

For the April 22 debut, Alderman has pulled together 12 acts in nine different locations: Bell Book and Canto, Matthew Borr, Shelagh Brown, The Copacetics, Megan Dooley, The Groove, Keith Hall's Homecookin', Kalamazoo Sax Quartet, The Northern Fires, Yolonda Lavender, Charlie Mench, and Steve Pesch will perform in venues across downtown Kalamazoo. 

Venues are Overneath, City Hall, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Mangia Mangia, Olde Peninsula, Harvey’s on the Mall, First Congregational Church and various artists will be at the Black Arts & Cultural Center. The full schedule is here.

Another first for the evening will be a Food Truck Rally from 10:30 to midnight between Church and Rose streets. Participating food trucks are: Twisted Tail BBQ, Singhcruisincuisine, The Sangria Shop, Crepes by the Lakes, Salt-N-Pepper Catering, Bomba's, Sloppy's Food Truck & CateringOl' Moose BBQ, Gorilla Gourmet, The Chunky Dunk and the The Organic Gypsy. The pop up event will feature artisans, booths, and music.

There will be performances from 6 p.m. to midnight. Plans are for Music Hop to repeat the third Friday of each month.

“We're using the first hop as a proof of concept,” Alderman says. “We want to make sure it works and work out the kinks for future hops.” His vision is to introduce the community to the wide variety of genres that are performed locally, from classical, folk, punk, grunge, metal, blues, and more.

Sure lots of people come downtown for Art Hop, but will they show up for a hop dedicated to music, too? 

“I think Kalamazoo could and should be packed every weekend,” Alderman says. “It's such a great city with so many little shops, restaurants, and breweries. So, hopefully, this event will help promote those spaces, and further the downtown scene.”


Musicians have already indicated to Alderman that they are interested in participating in the future. There is no charge to attend Music Hop performances, though musicians will have tip jars on prominent display and will have CDs and merchandise for sale.

“We're hoping to promote the already fantastic music scene, and make Kalamazoo a music hub in the North,” Alderman says. 

Source: Will Alderman, Music Hop Kalamazoo