JACKSON HEIGHTS—For Chinese artist Jia-Yi He, the harmonica is more than a musical instrument — it's a hand-held orchestra.
“If you play the piano, you cannot change the sound,” he explained. “But with the harmonica, you can make it sound like a violin, a cello or a mandolin.”
The Beijing-born He, who has played the harmonica since he was 11 and gives regular performances in Asia and Europe, will be one of the artists whose talents will be on display at this year’s annual Summer Solstice concert series in Jackson Heights.
"I like performing here very much," said He. "It's very nice."
From classical music played on the harmonica to American folk music and South Asian dances, the free concerts, all performed by local Jackson Heights artists and students will take place on the longest day of the year—June 21—at two locations: the pedestrian plaza on 37th Road near 73rd Street and coffee shop Espresso 77.
The concerts are part of Make Music New York, which describes itself on its website as a “live, free musical celebration across the city that takes place each June 21, the longest day of the year."
For the fifth year running, the concerts have been organized by the Jackson Heights Beautification group (J.H.B.G.).
“Summertime in the city means music in Jackson Heights,” said Edwin Westley, President of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group. “Music provides the perfect platform to celebrate the diversity of Jackson Heights.”
Jia-Yi's harmonica performance will kick off the Summer Solstice show at 2 p.m at the Jackson Heights Pedestrian Plaza on 37th Road. An orchestra composed of students from P.S. 69 and a percussion ensemble from I.S. 145 will follow his act.
The evening will close with a music and dance performance by South Asian Group.
The free performances will take place on the pedestrian plaza, according to the organizers. “There are no cars [allowed on the plaza] so it’s wide open for performances of this nature,” organizer Edwin Westley said.
Fifty chairs will be placed to accommodate some viewers, he added.
If the pedestrian plaza is too crowded for you, head to 77th Street, right off 37th Avenue to local coffee shop Espresso 77.
The sidewalk in front of the much-loved cafe will be converted into a mini-concert space to accommodate performances from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The show includes folk, jazz and pop music performances by Jonny Meyers, Amanda Sprecher and the band “Vinny Music & Friends.”
The music, however, doesn’t stop in June.
Eight other concerts have been scheduled by the J.H.B.G for July and August.
“The ‘9th Annual Summer Sundays at the Park’ festival once again will bring a variety of musical artists to Travers Park every Sunday at 5 p.m. this season,” Westley said.
The free concerts will run from July 8 to August 26 and are open to everyone.