LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — The sounds of downtown Lancaster usually include traffic, conversations, maybe a shop bell dinging as someone enters a local business. But on the third Friday of each month between May and September, another sound joins those city noises — music.

“For almost 10 years now, Music For Everyone has been teaming up with the City of Lancaster to produce Music Fridays. It is a community-building event that is really centered around bringing our community together through the power of music,” said Brendan Stengle, director of operations for Music For Everyone.

Music Fridays feature around 20 musicians or music groups from various genres who perform on the streets around downtown Lancaster and in the city’s neighborhoods. “No matter where you’re walking downtown, you’ll be able to hear music,” Stengle said.

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This month’s Music Friday is on June 17, and Stengle says it will be the biggest Music Friday so far. New this Friday and continuing for the rest of the summer, there will be a community open mic set up so that new musicians or those without full gear or an hours-long repertoire still have opportunities to perform. The open mic will also give non-traditional performers such as spoken word or hip-hop artists a chance to share their work.

In addition to the open mic setup, there will be almost 30 street spots or stages placed all throughout Lancaster City. “So (June will have) the most performers, the most stages we’ve ever had, and some of the biggest acts, including Lakou Mizik,” Stengle said.

Lakou Mizik is a group of musicians from Haiti who came together in 2010 after a devastating earthquake killed more than 100,000 people there. The band uses music “to communicate a message of pride, strength, and hope for their country,” according to Lakou Mizik’s website.

The collective of musicians is performing during June’s Music Friday in honor of World Refugee Day, which is on June 20. The performance highlights the importance music plays not only in individuals’ lives but in community and cultural connections, said Rachel Helwig, development and communications manager for CWS Lancaster, which partnered with Music For Everyone and other groups to put on the World Refugee Day concert.

“Lakou Mizik was such a perfect band to bring to town because that’s really, as a band, at the heart of their music — recognizing the role of music in Haitian culture and the Haitian community both within Haiti but also within the diaspora and other places in the world,” said Helwig.

Lakou Mizik had a full schedule, so the band members weren’t available for an interview before publication. They spent the week leading up to the Friday concert exploring Lancaster, meeting with Haitian community members, working with Millersville University arts camp students, and performing in nearby Philadelphia.

Lakou Mizik (Credit: Erica Millner)

In addition to including World Refugee Day, June is also Immigrant Heritage Month. Helwig was excited “to be able to bring a Haitian band to our community to really celebrate and amplify not only the Haitian communities that are here but Lancaster’s diverse immigrant and refugee communities.”

World Refugee Day is celebratory and solemn at the same time, Helwig says. It recognizes the diversity, resiliency, and strength of communities, but it also recognizes the sadness and difficulties faced by those who are displaced from their homes.

“To find a way to both celebrate and advocate all at the same time can be a challenging thing,” said Helwig, “but that’s really why we like being a part of Music Fridays, is that it recognizes that central role that music can play in both celebration and mourning, and so that’s what we really hope to be able to do this Friday.”

“As we become less and less connected in so many different ways, communities have to invest in things that bring people together, and music is the best tool that we have in our community arsenal to do so,” Stengle said. Music Fridays get people out and enjoying music together, and they make live music more accessible for all community members.

As a city resident, Helwig agrees that Music Fridays are great because they give people a chance to spend time together celebrating the community. “We talk a lot about our great restaurants and great markets and great shops, and I believe in all of that stuff, but the reason we have those things is because we have really cool people that live here,” Helwig said.

And part of what makes Lancaster so cool, Helwig says, is that the community is so diverse, which people can see and hear all over during Music Fridays.

Lakou Mizik will be performing at Binns Park on June 17 beginning at 5:30. See the rest of the musicians and where they will be performing here. Sign up to perform during a future Music Friday here.