Portland, OR. As Oregon reopens, one activity Oregonians are eagerly anticipating is the return of concerts and live music. The Portland nonprofit, Friends of Noise is a local organization making a return of live music possible, and accessible for anybody who wants to get involved. It provides sound equipment to performers, hosting free age-inclusive shows, and helping creative youth navigate the local music scene. Now starting its summer 2021 season, the nonprofit has a fresh slate of performances and events to bring the joy of communal music experiences back to Portland youth, including a dance battle, hip hop cypher performance, and multiple outdoor concert events for youth artists.
The nonprofit offers a variety of services to support Portland’s musically-oriented youth, including professional development workshops providing skills for involvement in the music industry, paid opportunities for youth musicians to perform, and offering sound equipment services for independent, youth-organized concerts, teaching those interested how to operate such equipment and offering youth paid opportunities for work with sound technology. According to Friends of Noise executive director André Middleton, the nonprofit’s mission is to “facilitate healing and growth in the community” for Portland youth artists, with a focus on BIPOC individuals.
Middleton admits that the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult for Friends Of Noise, with the nonprofit completely halting operations like most other businesses at its start. However, the organization still found ways to utilize its services mid-pandemic to further its commitment to justice by providing sound equipment to local Black Lives Matter protests and marches to “lift up the voices of the unheard.” Friends of Noise even helped host a BLM protest event on labor day 2020 in Portland’s Cathedral Park, providing and setting up sound equipment for speakers.
Middleton says that his organization’s greatest challenge of the pandemic has been the recruitment of new youth performers and sound technicians to work with, stating that reconnecting with the musical youth of Portland is the current “highest priority” for Friends of Noise. Thankfully, they were still able to support independent young musicians of Portland through the pandemic by recording isolated performances in various Portland music venues from a wide range of talented youth, editing them, and uploading these performances to the Friends of Noise Youtube channel as part of their “Friends of Noise TV” series.
Here’s a video from ‘Friends of Noise TV’:
Middleton says what he was most excited for about the return of live music, but for Friends of Noise, concerts have been back for a while as they have done sound equipment for and hosted a series of concerts for youth artists in parks around Portland, following COVID safety procedures such that youth could still gather, connecting to both music and one another, safely. He is most eagerly anticipating the Friends of Noise Summer Jam being held for free at Oregon Contemporary on July 11th from 6-10pm, where the organization will be hosting a variety of talented young performers. Middleton also noted that he is currently working with a youth graphic designer in a paid opportunity to create a poster for the event, highlighting his organization’s commitment to uplifting creative youth and getting them involved in as many ways as possible.
Middleton hopes support for Friends of Noise will take off this summer in comparison to last year, as the organization has its eyes set on a large, yet important project— the creation of a free, youth-led, all-ages, all-inclusive space for performances, music, workshops. and creativity as part of public housing in Northeast Portland. He expressed disappointment in the fact that Portland currently has no all-ages, youth-inclusive concert spaces, and hopes to change that by saving the organization’s funds and donations to establish the community center.
More information about Friends of Noise can be found at the nonprofit’s website, friendsofnoise.org. Here, supporters of FON’s mission can find times and locations for all of the organization’s upcoming events mentioned in this article and many more. Further, readers can donate funds through the website via posted PayPal, Venmo, and Cashapp to help make André Middleton’s dream of an youth led and focused, all-inclusive community concert center a reality— one which places the importance of creative expression above alcohol sales.