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Percussion Park grand opening. Photo by Tina Gutierrez.

Percussion Park grand opening. Photo by Tina Gutierrez.

Jazz Alumnus Opens Percussion Park in East Price Hill

If you build it, they will drum — East Price Hill has a new park that was built to make percussion music. Part playground and part instrument, Percussion Park opened in grand style on Friday, April 21, with a celebration at the corner of Warsaw and McPherson Avenues.

Percussion Park is the creation of Ben Sloan, who graduated from CCM in 2011 with a BM in Jazz Studies. It all began when Sloan watched a video of a child playing on a drum set made of paint cans and buckets. He thought, “I could build something like that” and set to work.

A bass marimba inspired by the marimbas commonly found in Zimbabwe. Photo provided by Ben Sloan.

A bass marimba inspired by the marimbas in Zimbabwe. Photo provided by Ben Sloan.

The park is a collection of outdoor percussion instruments: a brass marimba, tank drums made with propane tanks, suspended stainless tubes and wooden tongue drums. The instruments are easy to play, some are meditative and others are bouncy and playful. “It’s sculptural, it’s playful, it’s bright, it’s inviting,” Sloan says. “It’s a space for making noise.”

He hopes people will enjoy the instruments and make connections through music.

“Perhaps someone finds some clarity playing an instrument on their own on a dreary afternoon, or a couple of friends have a laugh while playing something as they pass by, or total strangers find themselves communicating through music,” Sloan says. “I would love to see the park become a gathering space for the community, a place for events, for impromptu performances — a place for creative expression.”

Sloan works as a teaching artist and site coordinator at MYCincinnati, an after-school youth orchestra program directed by CCM alumnus Eddy Kwon (BM Jazz Studies, 2011). He teaches the pre-orchestra students, ages 5-10, in a class that combines singing, movement, percussion and “a lot of silliness.”

Last spring Sloan shared his idea for Percussion Park with MYCincinnati founder Laura Jekel, who is also the head of Creative Placemaking at Price Hill Will, a nonprofit focused on community development. She shared Sloan’s idea with Price Hill Will and a few days later there was space for Percussion Park in an empty lot at the corner of Warsaw and McPherson avenues.

Sloan received a $10,000 grant for the park from People’s Liberty, a philanthropic lab that brings together civic-minded talent to address challenges and uncover opportunities to accelerate the positive transformation of Greater Cincinnati. He also worked with Price Hill Will and Keep Cincinnati Beautiful to revitalize the vacant lot. In addition to Sloan's outdoor instruments, they have added a rain garden, plants and trees.

When he isn’t teaching or building a new community park, Sloan performs in a handful of other local music projects including A Delicate Motor, Lazy Heart and Fresh Funk.

“Many of the musicians I play regularly with are CCM alums,” Sloan says. “My biggest takeaway from CCM are the friendships forged over those four years.”

Sloan recently connected with fellow alums from CCM and UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) at an event hosted by the UC Alumni Association. He spoke about Percussion Park at the event, which was held at People’s Liberty.

Percussion Park’s opening celebration featured short performances from MYCincinnati musicians and free catered food from local restaurants Veracruz Mexican Grill and Urban Grill.

For more information, visit percussionpark.com.

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