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A Melting Pot of Melodies at the Market

By Ari Dinero, Kyle Floyd, Atara Goodman, Ben Kim, Rochitha Nathan


At Reading Terminal Market, there are many shops and stalls. Along with the smells of food from around the world, one will hear sounds of music, which is just as exotic. These come from the street performers. Street performing requires a lot of reliance on the public. In addition, street performers have to be personable and play lively music. Tony Hamilton and Mike, who preferred not to offer his last name, are two ordinary street performers with extraordinary stories.


Mike, a Philadelphia native who plays the guitar outside the Market, told us that he aspired to be a musician from a very young age. "I'm not looking for a break but if one comes my way, that would be all right," he says. He composes a great deal of his own music, which one may hear him play on a daily basis. He produces for quite a few people, and readily offers guitar lessons for those in need.


Inside the market, they have a constantly changing roster of musicians, who enjoy playing for a variety of costumers. Hamilton was only approved for the queue three or four years after he first found out about the performing opportunity at Reading Terminal. These musicians earn a portion of their income from tips that passersby drop into their containers. While playing at the market, the regulars sometimes plays several shifts a day. Although his family started him on piano, he soon found a lifelong love of music. "I started playin' at six or eight and I guess the why is because my brothers were doing it," he says. In high school, he joined the band, where he picked up many other instruments including the congas, trombone, and various wind instruments. He admitted to cutting other classes just to spend time in the band room. After high school, he played on the US Air Force band and cassino bands, where he traveled the world. He settled in Philadelphia where he played with many different bands, before making the roster at the Reading Terminal Market where he remains today.


These performers do whatever they have to do to get the necessities of life. "This is something I had to do because my license isn't right for my car. This is how I make my money," Mike recounted. Many people who pass these musicians do not realize that these people are trying to make a living as anyone else would and tend to take them for granted. Most people disregard street musicians as simply homeless, but they work as hard or even harder than the traditional worker.


All the performers have one thing in common, a love of music. Mike says, "It's a good thing for the mind. It lets off a lot of release." Doing this job allows people to be around the things they love, like music and people. They are self-employed, so they have no commitments and their schedules are very flexible.


What attracts musicians to the Reading Terminal Market? It may be the simple answer of needing money, but there is a deeper explanation. These musicians never know who could be walking down the street and who they might meet. They might make a lasting friendship or sign a record deal. "nice to meet people...from around Pennsylvania and from different parts of the world...[you] never know who you're gonna meet."


Though each performer comes from a unique background, they all enjoy performing and playing the music that they love. At Reading Terminal Market, people come together to live, eat, and enjoy the surroundings, while they listen to the melodies of these talented musicians.