The Bloomington community song music video opens with shots of rolling fields and rural scenes. These images continue to flash by along with footage of local musicians singing about what makes the Bloomington community special.
But down in the comments section, remarks such as “Can we all get a refund for our taxes paid to this?” and “Has nothing to do with Bloomington. You know there's an actual town here, right?” are posted all too frequently.
The song was a project by the Bloomington Arts Commission to celebrate Bloomington’s Bicentennial. It was aiming to create “a musical work that celebrates the city’s past, present, and future” and encourage the participation of citizens in the arts, according to the City of Bloomington website.
The commission opened an application Jan. 5, 2018 for people in the community to submit a work portfolio, artist’s statement, resume and a proposed project description. Over 20 applications were submitted before the deadline Feb. 9, 2018, according to Sean Starowitz, assistant director for the artsin the City of Bloomington's Department of Economic and Sustainable Development.
“It was an open process,” Starowitz said. “Any musician could have applied.”
A panel of city staff, members of the community and the Bloomington Arts Commission selected Kelley School of Business professor and musician Jeff Cannon, according the City of Bloomington website. He received $5,000 to use on the creation of the song.
“I took the entire award, every penny of it, and I spent it on arrangers and musicians and players,” Cannon said. “I did not keep one dime for myself.”
The three-minute music video for the folk song “Ride” was released Oct. 31, 2018.
“And so we ride, we don’t race / And we wish this gift of grace for the world / From our Bloomington home,” Cannon wrote.
Cannon recorded and wrote seven additional arrangements for groups such as school marching bands and choirs. Downloadable scores are available on the City of Bloomington website.
The song was made for Bloomington but did not include identifiable parts of the community such as the Monroe County Courthouse or the Sample Gates. Cannon said he did not want to make a tourist song since he wanted to focus more on reflecting values he believes the city has.
“Bloomington is both traditional and progressive,” Cannon said. “In contrast to Indianapolis where it’s all about the race, here in Bloomington we’re about the ride.”
Jenn Cristy, one of 37 participating artists, performed vocals and piano for the song and was featured in the music video.
“Everyone has something different in this town that means something to them,” Christy said. “I was happy with it. How can I be disappointed in something a lot of people put work in?”
Apparently it was easy because seven of the 11 comments under the official music video on YouTube were critical.
IU sophomore Marjorie Hubbard said she didn’t think the video was specific enough.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with Bloomington,” Hubbard said. “If I didn’t know the song was about Bloomington it would just be this weird song that makes sense to the people in the video and is otherwise irrelevant.”
Cannon discussed using “Ride” in the upcoming bicentennial celebration for IU, but the university has been planning otherwise.
Jeremy Hackard, project manager for the IU Bicentennial, said IU will not use Cannon’s song because it is only reflective of the Bloomington community, not the university.
“It would be hard for us to use this song and still convey that it’s all the campuses of Indiana University and not just Bloomington,” Hackard said.
The acclaimed a cappella group Straight No Chaser, consisting of IU alumni, was commissioned to write an original song about the university for the bicentennial, according to a press release on the IU Bicentennial website.
“Members of the office have asked Straight No Chaser to incorporate themes of friendship and coming home to campus in the song,” according to the release. “However, it will be focused on the university as a whole, not just the flagship campus in Bloomington.”
Hackard says the office plans to perform it at events around IU campuses during the Bicentennial celebrations, which begin this fall.
Although Bloomington’s Bicentennial celebrations concluded in 2018, that does not mean the road ends for “Ride.” Cannon and the Bloomington Arts Commission are still aiming to get the community involved with the song despite the pushback it has received.
“It’s still a project that’s ongoing,” Starowitz said. “It’s not done yet. Part of it was wrapped up in the Bicentennial itself, but there’s still room for the project to unfold.”
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