‘Music at the Intersection’ brings St. Louis onto the national stage

Photo by Vanessa Jones.

During the weekend of Sept. 9-10, the Kranzberg Arts Foundation hosted its third annual “Music at the Intersection” festival in Grand Center. The festival celebrated St. Louis’ musical and cultural heritage, featuring emerging and established artists from Thundercat to Herbie Hancock.

“St. Louis’s dynamic music ecosystem is built on a foundation of innovation, unity, and a rich history of stylistic diversity, and that it has the capabilities of being one of the world’s greatest music communities in talent, policy, action and engagement,” founder of research and consulting company Sound Diplomacy, Shain Shapiro, said in a 2020 assessment of St. Louis’ music landscape.

Hip-hop music pioneer Grandmaster Flash performed at the festival on Sunday evening, beginning his set with a mix of “Play that Funky Music.” His performance attracted festival-goers of all ages but drew a substantial audience who have watched his career unfold from the beginning. 

“Where my old-timers at?” Grandmaster Flash prompted the crowd.

He played on the City Wide stage, one of four venues at the event. Music at the

Photo by Zoe DeYoung.

Intersection is among the limited number of music festivals in St. Louis, alongside B3 and the newly established Evolution Festival.

In recent years, St. Louis has struggled to find its footing in the music industry. Notably, the historical Beale on Broadway shut down in 2019. The venue once hosted Robert Plant and Dan Akroyd. Loufest, an annual festival, came to a close after ten years in 2018.

Now, musical leaders are legitimizing efforts to empower the local music industry. A workshop for the festival hosted by Webster University on Sept. 9 revealed insights from Sound Diplomacy’s research and offered students an opportunity to hear from industry professionals.

Beginning in 2020, Sound Diplomacy surveyed the city’s interest in the arts. The evaluation found that employment within the musical sphere alone accounted for 2% of jobs in Greater St. Louis. This figure is even higher than New York City’s 1.4%. 

“I’ve seen the comradery that seems to happen in certain cities. I think it’s going to take more of the community to recognize that and be able to do that work for it; it could be extremely helpful for the industry locally,” festival attendee Brittany H. said.

Proposals to nourish St. Louis’ musical culture include implementing a music office within the Regional Arts Commission. Michael Donovan of the Missouri Arts Council told the audience that bridging state and city-wide industry workers will encourage the evolution of the region’s art scene on a national scale.

More on expanding the city’s musical landscape, the Regional Arts Commission is set to host Cultura at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) on Oct. 23.

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Lauren Brennecke
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