Virtual music festival encourages people to Get Down With Your Hometown
By Diti Kohli, Globe correspondent

Thanks to three cultural organizations in Western Massachusetts, an online music festival is bringing performers like Lake Street Dive, The Fab Faux, and June Millington to screens everywhere.

Get Down With Your Hometown is the handiwork of a small group of women — nicknamed the “Giddy-Up Gals’’ — from the Institute of Musical Arts, Shea Theater, and North Star, a Sunderland alternative learning center for middle and high school students. The 38-act program will stream live on Facebook and YouTube Friday and Saturday, free of charge.

“It’s a major musical festival,’’ North Star outreach director Jodi Lyn Cutler said in a phone interview. “We’re really impressed with how it’s come together.’’

Several acts on the roster of performers are Massachusetts natives or North Star alumni. Others hail from Nashville, Philadelphia, the Netherlands, and throughout New England. The lineup blends up-and-comers with established names like MacArthur “genius’’ grant recipient Rhiannon Giddens (pictured), and longtime recording artist Melissa Ferrick.

In a year where COVID-19 canceled shows and school both, finding other ways to share music is essential, Cutler said.

“This is a way to ring in the start of 2021 with a big party and bring some joy,’’ she said.

All the performances will be shown for free, but the event is ultimately a benefit for the trio of cultural groups. Audience members can make donations to the “virtual tip jar,’’ or buy merchandise. Those who invest in VIP passes (starting at $60) will get to greet performers in the virtual Zoom room and be automatically included in a raffle for prizes.

“These organizations are operating under this philosophy of shared abundance,’’ Cutler said. “We’re not fighting over donors. It’s a feel-good experience to collaborate.’’

The event kicks off Friday at 6 p.m., and Saturday’s performances begin at 3 p.m. A full schedule can be found online at

Diti Kohli can be reached at