How Central Park SummerStage is bringing live music back to NYC

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When Gloria Gaynor belts out “I Will Survive” at Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage at the Coney Island Amphitheater on July 17, the 1978 anthem will take on a whole new meaning after the world came to a pause — and live music stopped — in 2020.

Because it will symbolize that, once again, New York has endured.

“It’s a really big moment,” said Erika Elliott, Executive Artistic Director, noting that SummerStage — whose biggest shows take place at Central Park — had a series of digital events to keep musicians working and to keep frustrated concertgoers happy during the pandemic. “For me, the process of curating this season has really been about using our platform . . . to elevate what’s unique and special and vibrant about New York City in this moment post this crazy, traumatic, difficult year on so many levels, just to celebrate the joy of culture.”

Live events kick off June 17, with a free concert featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. On June 27, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic will bring the beat to Central Park, which Machine Gun Kelly will rock on Sept. 13.

But no doubt — it will look and feel different: Six-feet social distancing measures — with your own pod — will be enforced, and masks will be required for all guests regardless of vaccination status. At least for now, as the situation remains fluid.

“We are all forever changed,” said Elliott. “Everybody has a very different sense of comfort with mass gatherings. So we are doing everything that we have to . . . in terms of guidelines. And for us that means that you will be a certain social distance, just because we are finding people still really are inching their way back into this moment and still want to be masked for the most part.”

However, while some venues will be requiring vaccination for entry, SummerStage won’t. “Because there are a lot of equity and accessibility issues and various different philosophical issues around vaccination,” she said.

And it’s not just the concertgoers but the artists themselves who are ready to rock.

“People want to get back to doing what they love and artists want at least to have live audiences . . . and to give back to New York, which was hit so hard in this last year,” she said. “Central Park is the heart of New York City, and to be able to play here this summer, I’ve heard from many artists, is just particularly meaningful.” 

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