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This Summer, They’ve Got the Beet

Music Students Get Seasoning at ‘Fresh Beets’ Shows

three band members play saxophones in an outdoor park Photo by Elizabeth Garozzo
The Party Band rocks a crowd at Keroauc Park in Lowell during a Fresh Beets summer show.

By David Perry

Fresh Beets, the brainchild of adjunct music instructor Savanah Marshall ’13, ’16, served up a summer of music, street food and community education in downtown Lowell’s Kerouac Park.

Beginning May 8, and wrapping up Aug. 8, Fresh Beets’ six free weekend shows were organized by Marshall, supported by the city, and executed with plenty of help from students, alumni and community partners. The series received funding from the Lowell Cultural Council via the Mass Cultural Council and (for the final show if the summer) the Canalway Cultural District. 

The shows drew crowds that listened and danced to everything from Haitian sounds, salsa, rock, funk and blues. 

For music graduate student Alexis Csicsek ’20 and other current students and alumni, the series offered a chance to practice what they learned in a time when the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into the spokes of the music business.
A smiling woman stands next to another smiling woman with her hand on her shoulder Photo by Elizabeth Garozzo
Savanah Marshall, left, and student stage manager Alexis Csicsek '20 share a moment during the finale of the Fresh Beets concert series at Kerouac Park.

Carefully planned to adhere to CDC and local guidelines, a “cautious” Marshall felt “blessed to have an opportunity to provide a safe musical experience outdoors, in a large park, where folks could distance and mask.” She knew audiences and musicians alike were hungry for the live music experience. 

Csicsek was working as a graduate student assistant to Marshall in her Progressive Performance and Production Pedagogy class. She mentioned she was looking for an internship just as Marshall was seeking a grant for the series, and “everything just went from there,” says Csicsek.

Hired as intern/stage manager, she did everything from making Fresh Beets stickers to painting banners and booking bands and communicating their needs to sound engineer Jake Riggert ‘20, a sound recording technology graduate.

Others with UML connections included music students and series performers Dominik Hyppolite and the UML Blues Ensemble, led by Music Prof. John Shirley, and Midnight Harvest Band’s Joe Folan ’19. Alumna Mikayla Whilte ‘20 volunteered, third-year music major Elizabeth Garozzo was the official photographer for the final show, and Allies in Music Education, which was founded by Owen Kelly ‘20, and the UML String Project were community partners for the June 12 show.

“I wore many hats over the course of the series,” says Csicsek, who is enrolled in the Master of Music Education program. The first five shows were part of her internship and by the sixth show, she was hired as Fresh Beets staff.

Csicsek, who hopes to work as a classroom music teacher while continuing to produce live community events, says she learned the importance of communication in keeping an event running smoothly.

“I also loved seeing how music can bring many different people together as one community,” she says.

Fresh Beets was established by Marshall in 2014 as a graduate school assignment that wound up winning $5,000 in a DifferenceMaker competition. “Food, music and education in one vehicle of change” was the pitch.

Fresh Beets came to life in its current form in 2019, when Marshall focused on taking a Fresh Beets food truck to sell “grab-and-go tacos” at area farmer’s markets. She ended up selling at 23 markets, music festivals, brewery events and private parties.

Marshall has swapped the “education” part of the goal for increased focus on “community.”

“I hope to include an education component eventually,” she says. “But for now, community engagement has proven to be something I'm passionate about that activates more people simply by bringing a positive experience.”

Marshall says she accomplished her goal for the summer, “to start bringing the community together again in a safe and soul-satisfying way through street food and music.”