Mittenfest is the most incredible annual end-of-year music festival in Michigan. Some have even called it the best annual music festival in the midwest, but you’re encouraged to be that judge this year yourself. It exists to showcase the most dynamic Mitten-made bands and artists, as they donate their talents in a three-day benefit concert for 826michigan.
The festival itself is the brainchild of Brandon Zwagerman, one of 826michigan’s very first volunteers. He’s a music man who moved to New York City, encountered a plethora of incredible celebrations of music in his adopted community and thought—why couldn’t something like this happen every year in Ypsilanti for the benefit of 826michigan’s students? So, he reached out to 826michigan’s leadership and wildly proposed to volunteer to organize a multi-day festival in which his favorite Michigan artists would play for hours on end—for free—after which a $10 per person cover charge would be turned over to 826michigan to support its students and programs.
To be clear, the bands that play Mittenfest are amazing. Lineups have included JungleFowl, Frontier Ruckus, Shigeto, Passalacqua, Tunde Olaniran, Flint Eastwood, and Loose Teeth, to name a few.
Why benefit 826michigan, though? 826michigan is a local nonprofit writing and tutoring center that inspires school-aged students to write confidently and skillfully with the help of adult volunteers in their communities. What makes the organization stand out is its ability to reimagine what teaching writing should look like. Programming is as often whimsical and silly, as it is practical and serious, disarming hesitant young writers as they see—through their very own work—how impactful their voices are to their readers. They also gain a tremendous skill that will help them in both school and life.
Chip Bennett, an 826michigan partner teacher from Perry Early Learning Center in Ypsilanti says, “The students were successful at writing a book together! They felt so accomplished about that feat in itself…This is just one of the many ways we are building the confidence in these young writers. They are beginning to realize the power they have in writing.” Santiago, a student in Detroit simply stated, “I learned that writing is awesome!”
Each year, more than 3,200 students and their teachers engage in an array of programming at absolutely no cost to them in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, and Detroit. Programs include After-school Tutoring, In-school Projects, Field Trips, Creative Writing Workshops, and professional-grade Publications.
Since the very first Mittenfest in 2005, more than $100,000 has been raised to directly benefit the free programming that 826michigan provides to thousands of students across Southeast Michigan. Mittenfest XII will rock downtown Ypsilanti December 29th-31st at Bona Sera. A team of volunteers still organizes the festivities—and the daily cover charge holds strong at $10 per night. Dare we ask, what better way could you possibly bring in the new year? Look for updates on this year’s Mittenfest lineup—or register to audition your band—at Mittenfest.org. Learn more about 826michigan’s work and students online at 826michigan.org.