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Return of the silent disco

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For the fourth year, silent discos will return to Lithia Park this summer on First Fridays, from 5 to 11 p.m. beginning May 3.

Silent Movement International (SMI), the local non-profit organization hosting the discos, now has 200 headphone sets available to rent at the events, according to founder Jordon Rose. He said they should have more by the beginning of summer.

For a minimal donation of $5, participants get a wireless headphone set that plays music via Bluetooth that’s controlled by live DJs. With the push of a button, headphone wearers can change the “station” to one to two other live DJ’s jams. The stations flash different colored L.E.D. lights that fill the night as participants dance.

Silent discos create a safe space of live music but without any of the noise disrupting neighbors and businesses. It also makes having a conversation a lot easier as opposed to screaming over a live concert.

Last year the event partnered with the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department and moved to the Butler Bandshell because of its popularity. Parks renewed the partnership this year and the events are moving back to the front of the park across from the Plaza. A lot of traction to the events come from First Friday passersby which was lost when the event moved to the bandshell.

Rose founded the events with the hope of giving kids, teens and adults something fun and safe to do in town.

SMI focuses on other all-ages-friendly events, too.

This year, it’s bringing Family Movies to the Butler Bandshell from 8 to 11:30 p.m. every second and fourth Fridays starting in May. Patrons will use the headsets for the movies as well.

Volunteers run projections and light shows at the discos as well as “The Wiggle Wagon,” the permanent kids’ channel. Rose calls it an interactive sonic playground for children of all ages to collaborate and explore a wide variety of electronic instruments.

Last year SMI hosted food trucks, but because the events are in the front of the park again, Rose said they’ll encourage patrons to wander the Art Walk with their headphones to support local restaurants downtown.

Weather (and clean air) permitting, there will be pop-up silent discos in various parks around town in the day. These pop-up events will be advertised on the SMI and the Ashland Parks social media accounts.

“Our pop-up discos never happened last year because of the smoke (along with a few first Friday cancellations), but we plan on doing them this year in various parks around Ashland,” Rose said.

A portion of these discos will benefit the Ashland Parks Foundation.

SMI has been working on creating various youth educational programs called Shadow Labs in which mentors would teach kids how to work the technology they use, such as sound and lighting boards.

These workshops are still in the works, but in the meantime, Rose said they’re still trying to interact with youth around the Rogue Valley.

“Last summer we had a few senior project mentorships, taught a few Intro-to-DJing workshops, through Synths for Kids and Sounderground, but mainly we did a bunch of kid-friendly events around the valley with the Wiggle Wagon, engaging younger kids in the process of experimenting with sound,” Rose said.

Synth for Kids is a sister movement of SMI focused on teaching kids to experiment with synthesis, sequencing and noise-making. Sounderground is also a partnering organization focused on electronic dance music, event production and music recording.

SMI is entirely run and funded by a handful of local volunteers. They are looking for donors and local business sponsors for the family movies. For anyone interested in volunteering or supporting the organization, visit its website Silent-Movement.org.

To watch for pop-up discos, visit social media pages fb.me/silentmovementinternational and instagram.com/silentmovementinternational.

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

Silent Discos are back starting in May. This video by{ }Kurt DeWitt Photography shows what to expect.{ }
The Wiggle Wagon in action. This is the kids channel where kids are in control of the sounds. Video courtesy of Synth for Kids, the sister organization to Silent Movement International.Thumbnail