Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful? Imagining Downtown Akron in 2050

by Jennifer Kidd 

Disclaimer: The following is a work of realistic fiction for our special 2050 issue, published in June 2021. These stories are meant to spark imagination, not forecast the future of Akron. 

I’m making my way down the music corridor to Glendale for the monthly Akron Symphony performance on the steps. I find myself thinking about how lucky we are that after the pandemic the arts came back in such a strong way. It became so clear to all of us that the arts are where we turn for comfort, for inspiration, for community. 

As this area grew in size and became what we now call the music corridor, everything nearby began to sound different. It sounds like children learning and playing music. It sounds like beautiful voices echoing through the buildings and around the trees until they make their way to your ears. It sounds like friends briskly walking arm in arm to the next venue so they don’t miss the upcoming act. It sounds like pianos and violins and trumpets and drums. It sounds like old friends catching up as they gather for a meal before an outdoor performance. It sounds like laughter. It sounds alive. 

I listen closely and I hear the students practicing inside of The Open Tone Music School. I love it when they leave the windows open. I can’t help but think of the music being created by the kids and how it starts with one small note and grows for years to come. It is such a joy to see former students teaching the next generations. The students must be preparing their sets for this year’s International Rubber City Jazz and Blues Fest. Every year of Jazz Fest has been wildly successful, bringing in legends from all over the world. This year’s headliner is none other than Teagan Brown making her big return home. 

Click here to read more content from our 2050 issue.

While walking past the LeGrair Vocal Academy, I pause to listen. My advice is always pause to listen. World class vocalists reside here. The boom in music education throughout the past 30 years in Akron has been such a gift. I will never cease to be amazed at the amount of talent that comes from here and comes home here. 

I head south and run into an old friend standing outside the bookshop. There are always old friends at the bookshop. I stop in the record store to say hi and see what the new releases are. I buy a vinyl re-issue of “Where in The Hell is Akron, Oh?” I run into the small grocery to grab a drink and some fresh fruit. I pick up some flowers for another friend on the way out. I pass the outdoor tables and hear laughter and warmth. I pass the picnic area and see kids playing and frolicking while their families gather. All of this in downtown. 

I look up and scope out the marquee to see what is coming up at the EarthQuaker Pavilion. EarthQuaker Devices has never shied away from bringing a good time to Akron. Their pavilion grand opening giant balloon parade catapulted the annual EarthQuaker Day to permanent next-level status.

I walk through the venue alley and hear “1-2, 1-2, let’s try that again” as sound checks take place. The music fans gather up front and the tour vans all line up around back. Who ever thought that venue hopping could be a thing here? 

Next weekend is the North Hill International Music Festival. What started off as a small festival of world music put together by the Himalayan Music Academy has grown into something beyond our wildest dreams. Ten stages of performers and artists from all over the world will be stretching from North Hill down to the Glendale Community Steps. You can see an overview of the pop-up restaurants, shops, theater performances and other activities online. Bring your appetite. Hands down, the best food of the year. 

I encourage you to pause and listen and imagine what you’d like to hear 30 years from now in 2080. Imagine where you’d like to hear it and who you’d like to hear it with. Imagine the kids of today picking up their first instrument and what that will look like in 30 years. Imagine that future. It’s all possible. 

The title for Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful? is taken from a 1982 album and song by Akron legends The Waitresses. 

Jenn Kidd is a multimedia artist and creative consultant who spends a lot of time thinking about the future of downtown Akron. She currently serves as the Creative Director of the Historic Arts District and General Manager of Musica. She asks that you support artists voraciously when things return to normal.

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