Marvin Hollinshed can’t remember wanting to do anything else but make music. He got close once, when he lived in Denver and played with a group. They’d been together six years and had the opportunity to record, but the group fell apart before they got to the recording studio. For decades his dream was to play professionally, but it never worked out until he started busking at the City Market six years ago.
“I was trying to get work in clubs and would get a gig every two or three months, but it wasn’t enough,” said Hollinshed.
He had to earn money on the side to support his family, but he never gave up the dream of performing for his living. He’d build fences Monday through Wednesday and play at clubs Thursday through Saturday. Then a friend who lived in Detroit suggested he play on the street. Hollinshed thought he’d give it a try. Before he set up shop Hollinshed had to audition in order to be a busker at the City Market, but he breezed through that.
“The first weekend I came down, I had an outrageous day—more than I was making at the club,” said Hollinshed.
Besides paying the bills, playing solo has also made him a better musician. He has to be certain of his chord changes because he has no other musicians to cover up his mistakes. He likes playing at the City Market more than in clubs because he has more connection with his audience. In clubs people are drinking and talking and aren’t always listening to the musicians.
He’ll keep coming back because he loves his audience. He receives a warm response from children. Hollinshed smiles when he tells the story of the boy that asked his father to bring him to the City Market for breakfast so he could hear the flute. When he sets down his stool and opens his flute case, it’s the people that make this gig special for him.
“People come and thank me for the music I play,” said Hollinshed. “They appreciate all the music and the musicians. People from all over the world come to Kansas City and when they come, they come to the City Market. It’s the place to be.”
Marvin Hollinshed plays most weekends at the City Market and also during the lunch hour a few days a week.
Emily Allen, blogger
I've lived in a few states across the U.S and spent a year down the street from a castle in Eger, Hungary. My heart finally found its home in Kansas City's River Market neighborhood.