Author Archives: Vanessa Silberman

Change embodies creative placemaking focus for Foundation

Last month, we announced some exciting news—the work of our national nonprofit, Levitt Pavilions, will be carried out by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation going forward, furthering our mission to strengthen communities across the country through free, live music.

Since 2005, the Levitt Foundation has awarded more than $20 million to its nonprofit partners and grantees to support free concerts in communities large and small. As Liz Levitt Hirsch, president of the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, explained, “This exciting change signals our resolve to direct the majority of the Foundation’s philanthropy towards creative placemaking programs that focus on free concerts in public spaces. With funding now geared to one main cause, it made sense to place the operations of our national organization under one roof and to function as the Levitt Foundation, thus sunsetting Levitt Pavilions.” Continue reading

Levitt venues

Pictured from L to R (top row): Levitt Pavilion Arlington; Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles; Levitt Shell Memphis; (bottom row): Levitt Pavilion Pasadena; Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks; Levitt Pavilion Westport.

Across the country, another spectacular season of Levitt concerts has come to a close, and we’re once again celebrating the undeniable power of free, live music to bring people together of all ages and backgrounds, creating stronger communities. Watch your favorite Levitt venue in action!

You may ask, who brings the Levitt program to life, year after year? Your local Friends of Levitt nonprofit, that’s who! Each Friends of Levitt manages, programs and fundraises for the 50 free concerts every year. This is an impressive feat when you consider the sheer number of acclaimed artists presented on a Levitt stage featuring a range of music genres; the first-rate production crews and state-of-the-art sound and lighting; as well as the additional programming and activities realized through local partnerships to create unforgettable evenings of free music under the stars. Rounding out the experience are the passionate volunteers whose friendly smiles and enthusiasm embody that warm sense of community found on Levitt lawns.

And yet the Friends of Levitt nonprofit is only part of the equation. Equally important is the community of supporters—audience members who donate on the lawn, businesses sponsoring shows, grants from foundations, and local family and individual donors—whose generous contributions ensure the free music continues each year at their Levitt venue. Continue reading

Mimi and Liz for Blog

Mimi Levitt and Liz Levitt Hirsch at the reopening of Levitt Westport, 2014

In many parts of the country, the name “Levitt” has become synonymous with “free outdoor concerts,” “revitalized spaces” and “citywide destinations” open to all. And for good reason—in 2015, more than 400 Levitt concerts will be presented in 16 cities, bringing the joy of free, live music to hundreds of thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds across America, ensuring access to the arts and strengthening communities in the process. America’s largest free outdoor concert series is made possible, in part, by the generous philanthropy and forward-thinking vision of the Levitt family—the late Mortimer Levitt (1907-2005), whose humble beginnings inspired his lifelong love affair with free music under the stars, his wife Annemarie “Mimi” Levitt, and daughter Liz Levitt Hirsch. Since Mortimer’s passing in 2005, Mimi and Liz have taken the reins of their private family foundation, the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, and have led it with aplomb, honoring Mortimer’s legacy while directing more than $18 million in grants to support the core Levitt program of outdoor music venues presenting free concert series, along with other meaningful projects that invigorate communities through the arts. Continue reading

Fresh off the success of the inaugural Levitt National Tour featuring World music sensation Playing For Change, we’re thrilled to announce that Black Violin, the genre-busting pioneers of urban meets highbrow, will headline the 2015 Levitt National Tour. Named one of the hottest bands at SXSW in 2013, this classically trained, hip-hop duo has wowed audiences across the globe with their unique take on violin/viola playing—from countless concert arenas to headlining a Broadway show to performing at the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Ball.

The 2015 Levitt National Tour will take place during June and July next summer, stopping at six Levitt locations—five existing venues (Arlington, Bethlehem, Los Angeles, Memphis and Pasadena) and one in the works (Denver). Audiences can expect a party atmosphere at these family-friendly shows, filled with unexpected surprises that will get everyone on their feet dancing. In addition to the free shows, Black Violin will lead community outreach activities with youth and seniors, drawing on past experiences to spur their creativity and inspire them to think outside the box.

“Black Violin’s pioneering approach aligns perfectly with Levitt’s artistic vision of excellence and inclusivity, creating boundary-busting music that resonates with people of all ages and backgrounds,” says Sharon Yazowski, executive director of Levitt Pavilions. “In addition to their incredibly high-energy shows, Black Violin’s deep commitment to community outreach will provide meaningful experiences with the duo at every Levitt tour stop.”

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Part of the new Levitt Pavilion Westport

Marking a new chapter in the history of a treasured music venue that sparked a movement across America, the original Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts in Westport, Conn., will re-open this Sunday as a brand new, state-of-the art complex. The new pavilion was made possible in part by a lead capital gift of $4.5 million from the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation—the largest single gift in the foundation’s history.

“We are extremely proud of Levitt Westport’s 40 year history and its beloved reputation as a community treasure, open to all,” said Liz Levitt Hirsch, president of the Levitt Foundation and board chair of Levitt Pavilions. “The new facility is a beautiful reflection of its special place in our hearts, and we’re thrilled that the Levitt Foundation’s lead gift is helping to ensure the joy of free, live music for the people of Westport and surrounding communities for decades to come.”  Continue reading

Levitt AMP Your City Grant AwardsOnline public voting process to select top 20 finalists

Calling all small to mid-sized cities across the country: America’s largest free outdoor concert series is about to get even larger, and the spotlight is on you!

Starting in 2015, Levitt’s national program of 300 free concerts across the country will increase to 400, thanks to an exciting, new matching grant opportunity—the Levitt AMP [Your City] Grant Awards. In addition to 100 more free concerts, Levitt AMP will broaden the geographic impact of the Levitt program by focusing on small and mid-sized cities. And in another first, the public will get to decide which 20 cities make it to the finals round through an online voting process to take place next fall. So get ready to rally your colleagues, friends and family members to vote and bring the joy of free, live music to your city! Continue reading

The Playing for Change touring band.

The Playing For Change touring band will be appearing at six Levitt locations across America.

We’re thrilled to announce that the acclaimed World music group Playing For Change will headline the first-ever Levitt National Tour. Taking place over a three-week period next summer, the National Tour will stop at six Levitt locations—five existing venues (Arlington, Bethlehem, Los Angeles, Memphis and Pasadena) and one in the works (Denver). In addition to the concerts, the Tour will feature pre-concert conversations with the artists and drum circles, inviting the entire audience to participate.

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Levitt’s vision for an America filled with thriving public spaces is one step closer to becoming a reality with recently announced plans to bring the Levitt program to Denver!

A new Levitt Pavilion will be opening in Denver's Ruby Hill Park in 2016!The new Levitt Denver, located in the city’s expansive, 83-acre Ruby Hill Park just minutes from downtown, will be the seventh Levitt performance venue across the nation, joining the cities of Los Angeles; Memphis; Arlington, Texas; Bethlehem, Pa.; Pasadena, Calif.; and Westport, Conn. As part of the Levitt network, Levitt Denver will present 50 free concerts annually in a state-of-the-art outdoor venue open to all, featuring acclaimed, emerging talent to award-winning artists in a diverse range of music genres. The welcoming open lawn setting will be perfect for lawn chairs and picnics. Construction is expected to break ground in 2015, with free concerts to begin wowing Denverites in spring 2016. Continue reading