Category Archives: Levitt Artists

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Pamyua and Kelly Caballero

In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, today we’re highlighting the work of two compelling Native artists who have performed on Levitt stages either in person or virtually. There are myriad ways to be Native and express Native culture, each with intricate cultural traditions and modern interpretations, and these artists — Pamyua and Kelly Caballero — both draw on their heritage in their songwriting and musical expressions to showcase these complexities.

Pamyua — Inuit music for the soul
“Pamyua” (pronounced bum-yo-ah) is an Inuit, specifically Yup’ik, word which means “tail end of (something)” and is traditionally used to say “Encore! Do it again!” Pamyua calls their music “Inuit soul,” because they play with traditional melodies from the Inuit cultures of Alaska and Greenland mixed with contemporary vocalization and instrumentation. The result is a joyful and sincere representation of the enduring Inuit heritage that the group believes can help bring unity between different cultures.

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Pamyua performing at Levitt AMP Soldotna in 2021

The marks of Indigenous culture in Pamuya’s music are plentiful — inspired by their Inuit community, they incorporate traditional Yup’ik dance and face masks, and have also used “seal call” vocalizations to express their relationship to animals and the natural world, creating what Native People’s Magazine described as “a blizzard of interlocking harmonies.”

The group was formed in 1995 by brothers Philip Kilirnquc Blanchett and Stephen Qacungatarli Blanchett from Anchorage, Alaska. The Blanchett brothers grew up going to a Black church in Anchorage, and describes this community as their “second village” in addition to their Inuit community. From the beginning, they have incorporated both their African American and Inuit heritages into their music: “When we started Pamyua it was really clear; we’re Black. We’re Yup’ik. This is what we do,” Philip Kilirnquc Blanchett said. In addition to the Blanchett brothers, the group is complete with Ossie (Aassanaaq) Kairaiuak of Chefornak, Alaska and Karina Moeller of Greenland, and they also play with additional musicians from around the world.

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Pamyua and additional collaborators (pamyua.com)

Pamyua performed at the 2019 and 2021 Levitt AMP Soldotna Music Series, with each show  featuring a number of Native artists as part of a larger effort to amplify Native stories in Soldotna to make reparations for past violence against Native communities and increase representation of Native Alaskans. “We’re a testament that there’s still room for change in the culture, the awareness of people,” Blanchett said in an interview with Indie Alaska.

Kelly Caballero — reclaiming Tovaangar through music and poetry
Kelly Caballero is a Tongva, Yaqui and Xicana singer and songwriter, performer, poet, and jeweler who uses her art to educate about the history of Tongva people on the land that is now known as Los Angeles, but historically was part of the tribal territory Tovaangar (originally meaning “the world”). Caballero’s work largely focuses on the lived experiences of Indigenous people living in urban settings: “Being in the city and being a Native American is a whole different ball game,” Caballero said, “it feels like the grass that pokes up through the cement, it’s finding the beauty in the rubble.”

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Kelly Caballero performing at Levitt Los Angeles’ Barrio Fino

Caballero performed virtually at Levitt Los Angeles’ Barrio Fino, Episode 1: “Natives in the Now.” Performing on her ancestral land, she gave an emotional performance in which she dedicated her song “Mountains” to people who’ve been struggling during the pandemic, and “Anywhere” to Angelenos who have to “drive over two hours just to be in some kind of nature, to be alone with the trees, to find some clean running water.”

Caballero’s songwriting often emphasizes her and her people’s strong connection to nature and their physical land. Her first song, “Siren,” is about a girl calling people to her like a siren to make them hear and see her as a Tongva woman, and in her poem “California,” she says “maybe if I could speak my mother tongue the rivers would rise to meet me.”

Activism is also a strong focus in Caballero’s work, and part of what inspired her to become an artist was the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. “Standing Rock was definitely the catalyst for me to be more open and proud of my culture and heritage,” Caballero said. The protests inspired her to “do good work in my community and bring awareness to the original people of Los Angeles.” Caballero also performed at the Yo-Yo Ma Day of Action, in which the world-renowned cellist brought cross-sector groups together to explore how culture can help build a better future.

Both Kelly Caballero and Pamyua, while different in their expressions, circumstances and culture, use their music and artistry to celebrate and educate others about their Native cultures. Through the unique power of music to bridge past and present, they show that Native artists and culture are here now, as alive and vibrant as ever.

Pictured from left to right: Flor De Toloache guitarrón player Yesi Reyes, Making Movies frontman Enrique Chi, and Quetzal lead singer Martha Gonzalez, performing on Levitt stages.

This week wraps up Hispanic Heritage Month, a monthlong celebration from September 15 to October 15, celebrating of the rich and complex histories, cultures and contributions of the 62.1 million Hispanics, Latinos and Latinx individuals who call this country ‘home.’ Today we’re highlighting three ways that past Levitt performers are harnessing the power of music to protect, uplift and empower some of the most vulnerable members of the group Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates. Continue reading

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Left to right: BettySoo, Dumbfoundead, Ruby Ibarra, River Run North, Lyrics Born

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, celebrating the significant yet sometimes overlooked role of AAPIs to the fabric of American culture and society. With the recent rise in anti-Asian racism and violence, it’s more important than ever to amplify the diverse AAPI voices, cultures and traditions that have helped shape American culture.

Today on our blog, we’re excited to share a fun new playlist that highlights the contributions of AAPI artists to contemporary music across a wide range of genres, featuring songs from five past Levitt performers like Lyrics Born, Ruby Ibarra and Run River North. Listen to folk, rock, rap, EDM and more from AAPI musicians across the country—scroll down or head over to our Spotify to listen!

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Earlier today, The Recording Academy announced its full list of 2021 GRAMMY Award nominees, giving artists and professionals across the music industry cause for celebration during a challenging year. We’re especially thrilled to congratulate the 27 nominees who’ve performed on Levitt stages across the country! Ranging from Latin, pop, country, jazz and more, these talented performers have captured the attention of critics and audiences around the globe, from blues sensation North Mississippi Allstars who have graced Levitt Shell Memphis to country duo, Brothers Osborne. Check out the nominees below and catch the ceremony on January 31, 2021.  
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As the leaves start to change color, Levitt virtual concerts continue to bring a thrilling mix of music genres straight to you! Check out this month’s roundup of free shows presented by permanent Levitt venues across the nation, featuring artists like Abraham Alexander, Marcella and Her LoversRob Bair and more. With over 15 shows slated for October, get cozy and discover new music with a lively and eclectic selection of virtual concerts.

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September 15th to October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to honor the cultures of Latin America and recognize their significance to our country. We’re grateful for the rich, diverse music of Latin America, and today we’re celebrating it with a playlist of some of our favorite Latin tracks from past Levitt performers! With salsa, cumbia, Cubano, mariachi and more, this music demands to be danced to — grab a partner, a pet, or a socially-distant pal and get ready to move! Head over to Spotify to experience the playlist now, or read on for more info on each track. 

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Levitt network presents over 200 virtual concerts, attracts 1 million viewers, as the show went on(line)

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Levitt is all about bringing people together. About celebrating music, community and the power of the arts to fuel positive change. About strengthening the social fabric of our towns and cities. So back in March, when the COVID-19 pandemic brought much of American life to a halt, it struck at the heart of the Levitt mission. How could the national Levitt network of permanent outdoor music venues and Levitt AMP sites present concerts, each attracting hundreds and often times thousands of people on a typical night, given new public health restrictions on outdoor gatherings?

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From left to right: Copper Chief, Ruthie Foster, Bob Schneider

While summer may be winding down, free Levitt virtual concerts continue to bring a thrilling mix of music genres straight to you! Check out this month’s roundup of free shows presented by permanent Levitt venues across the nation, featuring artists like Ruthie Foster, Bob Schneider, Copper Chief and more. With 30 shows slated for September, discover new music with a lively and eclectic selection of virtual concerts.

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Tonight, the Levitt AMP Virtual Music Series comes to a close with a one-time virtual concert featuring Trenton’s legendary soul, funk and disco singer-songwriter, Sarah Dash. Co-presented by the Trenton Downtown Association, the nonprofit behind the Levitt AMP Trenton Music Series, tonight’s virtual performance celebrates Dash’s 75th birthday (her special day is August 18!) as well as the community’s ongoing efforts to expand the mix of artistic offerings and revitalize the local economy through the power of free music. Tune in at 8pm ET/5pm PT at https://levittamp.org/virtual!

The arts as community builder
Historic_TrentonLocated less than a half hour from Philadelphia, Trenton is New Jersey’s state capital and home to just over 83,000 people. Known for its Revolutionary War era historical landmarks, including the Battle of Trenton Monument (where George Washington earned his first military victory), the city became a center for manufacturing and ceramic industries in the early 19th century, inspiring the proud slogan “Trenton Makes The World Takes” still visible on the city’s iconic bridge. Like many other former industrial hubs, however, the loss of manufacturing and industry brought challenges to the area in recent decades, including shuttered businesses, a shrinking population and a high poverty rate. Still, the city boasts vibrant racial and cultural diversity with nearly half its residents being African American and nearly 37 percent Hispanic.

Since its founding in 1987, the Trenton Downtown Association (TDA) has been working together with other local nonprofits to revitalize the city’s economy while providing accessible arts opportunities for residents. For years, TDA Executive Director Tom Gilmour and Development Manager Meaghan Singletary have also worked alongside statewide organizations and companies like the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co. to further develop the vibrant arts scene in the city. They recognize the importance of expanding a “thriving arts and culture scene that is representative and has the ability to become an economic driver and a community-building vehicle for the city,” explains Gilmour. Over the years, TDA had spearheaded several well-established and collaborative art projects—like the Trenton Film Festival, Art All Night and Murals on Front Street—helping Trenton forge a path forward by nurturing the local creative economy and expanding arts engagement, providing opportunities for the community to come together and experience the arts free of charge. With robust experience organizing community events, Trenton’s community-oriented leaders were poised to collaborate to bring the Levitt AMP Trenton Music Series to life.

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The Merced Open Air Theatre (MOAT) in Merced’s Applegate Park, future home to the Levitt AMP Merced Music Series

Tonight, the Levitt AMP Virtual Music Series continues with a new virtual concert featuring the upbeat sounds of California’s Central Valley Latin rock favorite Valley Wolf and a fusion of musical styles from faculty-led ensemble G Street Revolution, co-presented by University of California, Merced and the City of Merced – the dynamic team behind the Levitt AMP Merced Music Series. Tonight’s concert celebrates Merced’s ongoing efforts to revitalize an iconic amphitheater and fuel unity through the power of arts and free music. Tune in at 8pm ET/5pm PT at https://levittamp.org/virtual!

Creating and celebrating a shared identity

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Downtown Merced

Located in the heart of California’s sunny San Joaquin Valley, the city of Merced is home to just over 83,000 people. Known as the “Gateway to Yosemite,” this tranquil center of the Golden State is just two hours from San Francisco and Sacramento, and 90 minutes from the famed Yosemite National Park. Surrounded by lush natural beauty, Merced residents enjoy streams, scenic hiking trails, abundant parks, an extensive bike path system and the valley’s rich agricultural heritage. Merced has served as the processing and shipping hub for agricultural produce of the valley since its 1872 founding by the Central Pacific Railroad. In 2016, Merced County generated over $3.4 billion in produce, becoming the fifth-top producing county in California. Over the past 20 years, Merced’s local industries have expanded to include printing, warehouse distribution, packaging and most recently, higher education.

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