GRAMMY Award-winning blues sensation Ruthie Foster performs at Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks on a recent August evening at the base of the iconic blast furnaces that once powered Bethlehem Steel.
Two Sundays ago, echoes of Ruthie Foster’s smooth blues vocals invited me onto the Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks lawn during on an otherwise quiet evening. Following my 90-minute drive to Bethlehem, Pa., from my hometown of Freehold in New Jersey, my anticipation grew as towering blast furnaces—rusted remnants of Bethlehem Steel, known as “the ruins”—came into view, welcoming me to the historic manufacturing hub-turned-arts campus. As I arrived at Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks, I noticed a lush green lawn filled with the energy of a music-loving audience who showed up for the performance despite dark gray clouds and scattered showers earlier in the day. From couples snuggled into folding chairs to families lined up at food and beverage stations, to volunteers galore, the excitement for Foster’s free, live show was palpable.
This summer and fall, Levitt lawns across the country are once again filling with the sounds of free, live music. After a devastating pandemic year that forced us to be apart, Levitt venues and AMP grantees weren’t sure what to expect while planning their concert series, however record-breaking audiences have proven that people are ready to come back together and build community through the power of music. “People are just excited to be back,” said Lisa Wagner, executive director of Levitt Pavilion Dayton. “Greeting one another. Hugging each other. Picking up where they left off in many ways. There has been a real healing experience of what we missed in 2020.”
Healing is exactly what so many of us are needing following the past year. During that challenging time, the Levitt network pivoted to create virtual programming, mobile concerts, pop-up shows and more. These efforts not only helped people feel a sense of connection during a time of great uncertainty and isolation, but also gave artists an opportunity to share their music and brighten otherwise dark and challenging days.
Now that in-person Levitt concerts have returned, read on to learn more about the 2021 Levitt season and how you can experience some of these amazing free concerts, either in-person or virtually. Continue reading →
In today’s Spotlight Series we’re featuring the LowDown Brass Band, a Chicago-based ensemble that takes the traditional sounds of the Big Easy to new heights with infusions of jazz, blues, funk and hip-hop. The group’s hard-hitting horn section, groovy sousaphone and funkified drums create an atmosphere that fans describe as “an absolute party,” and the recent addition of ferocious poet MC Billa Camp’s energizing rhymes has made their live performances even more explosive. After lighting up Levitt AMP Sheboygan earlier this month, the LowDown Brass Band will be bringing the funk to Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks tonight for another pumped-up performance.
Temperatures are rising and early summer showers are (hopefully!) on their way out. This time of year, public parks across the country are filled with families and friends enjoying the outdoors, so what better time to pack a picnic? In celebration of National Picnic Month, we’ve created a mouth-watering slideshow of picnicking Levitteers across the nation!
Memphis picnickers munching on healthy crackers and dip, and getting ready for a music-filled night at Levitt Shell.
“Preparing for the picnic is fun and part of the experience!” stated a Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles family, while munching on fig and olive crackers with brie cheese.
Levitt Pavilion Arlington picnickers gathering for a family night of music, while snacking on tasty treats.
A Levitteer sharing some picnic love by pouring beverages for all to enjoy at the Levitt AMP Stevens Point Music Series.
This Denison couple is having a romantic night at Levitt AMP, while enjoying drinks and live music.
Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles picnickers came prepared with an LA-style home cooked meal—slaw consisting of carrots, cilantro and jalapenos.
Levitteers at Levitt AMP Sheboygan enjoyed a tasty meal from Wisconsin-based grocery store—Festival Foods before the live music started.
Picnickers in Stevens Point getting settled to enjoy an evening of live, free music at Levitt AMP with ice-cold refreshments.
Levitteers in Bethlehem cooling down with fruity popsicles at Levitt SteelStacks.
Levitteers enjoying an LA inspired basket, including locally grown cherries, before the music starts at Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles.
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 →
Looking to kick back, relax and enjoy free live music under the stars this Independence Day weekend? Grab your picnic basket and head to your local Levitt for a celebration music lovers of all ages will enjoy. Continue reading →
As a longtime Lehigh Valley resident, Levitt SteelStacks Board Member, Tito Negron, has experienced firsthand the transformation of Bethlehem, Pa.’s iconic, larger-than-life blast furnaces: from powerful steel-makers to devastating eyesores to pinnacles of the awe-inspiring backdrop to Levitt SteelStacks.
Growing up, Negron’s father used to work at Bethlehem Steel, which at its height was the country’s second largest steel producer, employing 30,000 workers. When the company closed in the early 2000s, Negron’s family was one of the manywho had to move elsewhere in search of new employment opportunities. Today, Negron has returned to his hometown, where he is raising a family of his own.
In this Faces of Levittvideo, Negron and his wife, Amy, explain why having access to a rich variety of free, live music is so important for their family. “To expose the kids to so many different kinds of music, weekly, is absolutely priceless,” says Amy. Levitt lawns provide clean and safe places where family members of all ages can enjoy free, live music. With Levitt SteelStacks in their backyard, the Negron family plans to call Bethlehem home for years to come!
In this Faces of Levitt video, longtime Bethlehem resident and Levitt SteelStacks volunteer Jeff Brodhead shares how going to free Levitt concerts and witnessing the revitalization of Bethlehem’s south side inspired him to get involved. “The music here is just wonderful,” says Brodhead. “Once you come here once, you’re coming back again.”
Be sure to thank your local Levitt volunteers this concert season, which starts in just a few months! And if you’re interested in volunteering with your local Levitt venue, each Friends of Levitt nonprofit has opportunities available during both the concert season and throughout the year. Click here to find out more!
While you can certainly say it with flowers, chocolates, home cooked meals and more, we often find ourselves turning to one of the most romantic forms of expression of all: music. And to celebrate Valentine’s Day, we’ve put together a playlist of songs about love by artists who have performed at Levitt stages across the country over the last couple of years! Continue reading →