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Shine Music Festival concertgoer sending love to the band onstage (photo by Nikolai Puc’ Photography via Shine Music Festival)

In August, the Shine Music Festival—billed as a “booty shaking, progress making, radically accessible music event”—brought hundreds of concertgoers of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to Levitt Pavilion Denver’s expansive lawn to experience the healing power of music. Today we’re taking a closer look at this historic daylong celebration three years in the making and exploring some of the ways permanent Levitt venues across the country are working to improve the live music experience for people of all abilities.

A ‘radically-accessible’ music festival
Little did six-year-old Lacie and guitar-playing street performer Cliff Woodage know that their spontaneous jam session on the streets of Grimsby, England, would one day inspire a day of music, community and access across the Atlantic Ocean. When Shine Music Founder and ‘Inclusion Architect’ Shawn Satterfield stumbled across a 2018 YouTube video of Lacie, who is blind and autistic, hearing Woodage’s music on the street, Satterfield was struck by the young girl’s elated smile. “I know that smile” said Satterfield, “that’s the feeling I get when I’m at live music.” Time and again Satterfield had experienced live music’s ability to bring people together and create a palpable joy amongst artists and concertgoers alike. Reflecting on the barriers that often prevent people living with disabilities from experiencing that collective joy, Evergreen, Colo.-based Satterfield set to work bringing the Shine Music Festival to life—where people of all abilities could feel the shared joy of free, live music. Continue reading

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Pop-up Covid vaccination site at Levitt Pavilion Denver (photo by Helen Grover via Levitt Pavilion Denver’s Facebook page).

Amid the ongoing pandemic, free Levitt concerts this past season offered hundreds of thousands of people nationwide a safe outdoor space to experience the unifying power of free, live music; connect with old and new friends; and at some venues, even acquire protection against Covid. More than a thousand concertgoers chose to receive a Covid vaccine at pop-up clinics held at permanent Levitt venues and Levitt AMP concert sites in cities including Denver; Los Angeles; Carson City, Nevada; Soldotna, Alaska; and Woonsocket, Rhode Island, reflecting Levitt’s role as a trusted gathering place that not only enhances cultural life but also promotes the health and well-being of its communities. Learn how several Levitt venues, large and small, made getting a Covid vaccine more accessible. Continue reading

Pictured from left to right: Ruby Ibarra, H.E.R, Dominic Fike, P-Lo, and Jasmine Villegas

Pictured from left to right: Ruby Ibarra, H.E.R, Dominic Fike, P-Lo, and Jasmine Villegas

October is Filipino-American History Month and today we are highlighting talented and inspiring FilAm artists you should know!

Established in 2009 by the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), this month celebrates and brings awareness to the significant role Filipinos have played in American history, both past and present. The month of October commemorates the first recorded presence of Filipinos in what is now the state of California on October 18, 1587.

Read on to learn about both well-known and up-and-coming Filipino-American musical artists who are bringing their talents into the spotlight.

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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

Musical group Suenatron, the audience at the ¡Sabor! Latin Festival, and Sadie Marquardt with Empress Dance

(Top left) Musical group Suenatron at Levitt Pavilion Arlington (Top right) The ¡Sabor! Latin Festival at Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks (Bottom) Sadie Marquardt with Empress Dance at the Taste of the Middle East Festival in Levitt Pavilion Denver

This past summer, Levitt venues across the country were a platform for cross-cultural celebrations and understanding, bringing different pockets of their communities together through cultural festivals and concerts. From Los Angeles to Bethlehem, Pa., Denver to Arlington, Texas, read how permanent Levitt venues created space to honor the diverse music and traditions of Latin, Middle Eastern, Tejano and Indigenous Mayan cultures.

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The Levitt AMP program is all about building community—through music, through partnerships and through engagement across sectors to help create more thriving and inclusive communities. Among the sectors touched by the Levitt AMP program are local businesses. Today, we’re shining the light on how organizers behind three Levitt AMP Music Series—Fort Smith, Ark., Stevens Point, Wis., and St Johnsbury, Vt.—have leveraged their respective music series to support local businesses and stimulate their creative economies while strengthening connections within their communities.

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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.

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.

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DJ Rekha at Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts in Westport, CT in July 2021

DJ Rekha at Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts in Westport, CT in July 2021

“I love free shows that are for all ages. I just love it.”

This may sound surprising to hear from a DJ, someone we may picture in the exclusive and adult-centric nightlife industry, but Rekha Malhotra, named “Ambassador of Bhangra” by&nbspThe New York Times, has never been an ordinary DJ. DJ Rekha’s goal is to “challenge the norms of nightlife” and make spaces “as welcoming as possible to everyone.”

I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down backstage with DJ Rekha, just minutes before their show on Saturday, July 17, at the Levitt Pavilion in Westport, Conn, part of its 2021 season of free summer concerts. “It’s really exciting, they said, “it’s my 10th anniversary of being here. I love this gig, it’s one of my favorites,” they added, citing its open space and the enthusiasm of Levitt audiences “dancing literally barefoot on the grass” of the Westport lawn, surrounded by beautiful greenery and the picturesque Saugatuck River. Indeed, DJ Rekha’s infectious blend of bhangra, Hindi film music and hip-hop has been making people of all ages and ethnicities dance on Levitt lawns coast to coast, from Levitt Pavilion Westport where they had their first concert in 2011, to Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles, also in 2011.

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A concert at Levitt Pavilion Dayton in Dave Hall Plaza

A concert at Levitt Pavilion Dayton in Dave Hall Plaza

Happy Park and Recreation Month!

This July organizations across the country are celebrating Park and Recreation Month by using the hashtag #OurParkAndRecStory and sharing how green spaces have made their communities stronger, more vibrant and more resilient.

At the Levitt Foundation, ensuring access to green space is an essential part of our mission to foster equitable, thriving and sustainable communities. Through partnerships with nonprofits across the country, we support the activation of underused parks, vacant downtown lots, former brownfields and more to create green spaces where people of all ages and backgrounds can come together to enjoy both the beauty of nature and the power of free, live music through Levitt concerts.

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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. 
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