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.
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.
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 The 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.