Author Archives: Janelle Hart

Levitt AMP Berea audience members dancing during a 2018 concert.

Levitt AMP Berea audience members dancing during a 2018 concert.

Many college and university towns grapple with how to bridge the town-gown divide – a phenomenon in which a place that harbors two communities (the university and its student population within a town and local residents who live there full-time) experiences a sociocultural disconnect between these groups of people. While higher educational institutions bring economic growth, diversity and a youthful energy to their surrounding areas, local residents aren’t always accepting of the shifts to their established towns. Today, we’re shining the light on how two college towns – Berea, Ky., and Merced, Calif. –  are balancing the needs of both students and local residents through the Levitt AMP Music Series in order to foster connections, build relationships and create a larger sense of community.

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Promo Image from In the Heights. Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

A Timeless Story of Tradition, Hope and Belonging

Lin Manuel Miranda and Jon M. Chu’s 2021 film adaptation of In the Heights is an emotional rollercoaster filled with love, community, and most importantly, infectious music! The story follows two American Latinos: Usnavi (played by Anthony Ramos), an ambitious bodega owner with a dream to move back to the Dominican Republic for a better life, and Nina (played by Leslie Grace), a Stanford student struggling with her identity and the pressure to succeed. Taking place in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood, or the “Little Dominican Republic,” Miranda’s songs encapsulate the grit it takes to survive in a place that is so concentrated with tradition and culture, yet often underrepresented and isolated from the rest of the city.

Even with the film’s focus on representation, the movie has faced criticism for its lack of Afro-Latino lead cast members, who are the predominant residents of Washington Heights. Miranda apologized for this oversight shortly after the film’s release a few weeks ago and reminds us that even for a movie with such a strong focus on representation, there is still more work to be done.

Nevertheless, there is much to love about the movie version of In the Heights, starting with its accurate portrayal of the long history of immigration and cultural change that has been brewing in the Manhattan neighborhood for decades. As chronicled by Smithsonian Magazine’s Nili Blanck, Washington Heights was home to Russian, European and Latin American immigrants (mainly Puerto Ricans and Cubans) in the 1950s and ‘60s. It has since vastly changed into a Dominican community. During the latter part of the 20th century, however, Washington Heights became known as a community plagued by crime. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that this neighborhood began rebuilding that initial spark of optimism and potential, which serves as the iconic setting for this movie musical.

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Commemorating Juneteenth through music, storytelling, and education

Top left: Ranky Tanky, bottom left: Charlton Singleton, bottom right: Soul Rebels

Top left: Ranky Tanky, bottom left: Charlton Singleton, bottom right: Soul Rebels

On June 19, 1865, Black Americans living in Galveston, Texas rejoiced when they learned that the Civil War had ended and slavery had been abolished throughout the United States, over two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. At first called “Jubilee Day,” the day didn’t become known as Juneteenth until nearly a century later after gaining momentum during the Civil Rights Movement. Juneteenth serves as the oldest and most important Black holiday in American history and has since gained considerable recognition beyond the Black community. It is a day to celebrate Black freedom, the continual efforts towards racial justice, and the integral part that Black people had and continue to have in our country. Particularly during the past year, as the death of George Floyd reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality and racism, Juneteenth and the people it represents have taken on greater urgency and more widespread significance.

This week, as a part of the 2021 Juneteenth celebrations happening across the country, we’re proud to share that both permanent Levitt venues in Bethlehem, Dayton, Denver, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Sioux Falls, and Levitt AMP concert sites in Springfield, Ill., and Fort Smith, Ark., are partnering with local organizations and businesses to host concerts and festivals filled with live performances featuring Black artists, including Tank and the Bangas, Ranky Tanky and Henry & The Reggae Rockers among many others, as well as educational activities and historical discussions about Juneteenth. Read below for details on these can’t-miss events celebrating the significance of this day. Additionally, as Juneteenth falls in the same month that celebrates Pride and Black music, we’re excited to see that a number of Levitt venues are embracing intersectional themes and activities to illustrate how music is a unifying force, a way for diverse identities and communities to relate to one another.

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Tomorrow night, reggae, soul and jazz singer Marla Brown will be taking the Levitt AMP Carson City stage, inspiring attendees with her empowering and uplifting songs about global issues. This multitalented artist has delighted audiences across continents with her graceful dance moves and powerful vocals. Levitt AMP Carson City concertgoers get to experience this rising star first-hand!

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Along with July being National Picnic Month, this month is also National Park and Recreation Month, which makes sense considering that picnics and parks go hand in hand! We love this infographic created by National Recreation and Park Association that shares some fun facts about community spaces boosting positive attitudes toward cultural diversity, how playing outside enhances vision and that half of exercise in America takes place at parks.

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Spotlight_Series_loshacheros_updated_readySaturday night, Brooklyn’s Los Hacheros will have Levitt AMP Santa Fe swaying to their fun, warm and infectious Latin beats. Their deep Afro-Caribbean groove weaves in elements of folkloric styles like son montuno, guaracha and salsa, often combining them with Bomba—a fiery rhythm from the mountains of Puerto Rico.

Los Hacheros is a five-piece band created in 2012, and have brought new heights to the golden era of Latin music with their unique versatility, explosive energy and instruments ranging from flute, trombone, violin, congas and tres—a guitar-like instrument that changed the course of the New York salsa scene.

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Happy National Picnic Month!

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.

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LNT Page Banner_The SuffersUPDATEDLAAward-winning 8-piece band, The Suffers, kicked off the 2017 Levitt National Tour at Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles last Saturday with an outstanding turnout coming from all walks of life. The Suffers performed an upbeat, groovy set enabling Levitteers to get on their feet and dance the night away to the sounds of Gulf Coast Soul. The fun continues tomorrow night when the next leg of the tour stops in Memphis at Levitt Shell, followed by Arlington, Texas this Saturday night at Levitt Pavilion Arlington. Here’s 5 fun facts about The Suffers:

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Powerhouse vocalist Dana Fuchs brings her raspy blues-rock vocals to Levitt AMP Ocala tomorrow night. The edgy singer/songwriter is known and beloved for her electric stage presence and heartfelt, compelling albums, many of which are dedicated to late loved ones. Born in New Jersey and raised in Wildwood, Fla.—where she performed as a child in a Baptist Choir—Fuchs always knew she wanted to broaden her horizons and make the leap to The Big Apple. She made her dream a reality when she packed her bags and moved to New York City at 19 to pursue a singing career. It was there that she formed and fronted the soulful, rocking Dana Fuchs Band, which gained a reputation as one of the best blues acts in the city’s music scene.

Today, audiences might recognize this multitalented artist’s strong and distinctive voice from her leading roles in the off-Broadway tribute musical, Love, Janis, and the Golden Globe-nominated film, Across the Universe (2007). Continue reading