Welcome to Artists Who Inspire! This newly-launched social media series features phenomenal artists who embody Levitt’s core value of inclusivity—that music is for everyone, for people of all ages, backgrounds, abilities, and gender identities. These artists use their platforms for social good and to raise awareness. Scroll down to learn more about the artists spotlighted thus far, and stay tuned for more on our Facebook and Instagram!
Big Freedia, also known as “Queen of the New Orleans Bounce” and as “Queen Diva,” is a fierce and fabulous rapper and hip-hop artist who performed at Levitt AMP Chattanooga in 2018 and has appeared on numerous high profile projects, including Beyoncé’s GRAMMY-winning, “Formation,” and on Drake’s “Nice For What.” Big Freedia brings her distinctive voice and signature catchphrases to everything she touches, including to build awareness of social causes. As an openly gay artist of color, Big Freedia is a loud and proud advocate for racial and gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights.
International rock n’ roll band, Making Movies has brought their high-energy, catchy tunes to multiple Levitt venues and AMP communities, and are known for their Latinx activism. To honor the Black, Indigenous, Immigrant, and Latino voices of American music, Making Movies created the annual music festival, Celebrate Amerikana, shining a light on the diversity of the American music experience, and which we are proud to support!
Internationally-acclaimed Latinx pop artist, Gina Chavez is a native of Austin, Texas. Chavez’s powerful vocals and lush melodies have captivated audiences at Levitt Pavilion Arlington, Levitt Pavilion Dayton, Levitt Shell Sioux Falls, and Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks. A women’s rights activist, Chavez co-founded the college fund, Niñas Arriba, with her wife for young women in El Salvador. As believers in education access for all people, we commend Gina and her wife’s efforts to make this a possibility for numerous El Salvadoran young women. A brilliant artist and activist, Gina Lopez truly is La Que Manda, “The Woman in Charge.”
Frank Waln or Oyate Teca Obami (“Walks with Young People”) is a Sicangu Lakota rapper and activist who grew up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He is an avid supporter of Dream Warriors, a project that provides scholarships to Native Americans studying music, and he works with organizations across the country to authentically engage with Native communities. At the 2023 Levitt National Convening, Waln shared powerful reflections on his lived experience and a moving performance with the Levitt network. This summer, Frank will be performing at Levitt Shell Sioux Falls and Levitt Pavilion Denver.
Hailing from Kearny, Nebraska, Brody Ray brings a captivating energy to the stage, drawing in music goers with his rich vocals and moving lyrics. Though assigned female at birth, Ray always knew that deep down, this label didn’t fit who he was. Ray shared his journey of transitioning to male on season 13 of America’s Got Talent, earning him a standing ovation from the audience. Playing at multiple, packed Pride festivals, including Levitt Shell Sioux Falls in 2022, Ray shines, inspiring those around him to be true to themselves.
Grace Kelly is an acclaimed musician who strives to make an impact both on and off the stage. In addition to being a phenomenal saxophonist, singer and songwriter, she has partnered with and written a song for She’s the First, a nonprofit that works with grassroots organizations around the world, supporting girls’ access to education. Kelly’s love of education extends to her own innovative Saxy School, an online saxophone school that has inspired thousands of students to become more confident players. At the 2023 Levitt National Convening, Kelly lit up the stage with an incredible performance that she carried out into the audience and will be bringing that same energy to Levitt AMP Sheboygan this summer.
Blind Boys of Alabama
As the 2018 Levitt National Tour artist along with Paul Thorn, Blind Boys of Alabama dazzled Levitt audiences with their blend of early jubilee gospel with fervent modern-day improvisations. A group of vision-impaired singers founded in 1939, the odds for commercial success were historically stacked against them. They toured the South throughout the Jim Crow era, coming up in music during a time of whites-only venues, bathrooms, restaurants, and hotels. Yet, they persevered and became celebrated not just for their exceptional artistry, but also for their dedication to civil rights and inspiring others with disabilities. In the 1960s, the group sang at benefits for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and were a part of the soundtrack to the Civil Rights Movement. Today we celebrate Blind Boys of Alabama for being, truly, Artists Who Inspire!