Who do you consider the most influential Black artist in American history? Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Marian Anderson? Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix? Prince, Beyonce, Tyler, the Creator? The list of history-making, genre-defying Black musical powerhouses goes on and on! In celebration of Black Music Appreciation Month, the Levitt Foundation is proud to honor Black artists this June and throughout Levitt concert season at Levitt venues and Levitt AMP concert sites across the country. In addition to profoundly shaping the music industry, Black musicians have influenced American culture for the better, bringing joy, hope, and resilience to all who listen.
First created by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, each succeeding president annually proclaims the month of June as Black Music Appreciation Month and acknowledges the contributions of America’s greatest artists to our nation’s cultural heritage. Nearly every genre of music has Black roots—jazz, swing, gospel, classical, country, funk, soul, Motown, R&B and hip hop—and millions of fans around the world are moved by musical elements born from African American and Black traditions.
As concert season is in full swing, read below about some of the fantastic Black artists taking Levitt stages this summer that you don’t want to miss!
Since 2021, Levitt AMP Shenandoah Junction Music Series, presented by Jefferson County Parks and Recreation, has elevated and expanded Sam Michael’s Park’s existing concert series, bringing together people from surrounding rural communities to enjoy world-class music in the lush 130-acre park. Kelly Bell Band (KBB) returns to “The AMP” on Thursday, June 23rd with its signature peace, love and phat blues performance style. Blues Revue Magazine describes the band as “Among the most genre-expanding acts on today’s blues scene. Who else can combine elements of hip-hop, funk, and blues-electrified here?” Originally formed as the back-up band for rock and roll pioneer, Bo Diddley, KBB has been touring the world ever since entertaining fans in Japan, Spain, Italy, Greece, Cuba, Germany, and of course, Shenandoah Junction.
In honor of Black Music Appreciation Month, Levitt AMP Ocala exclusively programmed Black artists throughout the month of June. Levit audiences experienced the modern-day grooves of Reggae Force, the vibrant Bette Smith and her gospel inspired rock/soul songs, and the spirited Afro-rock singer Natu Camara. On Friday, June 24th, Levitt audiences will be in for a treat as seven-time GRAMMY®-nominated Melvin Williams and the Acoustic Trio comes to town. Williams, an American traditional roots singer, songwriter and producer, has thrilled audiences for more than five decades as one of Gospel music’s most notable voices. His distinctive, soulful vocal tone and high-energy, emotion-filled delivery will touch the heart and soul of everyone at the historic Martin Luther King Jr. Recreational Complex’s Webb Field. The 2022 Levitt AMP Ocala Music Series, presented by the Marion Cultural Alliance, will continue to deepen local partnerships to create inclusive multi-layered arts experiences that amplify community leaders’ efforts to create ‘One Ocala’ after decades of disinvestment in the city’s historically Black neighborhoods.
The Reminders are a musical duo seamlessly blending soulful sounds and roots music with insightful messages and thoughtful lyrics. The collective creative force consists of Brussels-born emcee Big Samir and Queens, New York-born emcee and vocalist Aja Black. Fans can catch them at the Levitt AMP SheboyganMusic Series next Thursday, June 30th. After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Sheboygan tradition of free, live shows have returned for its Thursday night music series on the City Green. The 2022 series, presented by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, will build upon their success, creating new opportunities for creative exchanges between artists and the public, while creating a stronger, more connected, and diverse community of just under 50,000 residents.
Levitt audiences will get their kicks on Route 66 as Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble gets the party started on Saturday, July 2, during the Levitt AMP Gallup Music Series. A popular artist on many Levitt stages this summer, Taylor’s soulful, bluesy vocals and the band’s hard driving zydeco beat blend to create their unique style of zydeco and blues that will keep audiences dancing all night long. Presented by Gallup MainStreet Arts & Cultural District, the Levitt AMP Gallup Music Series brings together all segments of the community to foster civic pride, promote economic vitality, and preserve and develop the cultural and historical resources of this downtown desert town.
The Levitt AMP Utica Music Series, presented by Utica Monday Nite, is reintegrating the arts into community life, transforming this “Rust Belt” city in Upstate New York into a music-filled destination for all on Monday nights this summer. Biracial hip hop artist Miranda Writes brings her modern yet back-to-basic sound, strong lyrics and diversified beats to Utica on August 15th. When she’s not on the mic, Writes is the first female emcee to cross over into the snowboard scene, shredding the slopes. As the New York City ambassador for Burton Snowboards, Writes uses her influence and music prowess to help The Chill Foundation (founded by Burton Snowboards) inspire youth to overcome their challenges through board sports.
The hills will be alive with music as international artist Vox Sambou visits the scenic rural community of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom on Sunday, August 21st as part of the Levitt AMP St. Johnsbury Music Series. Sambou, who sings in Creole, French, English, Spanish and Portuguese, was a founding member of the Montreal hip hop collective, Nomadic Massive. Always joyful, his music is fused with traditional Haitian rhythms and elements of Afrobeat, reggae and hip hop, while committed to denouncing injustices and social imbalances in his lyrics. Presented by Catamount Arts, eight of this summer’s Levitt AMP Music Series will take place on Sundays at Dog Mountain, including Sambou’s concert, with the remaining three shows occurring in downtown St. Johnsbury, continuing a tradition that began in 2020 to help local businesses thrive during the pandemic.
Coupled with Juneteenth last weekend, June is a celebratory month to honor the innumerable contributions of Black Americans to the social fabric of our nation. And the best way Levitt partners and grantees do that is by presenting free concerts featuring incredible Black artists! As the universal language, music connects us, nourishes our well-being, and brings people together for a shared experience that builds community. Catch one of these amazing performances at the Levitt AMP concert site near you. To find other free Levitt concerts in your area, visit the Locations page on our website.