Levitt AMP Utica Music Series Returns for 2021

The Levitt AMP Utica Music Series announced its lineup of New York State-based artists who will perform at Kopernik Park in Downtown Utica this summer. Concerts will take place on Monday nights from 6-9 p.m, July 5 – Aug. 30 with a final tenth concert taking place on Friday, Sept. 3 to kick off Labor Day Weekend.

The 2021 season is themed “New York State Originals” and will feature headlining artists from all over the state, along with local and regional opening acts and youth intermission acts, all performing original music. The diverse lineup of high-caliber talent spans genres like jazz, pop, soul, country, R&B, hip hop and more. 

The concerts are sponsored in part by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, a national funder of creative placemaking that empowers communities to inject new life into underused public spaces through free, outdoor concerts. The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties is a presenting sponsor for the fifth season of concerts. Partners in the series include Rust 2 Green Utica, DeSales Center, the City of Utica and Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute. Season sponsors include Empire Recycling and the M&T Bank/Partners Trust Bank Charitable Fund.

The public is invited to bring their own blankets and lawn chairs to the concerts. The park will have physically distanced rectangular “pods” sprayed in the grass that will hold up to six people each. They will be spaced six feet apart and will help guide guests for seating. For anyone who is not quite ready for crowds and events, the concerts will also be streamed via multiple platforms to be enjoyed at home/offsite. Any other guidelines for audience members will be announced closer to the opening date.

The series will also offer art activities for young concert-goers and food trucks will be on site.

Kopernik Park is located at 317 Genesee Street at the corner of Eagle Street and Park Avenue near DeSales. Admission is free and all are welcome. Seating will be limited due to state guidelines, so getting to the park early is encouraged. 

Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri shares, “As we begin to transition back to normal, we are excited to enjoy local venues and great entertainment such as the Levitt AMP series. This concert series is a tremendous quality of life asset that we have been able to secure for our residents due to the generosity of the Levitt Foundation, local businesses and community organizations, as well as through the hard work and coordination of Michelle Truett and the Utica Monday Nite board. I commend and thank all stakeholders and supporters of this worthy, family friendly concert series.”

“We are so thrilled to have the Levitt AMP Utica series back for the 2021 season,” said Alicia Dicks, president/CEO of the Community Foundation. “This event brings our community together in so many ways and after the long-awaited return of live music and gatherings, this season is sure to be one of the best yet!”

Utica Monday Nite board president Alyssa Spina adds, “After a long year of having to be apart, Utica Monday Nite is excited to bring the community together through arts at the Utica Levitt AMP Concert Series. The series makes arts available and accessible to all; it is an opportunity to collectively experience the uplifting power of music. The board is grateful for the dedication of volunteers, and sponsors who have made six years of events possible.”

In December 2019 Utica was named one of 20 small to mid-sized towns and cities across America to win a Levitt AMP [Your City] Grant Award of $25K in matching funds to present a free concert series at Kopernik Park in 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 series was postponed and the funding applied to the 2021 season. A two-hour “AMP the House” TV special was produced in 2020 with a Bridge Grant from the Levitt Foundation to bring the community together when we had to be apart.

 Utica Monday Nite submitted the Levitt AMP proposal and is presenting the concert series. In an effort to inspire and engage communities across the country around the power of creative placemaking, the Levitt Foundation invited the public to choose the Top 25 finalists through online voting. Learn more about the winners and the 180 free Levitt AMP concerts across America here.

Utica Monday Nite (UMN) was introduced in 1997 as an economic development engine that used “Arts, History and Heritage” as a stimulus for growth in Utica and the region. For fifteen years, UMN created a popular summer-long festival of arts and culture and a “celebration of place” in Utica’s downtown, an area that had become inactivated and all but abandoned.  Over the years, UMN programmed the city’s public parks and plazas with performances and events involving 4,000 paid artists, dancers and musicians. The free ‘Monday Nite’ events ultimately attracted tens of thousands of people and helped to renew the public life and vitality of downtown.  

UMN’s project partner, Rust 2 Green Utica (R2G), was founded in 2010, and incorporated in 2018 as a non-profit. R2G’s purpose is to directly engage diverse, underserved and underrepresented local populations and groups in actionable asset-based community development and placemaking activities and projects that improve quality of life, build and strengthen local capacity, and develop and advance sustainability and resilience at both local and regional scales.  

The Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation is a national funder of creative placemaking that empowers towns and cities across America to transform underused public spaces into thriving destinations through the power of free, live music. In 2019, more than 550 free Levitt concerts will take place in 26 towns and cities, all featuring a rich array of music genres and high-caliber talent. Learn more at levitt.org.    
July 5 – Carolina Gents Brooklyn, NY Comprised of some of the best bluegrass, Americana, and country musicians in the New York area, The Carolina Gents can provide the pure, sweet sounds of Appalachia, then crank up the hootin’ and hollerin’ on the dance floor; playing a southern twang and effortless production. The band sets itself apart with its stylistic versatility, classy-vintage dress.

Opener: Isaac French – singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He is originally from Vermont and now calls Rome home. His debut album, Human Being has received acclaim throughout the region and beyond.

July 12 – Danielle Ponder Rochester, NY Danielle transcends musical genres with a blast of deep, powerful soul. In addition, she has also been awarded Teen Empowerment’s PeaceMaker in Action Award. Beyond Danielle’s musical talent, she is a former Public Defender and Tedx speaker. In 2018 she took left her job as an attorney to pursue music full time. 

Opener: Count Blastula – Founded by Adam Fisher in Central New York, CB features eclectic music combined with visual expression, broadening genres in thoughtful ways. CB has been compared to classic artists such as Phish, The Allman Brothers and The Grateful Dead

 July 19 – Alex Torres & His Latin Orchestra Amsterdam This 12-piece orchestra has been the recipient of numerous awards including the New England Cultural Arts Preservation Award, the New York State Music Achievement Award and The Governor’s Excellence in Arts Award.

Opener: Grupo Pagan –a SAMMY Award-winning Latin-American band based in Syracuse. Their diverse backgrounds combine into a high-energy brew of sound, with influences including Santana, Shakira and Enrique Iglesias, and also delivering some powerful original music.

July 26 – Samara Joy & Pasquale Grasso Duo  Bronx, NY Not yet 21 years old, Samara has already performed in many of the great jazz venues in NYC. Following her winning the 2019 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, Samara is currently recording her debut recording, which will feature Samara backed by one of the most strikingly unique artists of his generation, Pasquale Grasso. 

Opener: Sydney Irving – Syracuse’s rising star Sydney Irving’s musical journey may be just beginning, but she’s already been nominated for three major regional songwriting awards. Irving juggles attendance at high school with gigs at high-profile spots like Binghamton’s Spiedie Fest (supporting Starship featuring Mickey Thomas) and Turning Stone Resort & Casino on evenings and weekends. She knows enough to take both seriously.

August 2 – Sammy Rae & the Friends Brooklyn Singer/songwriter and bandleader Samantha Bowers first began writing songs at age 12. She would go on to release three albums at the ages 15, 17 and 19. Sammy Rae & The Friends was born from a collection of talented musicians and peers. The band rocks a jazz-pop sound and sold-out every show in NYC in 2019, enjoyed several tours in the USA and South America and acquired over 10 million streams on Spotify and Apple Music.

Opener: The Reuben James The Reuben James is a Utica-based folk-rock outfit that was a staple of the regional live music scene for almost a decade. During that time, the group (Dom Cecconi, Ryan Miller, Jared Pezdek and Jason Schnitt) released three full-length albums. Their original sound draws from influences such as Wilco, Dylan, Tom Waits, Ani DiFranco, Springsteen, and Counting Crows. The group is incredibly excited to reunite at Levitt AMP after a decade-long hiatus.

August 9 – Shayna Steele New York City Shayna has supremely soulful energy, as well as mind-blowing vocal artistry and songwriting skills. She has performed with the likes of Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson, Bette Midler and Steely Dan as a sought-after background vocalist. It was the release of Shayna’s first full-length album I’ll Be Anything that put her on the map as a legitimate solo artist. She was soon sought after by clubs in L.A., San Francisco, New York City, Milan, Rome and Zurich.

Opener: Haynesville Road This Rock Band with earth lyrics consists of Bob ‘’BD’’ Dziedzic, from New York Mills, Stan ‘’Stik’’ Slabicki, from Whitesboro and Rob Aguilera, originally from Chicago, now living in Oneida. Stik and Bob reunited about five years ago and Rob, the drummer, has been with the band for three years.

August 16 – Tom Nitti Utica Born and raised in Central New York, Tom Nitti is a traditional country music artist, performing all over the East Coast and will be performing Levitt AMP with his full band. After graduating high school, Tom joined the United States Army as a 19D Airborne Cavalry Scout. While deployed in Afghanistan, Tom earned the Purple Heart Award for sustaining a traumatic brain injury while taking mortar fire. 

Opener: Jess Novak Band With a fiddle on fire, powerful vocals and a fierce band behind her, this pop, rock, soul-pumped group from Syracuse brings passion to every performance. Known for their energy, superb musicianship, engaging songwriting and ability to win any crowd, this is a band on the rise. Having touched audiences across the country – from Burlington, VT to Key West, FL to San Diego, CA – and with Novak playing more than 250 dates annually, the sound gets tighter with each show.

August 23 – Joanne Shenandoah OneidaJoanne is a GRAMMY award-winning, cross-cultural singer-songwriter who has been capturing the hearts of audiences and has been blazing a path of peace through music throughout the world. Her 24 albums, singles, collaborations and film soundtracks have earned her more than 40 music awards, including a GRAMMY and 14 Native American Music Awards, an induction into the NAMMY Hall of Fame, and an EMMY nomination. 

Shenandoah has performed for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, First Lady Hillary Clinton, President Nelson Mandela and many more.

Opener: Fritz’s Polka Band – formed in 1978, FPB plays everything from modern-style polka to country to rock and even blues. They are not the stereotypical “polka” band –they were the first polka band to perform at a Woodstock Festival (Woodstock ’99)! In 2010, FPB was inducted into the Syracuse Area Music Hall of Fame. 

August 30 – Paul Beaubrun New York City A Haitian singer and multi-instrumentalist, Paul weaves together Haitian roots music with rock and roll and reggae, delivering lyrics in English, French and Creole. His parents were in a Grammy-nominated Haitian band he follows in their socially conscious footsteps – his songs inspire activism and unity. He has played alongside Lauryn Hill, Jackson Browne, Arcade Fire and Maxwell and his continued accomplishments make him one of the few artists coming out of Haiti to garner worldwide success. 

Opener: Tree of Life A band that debuted at 2020’s AMP the House TV Show, they will now grace the Levitt AMP stage live this summer. Made up of musicians you may know, but who have not played before together, they cobine their decades of experience in funk, rock, blues, metal and more – Sam Kininger, Steven Kowalsky, Justin Elwell and Graham Espe. 

Friday, September 3 Sophistafunk Syracuse Sophistafunk has gained international notoriety with its unique, positive blend of hip hop, funk, and jam music that boasts a touch of spoken word and an overflow of energy. The band is made up of longtime friends and masters of their crafts – MC Jack Brown, keyboardist extraordinaire Adam Gold, and natural-born drummer Emanuel Washington. Sophistafunk played the Levitt AMP Utica stage in 2017 and 2018 and they’re back to round out our 2021 season with our first ever Friday night concert to close out the series and kick off Labor Day weekend.

Opener: Leeky XIVMalik Johnson, better known as Leeky XIV, is an independent rapper and entertainer who uses his art to promote the importance of living a positive lifestyle.

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