Black Music Month is here! Some don’t know it, but June was officially declared Black Music Month by our 39th president, Jimmy Carter, back in 1979. This month is dedicated to encouraging people world-wide to pay homage to the musical contributions of African-Americans to culture and society internationally.
For the years that he has been in office, President Barack Obama has christened the start of each Black Music Month with a proclaimation in celebration of what his administration deems, “African-American Music Appreciation Month.” But whatever we want to call it, the month of June is a special time to focus on the history of the African-American community that is embodied in our rich musical legacy.
Since the inception of Black Music Month, many venues, events, and establishments have come into being to help the world celebrate black music traditions. This June, we want everyone to join in on the commemoration, so we’ve compiled a list of some of the top music-themed destinations by region. No matter where you are in America, you can celebrate Black Music Month to the hilt.
From Philadelphia to Atlanta, you’ll be sure to gain a deeper appreciation of African-American music through these events. Will you stick with events near you, or make a short jaunt for a quick summer, educational vacation? Read on and let us know which Black Music Month destinations most appeal to you.
Philadelphia, PA: How I Wrote That Song panel
– Perfect event for visitors throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey–
Time to dust off that three-ring binder full of songs you scribbled up years back and see if you’re ready to step out into the world of professional songwriting. In celebration of Black Music Month, radio stations Hot 107.9 FM and Old School 100.3 FM, in conjunction with Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) are presenting a How I Wrote That Song panel in Philadelphia, as part of a series put on by BMI. For about the same cost of an unlimited one-day pass on SEPTA, you can take a journey into the minds of some of the best songwriters in the music industry.
This panel discussion taking place on Saturday June 8 at Sigma Sound will give you an insider’s look into the songwriting processes of those who wrote some of your favorite hits — because they will be there in person. Hear from legends like Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Grammy Award-winning songwriter Kenny Gamble and Grammy Award-winning songwriter, musician and producer, James Mtume. Even if you don’t want to pen the next chart-topper, you can still enjoy basking in the musical wisdom of these greats.
New York, NY: The Late Show’s Gospel Choir
– Perfect event for visitors throughout the New York City tri-state area–
Known for performing with Gloria Estefan, Enrique Iglesias, Darlene Love, Mavis Staples, Martin Shore and Steve Martin, The Late Show’s Gospel Choir will soon take to the stage to celebrate Black Music Month with a riveting celebration concert on Friday June 21 at Southern Baptist Church in New York City. The Late Show’s Gospel Choir was formed to perform frequently with Paul Shaffer on Late Night with David Letterman, but the group has since taken on a life of its own, touring internationally and bringing good cheer with its gospel renditions. Expect a wide range of music — from their remarkable harmonies and soulful renditions of Negro spirituals, to down-home church hymns sung a cappella. The choir even does interpretations of popular traditional and urban gospel. This must-see concert begins at 6 p.m.
– Perfect events for visitors throughout D.C., Maryland and Virginia–
From the legendary sounds of Louis Armstrong to the hypnotizing harmonies of John Coltrane, prepare to be treated to one of the oldest, longstanding, homegrown genres of black American music: jazz. Join D.C. residents and visitors from all over the area for the 9th annual DC Jazz Festival this Black Music Month. Event organizer, the renowned NEA Jazz Master and 11-time Grammy Award winner Paquito D’Rivera, brought together an incredible group of jazz talent that showcases the legacy of blues and jazz music. This 12-day event, which runs through June 16, is in collaboration with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Expect to see some of jazz music’s up-and-coming talent as well as jazz-influenced artists such as The Roots, the weekly house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Once the festival is over, you can return home filled with harmonious bliss, or you can stay in town a bit longer for the sounds of the sultry soul icon and 8-time Grammy Award winner Anita Baker. Her music will be sure to take you on a journey through the evolution of R&B, from her funk band days to the time of her mid-tempo ballads that we simply can’t get enough of. There’s one thing we can expect on June 29 at the Filene Center: Anita Baker will definitely give us “the best that she’s got.”
Detroit, MI: Divas Night starring Gladys Knight & Ledisi
– Perfect event for visitors throughout the Northern middle states–
It would be tough to celebrate Black Music Month without a homage to the ladies… or shall I say divas of black music. And there are few divas as magnificent as the Empress of Soul herself, Ms. Gladys Knight. Live from the Fox Theatre on June 7, come and enjoy the Motown songstress croon crowd-pleasing hits such as “ Midnight Train to Georgia” and “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye).” Everyone in attendance will receive a special treat from guest performer, Grammy Award-winning artist Ledisi. Make it a girlfriend getaway and show the world how real divas celebrate Black Music Month!