Photo by Collin Richie.

Supported by a national grant, Scotland Saturdays’ free concert series resumes this month

Anyone who has ever enjoyed live music knows there are two parts to the experience.

There’s the thrill of seeing an artist perform in real time.

And there’s the venue. Where a show takes place becomes wedged in the consciousness, be it a dimly lit bar, a booming football stadium or a sunny outdoor stage. Like the songs on the set list, the location you heard them becomes positively enshrined in memory.

That’s the thinking behind a national grant underway in Scotlandville that transforms underserved public spaces with free, high-quality live music. In 2023, north Baton Rouge neighborhood nonprofit Scotland Saturdays received a three-year, $90,000 Levitt AMP grant to organize the family-friendly shows in Scotlandville Plaza.

The Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation program helps fund free concerts in communities across the country. Baton Rouge is one of 34 cities and small towns in the U.S. to have received such a grant.

The Levitt AMP Baton Rouge Music Series debuted last summer and resumes this month.

“It’s been a way to do something good at Scotlandville Plaza,” says Byron Washington, a community organizer and founder of Scotland Saturdays. “The mission of Levitt AMP is to use live music as a tool for revitalization.”

Last summer’s free concerts spanned 10 consecutive weeks. To avoid the late summer heat, this year’s events will be held over two 5-week sessions. The first, starting May 25, will be hosted on Saturdays. In September and October, the series will move to Friday evenings.

Artists play all sorts of musical genres, Washington says, from hip-hop and jazz to blues and R&B.

All performances are staged at Scotlandville Plaza, a community park known as The Triangle that sits at the intersection of Swan Avenue, Scotland Avenue and Scenic Highway. The plaza is also used for Scotland Saturdays’ other events like its monthly markets, an annual Easter egg hunt and a Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

The Levitt AMP concerts attract attendees of all ages, Washington says. There’s plenty of room for dancing, relaxing in lawn chairs and for kids to play freely. The events include food vendors, artisans and community organizations.

Scotland Saturdays’ Dexter “Lord Dex” Jackson, Janel Webber Washington and Byron Washington

By bringing accessible, free live music to small- to mid-sized towns and cities, Levitt AMP hopes to change how residents feel about their neighborhoods.

“The program uses live music as a vehicle to activate an underutilized public space, and to bring people out from the community who otherwise wouldn’t show up,” Levitt Foundation Program Officer Amber Withers says.

Live music can be a powerful tool for healing distressed areas.

“Free community concerts are quintessential to bringing joy to communities,” she says. “And we feel that joy is a fundamental need that needs to be met, especially in light of the loneliness epidemic we’re facing as a nation. We believe this series can bring joy to people. We’ve seen it happen in real time.”

Levitt AMP Baton Rouge Music Series

Presented by Scotland Saturdays at Scotlandville Plaza

May 25: Jovin Webb
June 1: Marcel P. Black
June 8: Kayenne Live
June 15: Justin Garner
June 22: The Michael Foster Project

Follow @ScotlandSaturdays on Instagram

This article was originally published in the May 2024 issue of 225 magazine.