The Opening Doors Concert + Conversations Series combines great live music with authentic, accessible conversations about race. The series began in 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, via online interviews and performances with top national talent, including Rissi Palmer, Dom Flemons, Dan and Claudia Zanes, and Vance Gilbert. (See full videos of all the shows and a brief trailer HERE).
In 2022, we began producing live shows in our hometown of Melrose, Massachusetts, with artists like Zakiyyah, Kemp Harris, Sol y Canto, and Pamela Means. (See photos, videos and descriptions below). Now, our Concert + Conversation Series is available for booking at venues throughout New England. Learn more about our programs and artists HERE.
Saturday, May 18, 2024 @ 7pm
Anand Nayak + Anju
Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church, Melrose, MA
In honor of AAPI Month, we are thrilled to host two fantastic musicians from the Boston area. Anand Nayak is a Grammy-nominated producer, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and longtime guitarist for the beloved American roots band, Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem. Anju is a transcendent, fast-rising singer-songwriter and member of The Passim Folk Collective (other members of whom featured on our previous live performance in January)… More info to come!
Sunday, January 14, 2024 – The Folk Collective
The Folk Collective is a diverse group of musicians and cultural thought leaders tapped by historic Club Passim to challenge and redefine the look and sound of Boston’s “folk music” scene. For this special concert on the Sunday of Martin Luther King Day Weekend, members performed together and then engaged the audience in a conversation about communal activism and Dr. King’s “beloved community.”
Read a Boston Globe article about The Folk Collective HERE.
Wednesday, September 27, 2023 – Zakiyyah Concert
Zakiyyah is an opera singer, rapper, activist, and entrepreneur who has crafted a unique sound she calls “Hip-Hopera.” She currently serves as a trustee for the Free for All Concert Fund, an organization that helps bring classical music to new audiences, and teaches voice through Harvard’s Holden Voice Program.
Besides performing a stellar community concert and conversation for our audience, she also presented her workshop “Creative Revolution” for Melrose High School students during the day.
Sunday, May 21, 2023 – Sol y Canto Family Concert
Sol y Canto is an award-winning Pan-Latin ensemble led by Puerto Rican/Argentine singer and percussionist Rosi Amador and New Mexican guitarist, singer and composer Brian Amador. Since 1994, the duo has brought audiences to their feet from the Kennedy Center to Boston’s Symphony Hall. The Boston Globe hails them as “sublime ambassadors of the Pan-Latin tradition.”
Though they perform more for adults than kids these days, the duo has a long history of making engaging music for kids. We were honored to have them headline our first bilingual concert for families and children.
Friday, January 13, 2023 – Pamela Means Concert
Pamela Means is an out(spoken), biracial, independent artist whose “kamikaze” guitar style and punchy provocative songs have worn a hole in two of her acoustic guitars. Armed with the razor wit of a stand-up comic, an engaging presence, and elegant poetry, Pamela’s “stark, defiant songs” (The New York Times) set both the status quo and stage afire. Ani DiFranco says, “You groove so deep, I can’t get out. And I wouldn’t want to.”
Pamela joined us for our first Martin Luther King Day Weekend concert where she performed a version of her incredible program, “The Power of the Protest Song.”
Saturday, June 11, 2022 – The Opening Doors Festival
w/ Reggie Harris and Boston City Singers
Our first live, outdoor music event aimed to make the cultural scene of Melrose, Massachusetts more diverse and inclusive by elevating voices of color within the community and beyond. The festival featured legendary folk musician and activist Reggie Harris, music and drumming by the Teen Tour Choir of Boston City Singers, and a community art project facilitated by Artists for Humanity and Follow Your Art Community Studios. As part of an accompanying residency program at Melrose High School, Boston and Melrose teen artists came together to create an original mural which the community helped decorate and color in.
Friday, May 6, 2022 – Kemp Harris Concert
Kemp Harris is an artist whose music spans and transcends the genres of soul, blues, jazz, and musical theater. He has shared the stage with artists such as Koko Taylor, Livingston Taylor, Gil Scott-Heron, and Taj Mahal, and has composed original music for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. As impressive as his music resume is, what’s even more impressive is that he accomplished all this while also working for more than 40 years as a beloved, award-winning kindergarten teacher in Newton, Massachusetts.
There’s no one we would rather have hosted for our first ever in-person music performance and conversation.
January 9, 2022 – Dom Flemons
It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Dom Flemons a national treasure. He is a co-founder of the world famous, Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, as well as a Grammy nominee, two-time Emmy nominee, and 2020 United States Artists Fellow in his own right.
Dom shared audience donations from this performance with the Music Maker Relief Foundation, an organization that supports marginalized artists and promotes young performers carrying on folk traditions.
December 5, 2021 – Briar & Joe Seamons
Seattle-based duo Briar and Joe Seamons are musicians who navigate the wide range of the American musical diaspora. Their work is also deeply steeped in racial equity and education. Joe is a co-founder of “The Rhapsody Project,” an organization that brings an antiracist lens to the exploration of music history, heritage, and culture in classes and camps for kids and adults.
The Rhapsody Project was also their chosen organization for audience donations during our online interview and performance.
October 24, 2021 – Kelly Hall-Tompkins
Winner of a Naumburg International Violin Competition Honorarium Prize and featured in the Smithsonian Museum for African-American History, Kelly Hall-Tompkins is a soloist who has been acclaimed by The New York Times as “the versatile violinist who makes the music come alive.” She was lead soloist for the Grammy/Tony-nominated 2016 Broadway revival of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Kelly shared online proceeds from this performance with Music Kitchen – Food for the Soul, an organization she founded to share the therapeutic power of music with those experiencing homelessness.
September 26, 2021 – Pamela Means
Veteran singer-songwriter and resident Massachusetts badass Pamela Means is an “Out(spoken), Biracial, Independent artist whose ‘kamikaze guitar style’ and punchy provocative songs have worn a hole in two of her acoustic guitars.” Armed with the razor wit of a stand-up comic, an engaging presence, and elegant poetry, Pamela’s “stark, defiant songs” (The New York Times) set both the status quo and stage afire. Ani DiFranco says, “You groove so deep, I can’t get out. And I wouldn’t want to.”
Pamela shared online proceeds from this performance with Arise for Social Justice, an organization based in Springfield, MA which works on issues of homelessness, criminal and environmental justice, and public health.
May 23, 2021 – Rissi Palmer
Rissi Palmer was featured in the New York Times as one of five artists who are “Black, female, and carving out their own path in country music.” She has performed at The White House, the Grand Ole Opry, on Oprah & Friends, and has shared the stage with Taylor Swift, The Eagles, and many more. She is also the host of “Color Me Country Radio,” a show on Apple Music Country that explores the intersection of race and country music.
Rissi shared online proceeds from this performance with the Color Me Country Artist Grant Fund, a program she created to support up-and-coming Americana artists of color.
April 25, 2021 – Dan and Claudia Zanes
NPR calls Dan and Claudia Zanes “the Gold Standard in kid’s music.” Before marrying and hitting the road together, Claudia was an accomplished music therapist and Dan was co-founder of the seminal ‘80s rock band The Del Fuegos. Dan is also a co-founder of Constructive White Conversations, an antiracist white affinity group.
The duo shared online proceeds from this performance with the Black Church Food Security Network, an organization which creates sustainable food systems anchored by Black churches working in partnership with Black farmers.
March 28, 2021 – Vance Gilbert
Vance Gilbert is a Boston luminary and national folk music legend. He has travelled the world and shared stages with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Shawn Colvin, Arlo Guthrie, and George Carlin. He is a performer who defies stereotype: “I’m Black, I sing, I play an acoustic guitar, and I don’t play the blues,” he says. Dirty Linen describes him simply as “among the quintessential musical poets.”
Vance shared online proceeds from this show with Food Link, a food security organization based on Boston’s North Shore.
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