Amy Rosenberg Talks Overtown Music Project

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Founded four years ago by Amy Rosenberg, the Overtown
Music Project (OMP) has since been shining a light on the historic
cultural contributions of the otherwise uncelebrated neighborhood
of Overtown.

“The Overtown Music Project celebrates the
music, history and spirit of Overtown in its heyday. Once
recognized as the epicenter of music in Miami, a place where
Thurgood Marshall vacationed and Langston Hughes wrote poetry,
Overtown is now considered by most of Miami as a dangerous and
blighted area with more vacant lots than
buildings.”

Overtown Hayday

Few remember “the Harlem of
the South” when dozens of nightclubs dotted the streets and hosted
marquee acts like Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. African
Americans once thrived in Overtown, then came desegration and
highways. style="text-align: justify;">Despite Overtown’s proximity to
Miami and hotspots like South Beach, it is but a shadow of its
former self. The clubs, hotels and commercial centers that once
lined Overtown have been demolished.

Overtown
Today

“The Overtown Music Project shines a light
on the different genres of music that once made Overtown’s
integrated nightclubs the rhythmic epicenter of musical Miami
through multi-sensory events that draw diverse audiences to
pay homage to Overtown.”

style="text-align: justify;">The Overtown Music Project has
introduced a free, after school music program into the area, in
partnership with UM at Frederick Douglass Elementary School, and
host seven events a year – six in throughout Overtown’s former
entertainment district and one Miami Beach, showcasing and honoring
some of the musicians who once made their living in
Overtown.

EPIC II:
Annual Fundraiser

Overtown Music Project’s annual
fundraiser is held at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach. The event
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width="600" height="400" /> EPIC II January
2013 
EPIC celebrates the connection
between Overtown and the Fontainebleau, a hotel where Count
Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and Etta James once performed and
invites several musicians who played in Overtown’s numerous venues
during its heyday, now in their 60s – 90s.


Conversation with Amy
Rosenberg

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width="284" height="400" /> Amy Rosenberg is the Executive
Director of the target="_blank">Overtown Music Project
style="text-align: justify;">How did you become involved with the
Overtown Music Project?

style="text-align: justify;">It was purely by
accident. I was on a walking tour in Overtown four years ago and
fell in love with the area. I have a pretty vivid imagination and
the stories just blew me away.  It’s an area that looks kind
of ravaged in parts but there is such rich, and largely forgotten
history there. Six weeks after that tour, I sold my small business
and started OMP. Crazy, right?

style="text-align: justify;">How can the community get involved with
OMP?

We always need volunteers, interns, people
to sit on committees for events and, of course,
donations.

How
has Overtown changed, if at all, since you’ve been involved with
the OMP?

style="text-align: justify;">I think there is an
energy in Overtown that is more hopeful about real changes coming.
It’s a cautious optimism. The people have heard empty promises for
decades so it’s hard to open your heart fully when you’ve been
disappointed for so long.  

style="color: #fe57a1;">What projects does EPIC
fund?

EPIC will help us fund our LunchBox Jazz
series as well as the events we do in Overtown throughout the year.
 

Which is your
favorite?

My favorite event is a tie between our Jazz
(and a Little Bit of Blues) supper club at Jackson Soul Food and
the Gospel Brunch we do at Bethel AME in April. Jazz at Jackson is
an intimate event that brings out every walk of life, race,
religion, etc.  You have church ladies and socialites sitting
elbow to elbow eating greens and pork chops. It caters to a
nostalgia for a bygone era but it’s so contemporary at the same
time. The next Jackson event is on March
15th. 

What goals does the OMP have for
2013?

We believe culture is a catalyst for social
and economic change in Overtown. Our programs and events are
developed with this in mind. 

style="text-align: justify;">We will be launching a
total of three programs this year. We’ve launched one program so
far with UM’s Frost School of Music at Frederick Douglass
Elementary in Overtown. It’s called Harmony Project- Overtown and
it’s a free after school music program that teaches little ones how
to appreciate and play jazz. 

style="text-align: justify;">We need to raise more
funds for our LunchBox Jazz series for kids as well as another
program called Outside the Lines.  Through the funding
process, we’d like to secure enough money to hire two part time
workers from Overtown. At the end of the day, we’d like cultural
opportunities to lead to jobs in
Overtown. 

Are there any upcoming OMP
events?
March
15th
is the Jazz (and a Little
Blues)
at Jackson Soul
Food. 
April
20th
is our annual non denominational
Gospel Brunch at Bethel AME. Think red
velvet waffles and joyful noises.
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Mel Dancy performing ‘Miami Miami’ at the
Overtown Music Project’s 1st ever Jazz and a Little Blues event.
Don’t miss this years on March 15th at  href="http://www.jacksonsoulfood.com/" target="_blank">Jackson
Soul Food.