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NEPM and Academy of Music Theatre host annual Best Of Valley Voices Story Slam

Best Of Valley Voices Story Slam. Saturday, April 13, Academy of Music Theatre, Northampton, mass. NEPM, Academy of Music Theatre. Sponsored by Curran & Keegan Financial.

The celebration marks the finale of Valley Voices Story Slam’s ninth season.

April 4, 2024, SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — New England Public Media (NEPM) and the Academy of Music Theatre are proud to present the Best of Valley Voices Story Slam on Saturday, April 13, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton, Massachusetts. The Best Of show will conclude the ninth season of the popular, competitive storytelling series that features local storytellers sharing five-minute true stories live on stage at venues throughout western Massachusetts.

The Best Of show features 12 local storytellers, all of whom were top three finishers at the regular season shows. While some storytellers featured in the Best Of Valley Voices have performed on national platforms like The Moth Mainstage, “The Moth Radio Hour,” StoryJam, and SpeakUp, for others, telling with Valley Voices Story Slam is their first experience with the artform.

This is true for Josh Simpson of Shelburne, Massachusetts, a world-renowned glass artist, who pitched the Valley Voices Story Slam line for the first time in January. He’ll be sharing his winning story about how he met his wife, NASA astronaut Cady Coleman, on the Best Of Valley Voices stage. He’ll be joined by Ruthy Woodring, founding member of the Pedal People Cooperative, Amy Dryansky, former poet laureate of Northampton, and eight others.

Rooted in the tradition of first-person narrative storytelling, story slams emphasize both content and performance, challenging storytellers to captivate audiences within a strict time frame of under five minutes. At the end of the show, the audience votes on their favorite stories and one lucky teller will be crowned the winner of season nine.

NEPM and the Academy of Music Theatre produced the first Valley Voices Story Slam as a promotion for a Moth Mainstage show at the Academy of Music in 2013.

“At the time, storytelling events were not really on the radar,” said Vanessa Cerillo, co-executive producer and co-host of Valley Voices Story Slam and senior director of marketing and events for NEPM. “Academy of Music Theatre executive director, Debra J’Anthony, came to me with the idea to try a small slam to test the market here in western Mass., since we air ‘The Moth Radio Hour’ on 88.5 NEPM, and we’ve been at it ever since. The Moth has definitely inspired us, but we’ve really worked over the years to make Valley Voices Story Slam a truly local event, with a big following in western Mass.”

What began as a small live event series has evolved over the years to include a podcast and YouTube video series featuring the stories heard on stage at the live events, both produced by NEPM. In 2022, NEPM also produced a pilot season of Valley Voices Radio. Links to the podcast, YouTube and radio episodes can be found at nepm.org/valleyvoices.

"In our ninth year of Valley Voices Story Slam, we are proud and delighted to encourage and include new voices to share their stories on stage throughout the Valley," said Debra J’Anthony, co-host and co-executive producer of Valley Voices Story Slam.

This year, Valley Voices Story Slam is excited to level-up the entertainment value of the evening for ticket holders. Hip hop DJ Pzo Pete will set the stage with a custom set that reflects the themes, stories and storytellers throughout the show. Pzo Pete appears thanks to a partnership with Genuine Culture, a Holyoke-based organization connecting music enthusiasts with the most dynamic live shows and cultural events in the area.

The ninth season of Valley Voices was made possible through the generous support of Curran & Keegan Financial to NEPM, with the Valley Voices Story Slam finale event sponsored by Whalen Insurance and Florence Bank.

As part of the Card to Culture Program, the event will offer 10 discounted seats at $10 each to patrons with valid EBT, WIC, or ConnectorCare cards. Certain restrictions apply; for full details, visit the program's website.

For more event information and to purchase tickets, please visit the website.

For questions, please contact Meghan Rothschild at 413-218-4994 or meghan@chikmedia.us.

For media interested in interviewing the 2023 Best of Valley Voices winner, Paul McNeil, or the event producers, please also contact Meghan Rothschild.

Who: NEPM and Academy of Music Theatre
What: Best Of Valley Voices Story Slam
When: Saturday, April 13, 7:30 p.m. (doors 7 p.m.)
Where: Academy of Music, 274 Main St., Northampton, Massachusetts

New England Public Media (NEPM) enriches people’s lives in western Massachusetts and beyond by nurturing curiosity, inspiring community engagement, and reflecting the unique joys of living here. NEPM is the region’s source for PBS and NPR programs and for locally produced news, video, and music content. For more information, visit nepm.org or follow NEPM on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

The mission of the Academy of Music is to enrich greater Northampton’s quality of life by offering first-class performing arts and film presentations in a historic theatre of national significance, and encouraging the use of the venue for social, educational and professional events; the Academy of Music seeks a broad and diverse audience through its programming and outreach efforts. For more information, visit their website, Facebook, or Instagram.

Valley Voices Story Slam reimagines one of the oldest forms of entertainment for today by adding a bit of competition to the mix and inviting everyone — from experienced storytellers to complete newbies — to share their true stories in front of a live audience. Events are held at venues around the region from Springfield to Greenfield, with each show built around a theme. Over the course of the evening, the audience can look forward to hearing ten unique stories told live, without notes in five minutes or less. At the end of the night, the audience votes for their favorite story, and the top three storytellers go on to compete in the Best Of Valley Voices. For more information, visit their website, Facebook, YouTube, or listen to the podcast.


Meghan Rothschild

Vanessa Cerillo
Senior Director, Marketing, Communications and Events
New England Public Media