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Toby Vent Martin On New Songs - Open Road

Toby Vent 1

In celebration of poet Walt Whitman's 200th birthday, artist/curator and director of the Philadelphia Jazz Project, Homer Jackson presents New Songs Of The Open Road: a special project consisting of a series of four “singing” walks which take place in different neighborhoods of Philadelphia. As Whitman was an avid walker/hiker, Jackson and his team will facilitate four audience participation events that consist of singing walkers. These walks will take place in different locations and communities in Philadelphia including North Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, Center City and Germantown. These walks are simulataneously influenced by Whitman's poem,"Songs of the Open Road" and inspired by civil rights movement freedom songs. Featuring choir members and additional vocalists, these walks encourage the public to join in walking and singing songs of affirmation.


Walt Whitman 1

Whitman at 200

Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday on Friday, May 31st, 2019 provides an important opportunity to reassess his estimable contributions to American life at a time when our country is so polarized. Organized by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries Kislak Center with major support from The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, this region-wide series of cultural events consists of four new artistic commissions plus a multitude of innovative exhibitions, performances, and programs initiated in conjunction with partner organizations across the Philadelphia and Camden, NJ region. While events take place all year, there is a focus on the two-week period, between May 24 and June 9, 2019, around Whitman's birthday.  


New Songs Of The Open Road is special project designed by artist/curator and director of the Philadelphia Jazz Project, Homer Jackson, as part of Whitman At 200 - the celebration of Walt Whitman’s 200th Birthday hosted by University of Pennsylvania Libraries Kislak Center. Our project consists of a series of four “singing” walks which take place in different neighborhoods of Philadelphia.


Led by choirmaster, Waverly Alston and key songwriter vocalists, Taylor"TobyVEnT" Martin, James Solomon and V. Shayne Frederick, these walks involve choirs of walkers, which include the general public. These events are influenced by Whitman’s poem, “Song of the Open Road,” which contemplates the possibilities of American freedom and are inspired by the civil rights movement protest marchers who tested the realities of freedom by taking them to the streets. These events are FREE of charge and we openly encourage all and any to participate by walking and singing with us.


Toby Vent 2

PJP spoke with singer/songwriter and bandleader,  Taylor “TobyVEnT” Martin about Walt Whitman and The New Songs For The Open Road Project.


PJP: Can you briefly describe your musical background?


Taylor “TobyVEnT” Martin: I started singing and making up songs in church when I was three. I’ve been singing ever since. I led the Philadelphia High School for Girls - Gospel Choir for three years, taking them from a membership of 12 girls to a solid membership of over 60 girls. I am the minister of music at Bethel Deliverance Ministries (formerly Bethel Holy Temple). Since 2008, I have been the lead singer and lyricist for VEnT. I’ve had the pleasure of opening up for Common, Marsha Ambrosius, and more.


PJP: Who is Walt Whitman and why is he still important now?


Taylor “TobyVEnT” Martin: Walt Whitman was an experimental poet. He wrote in a style that wasn’t popular at the time. His poetry was unconventional and unstructured. He’s important now because of what he represented. But to me, music is at a place now where more and more artists are performing very unconventional and unstructured music and it’s amazing. No hooks, three and four verses. Nothing really repeats. Essentially, people are venting and what they say comes to the listeners the same way it comes from the writers’ hearts.


Toby Vent 3PJP: What was your approach to creating for this project?


Taylor “TobyVEnT” Martin: I simply read some of Walt Whitman’s work and tried to get a feel for what he was saying. I wrote pieces based on how his poetry made me feel. I didn’t give any thought to specific structures or melodies.


PJP: Who is working with you on this project?


Taylor “TobyVEnT” Martin: I had the pleasure of working with James Solomon and Waverly Alston. They both brought great perspectives to the music. Waverly brought somewhat of an old-school feel. James Solomon brought the middle and served as a bridge. I guess you can say, I added a little youthfulness and fun to the mix. We can’t forget Philadelphia Jazz Project, director, Homer Jackson. Homer definitely tries to make sure we capture the right essence with what we create.


PJP: When participating in this project, what advice would you give the audience to assist with greater understanding and enjoyment?


Taylor “TobyVEnT” Martin: I’d just tell the audience to keep an open mind and be ready to join us for a walk or mini-journey.


New Songs Open Road


New Songs Of The Open Road - Schedule Of Events:


    1.    Saturday, May 18th - 3pm / Fairmount Park - North Philly

    Location: Mander Recreation Center & Around East Park Reservoir
    Start: Mander Recreation Center - 140 N 33rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19121
    Destination: Mander Recreation Center - 140 N 33rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19121    


    2.    Saturday, June 8th - 3pm / Germantown

    Location: Joseph E. Coleman Library to Cliveden
    Start: Joseph E. Coleman Library -  68 W Chelten Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19144
    Destination: Cliveden - 6401 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19144    


   3.    Saturday, June 22nd - 4pm / South Philly

    Location: Marconi Plaza To Whitman Plaza
    Start: Marconi Plaza -  2800 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19145
    Destination: Whitman Plaza - 330 W Oregon Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148


    4.    Saturday, July 6th - 4pm / The Parkway

    Location: Parkway Central Library To Boat House Row
    Start: Parkway Central Library -  1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
    Destination: Boat House Row - 1 Boathouse Row, Philadelphia, PA 19130


*Be prepared for a vigorous walk in warm to hot weather during the middle of the day. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Bring a hat to cover your head and if necessary, bring sunglasses as well. Be sure to drink water and we will have additional water on site.


For More Information: Whitman At 200


tobymartinTaylor "TobyVEnT" Martin is the lead singer and lyricist of VEnT, an alternative rock/soul band from Philadelphia. While VEnT has many great influences, their sound is unparallel to anything the industry has heard. VEnT fuses Soul with Alternative Rock, while dabbling in acoustic rock, jazz, funk, contemporary christian, R&B, soft rock, gospel and  other genres. VEnT has opened for artists such as Marsha Ambrosius, Syleena Johnson and Monifah and has sharied the stage with other great performers. VEnT currently has three albums: Out the Box (2010), Beautifully Broken (2011), and Just Leftovers (2012). VEnT has performed at many venues in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware, as well as numerous venues in Connecticut, Chicago and New York.



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Major support for Whitman At 200 artistic commissions has been provided to University of Pennsylvania Libraries by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.


Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the Culture Trust | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.

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Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the Culture Trust | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.