Pass the Mic:
Creating a Stage for Change

Celebrating diverse, underserved, and under-supported artists and audiences

Pass the Mic: Creating a Stage for Change provides an opportunity for artists from marginalized and underserved communities to share their art with others. Through concerts/performances, visual art displays, discussions and panels focusing on important issues, and educational opportunities, artists have the chance to engage with the community. The Tennessee Theatre is proud to provide a space for audiences and artists to better understand one another. 

Upcoming Events

Joy Oladokun with W James Taylor and Shayla McDaniel - Tuesday, October 24 at 7:30pm

Watch East Tennessee PBS Episodes Here!

Episode 1: The Black Opry Revue

Episode 2: Las Cafeteras and Making Movies


Podcast Episode 7: Robbie Lynn Hunsinger

This episode of Pass the Mic features Nashville-based artist Robbie Lynn Hunsinger. For many years, Robbie Lynn worked as a top notch classical oboist in Atlanta, New York and Chicago. Recently she has become a sought after media and concert artist, a composer, multi-instrumentalist, creative technologist, improviser and educator. Robbie Lynn is a pioneer in Western and Eastern oboe, multimedia performance and responsive art installation. She has been an obbligato soloist with the Chicago Symphony and played improvised music duets with Evan Parker. Her list of credits include playing English Horn on the Chicago Symphony’s triple Grammy Winner “The Wooden Prince” with Pierre Boulez and touring France as an Oboe d’ Amore soloist with Robert Shaw’s Choral Institute. She has played with Myra Melford, Ken Vandermark, Tatsu Aoki and Rob Mazurek and was a leader for the “Trio” album with the late Art Ensemble of Chicago and AACM Founder Joseph Jarman which received a 4 Star review in Downbeat. Festival credits include Marlboro Music Festival, Blossom Music Festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Chicago World Music Festival and SXSW. In this conversation, we talk about adapting to physical challenges and embracing new approaches to performing, finding community through environmental and wildlife activism, the impacts of discrimination toward the LGBTQ community in Tennessee, and the importance of self-expression and creative play.


Podcast Episode 6: Dom Flemons

This episode of Pass the Mic features Dom Flemons, also known as the “American Songster. Dom is Grammy winning recording artist, two-time Emmy nominee, and a 2020 U.S. Artists Fellow. His repertoire covers a century of American Roots music. In addition to being an accomplished songwriter and instrumentalist, Dom is a music scholar, record collector, actor, poet, and creator of the “American Songster” radio program based in Nashville. In his early career, Dom formed the Carolina Chocolate drops alongside Rhiannon Giddons and Justin Robinson. The Carolina Chocolate Drops are featured in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of African American Music. Dom has released numerous solo records including Prospect Hill: The American Songster Omnibuson Omnivore Recordings; Dom Flemons Presents Black Cowboys, which was co-produced bythe Smithsonian National Museum of African American History; and his most recent solo release, Traveling Wildfire, which contains original songs that honor traditional elements of American roots music while also telling personal stories.   


Podcast Episode 5: Daisha McBride - The Rap Girl

For this episode of Pass the Mic, we sat down with Nashville-based hip hop artist Daisha McBride, also known as The Rap Girl.  Daisha first gained attention for her music while recording and sharing videos of herself rapping while attending MTSU as a college student. At the age of 27, Daisha has already released three full-length albums and numerous singles. She is the subject of the recent documentaryIn Her Elementdirected by Idil Ibrahim. The documentary was featured on BET as part of itsQueen Collectiveseries, hosted by Queen Latifah, which is an initiative showcasing Black female and nonbinary filmmakers. In this conversation, Daisha discusses her dedication to emotional vulnerability and authenticity within her music, including her exploration of her own queer identity. She also shares her thoughts about Nashville’s relationship with the Black hip-hop community, including structural barriers and racism that can limit access to opportunities that are often readily provided to white country artists. 


Podcast Episode 4: Andrea Kukuly Uriarte

For this episode of Pass the Mic, we talked to Knoxville-based musician Andrea Kukuly Uriarte (they/them). Andrea performed with their band Rica Chica at the 2023 Beg Ears Festival, which was described byOxford Americanas “one of the most quietly earth-shattering, subtly luminous festivals the world over. Rica Chicha’s sound is inspired by psychedelic Peruvian cumbia groups of the 1960s, and by Argentinian and Peruvian folk, punk, rock, and ska from the 1980s and 1990s. 

Andrea was born in Peru, immigrated to Argentina during childhood, and then later to East Tennessee in their early teens. Each of these moves was driven by a need to escape unsafe circumstances arising from tumultuous political events. Andrea’s musical identity is a culmination of many cultural influences and explorations. For this particular episode, Andrea crafted and recorded stories and reflections of their life, and thoughtfully paired these stories with pieces of music representative of the corresponding geography and cultures. Andrea is a non-binary, Latinx immigrant and survivor of generational trauma. They are also an artist, activist, and a bridge between cultures. Andrea’s story is entirely unique, yet also captures the struggles, joy, and resilience common to the immigrant experience and queer experience in America. 


Podcast Episode 3: Donald Brown and Taber Gable

For this episode of Pass the Mic: Creating a Stage for Change, we sat down to chat with two Knoxville based jazz pianists: Donald Brown and Taber Gable. These two talented musicians represent different generations, yet share some common experiences and a passion for nurturing others in their East Tennessee communities through the arts.

Donald Brown is an accomplished pianist, composer, and producer. He grew up in Memphis Tennessee, and is one of eleven children. He began studying piano at Memphis State in 1972. During his time in Memphis, Donald performed with artists like Rufus Thomas, The Soul Children, and Al Green. He performed in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers prior to taking a teaching position at Berkeley College of Music for several years. He then moved to Knoxville to become a member of the jazz faculty at the University of Tennessee, where he taught for the next 32 years.

Taber Gable grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee and began playing piano at age 9.  He began taking lessons at the Joy of Music School, and had opportunities to study with a number of instructors including Donald Brown and Jerry Coker. He earned bachelor’s degree in Jazz Studies from the University of Hartford, then went on to earn a master’s degree in Jazz Performance at the Juilliard School where studied under Kenny Barron and Wynton Marsalis among others. Taber released his debut record, Hidden Driveways, in 2020, which reflects his eclectic musical influences. He currently hosts the radio program Improvisations on WUOT.


Podcast Episode 2: Holly G and Kelle Jolly 

For close to a century, the Grand Ole Opry has been at the heart of country music. Despite country music’s roots in African American culture and traditional African instruments, Black musicians only represent 1% of the Grand Ole Opry…but the Black Opry is changing that. In this episode that aired June 1, we sit down with Holly G, the founder of the Black Opry, and East Tennessee’s own Kelle Jolly to learn more about their experiences (good and bad), inspirations, and hopes for the future of the industry.

Pass the Mic: Creating a Stage for Change provides an opportunity for artists from marginalized and underserved communities to share their art with others. Through concerts/performances, visual art displays, discussions and panels focusing on important issues, and educational opportunities, artists have the chance to engage with the community. The Tennessee Theatre is proud to provide a space for audiences and artists to better understand one another.

This podcast is brought to you by the Historic Tennessee Theatre, produced by Becky Hancock and Cecilia Wright, and engineered and edited by Ben McLaughlin. Music composition, sound design, and additional production assistance is provided by William Wright. This project is being supported in part by The Tennessee Arts Commission. Graphics by Danica Thompkins. 


Podcast Episode 1: Allison Russell 

The Tennessee Theatre is proud to release its debut podcast episode as part of its “Pass the Mic: Creating a Stage for Change” series. The new episode, which aired May 18, features Grammy-nominated Allison Russell.

In the episode, Russell discusses her work on Love Rising (a benefit concert for LGBTQ causes), recent gun violence that has impacted Nashville, and the country and the role arts can play in making positive change. 

“While we have been working on producing a new Pass the Mic podcast series for some time now and look forward to sharing more episodes with you very soon, our host, Cecilia Wright, recently had the opportunity to sit down with Allison Russell,” said Becky Hancock, executive director of the Tennessee Theatre. “In light of recent events in Tennessee, this conversation felt important to share as soon as possible.” 

“You’re Not Alone”

Performed by Allison Russell

Written by Allison Russell Maxedon

Po Girl Music

Courtesy of Fantasy Records, a Division of Concord

Visit Concord Music on the web at


Songs That Make a Difference - Virtual Event with Chris Pierce

In August, singer-songwriter Chris Pierce joined us to discuss his journey as a singer/songwriter in “Songs that Make a Difference,” a live video program shared with local East Tennessee students. We’re excited to share this video with you now as part of our Pass the Mic: Creating a Stage for Change series.

This project is funded is funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.





In 2022, the Tennessee Theatre launched a new series of immersive arts events titled, “Pass the Mic: Creating a Stage for Change.” The series provides a stage for artists from marginalized and underserved communities to share their art with a broader East Tennessee audience.

Tennessee Theatre leadership and a community advisory group presented three concerts in 2022, featuring artists such as Black Opry Revue, Bettye LaVette, Danielle Ponder, Las Cafeteras, and Making Movies. Each performance also incorporated education and outreach opportunities in the communities that the series strives to reach.

“It is our hope to provide opportunities for new communities to experience the Tennessee Theatre, in addition to providing a stage for artists to share their craft,” Theatre Executive Director Becky Hancock said. “As a southern venue that was segregated for the first 35 years of its existence, the Tennessee Theatre of today has a strong desire to partner with and feature artists of color and those from other marginalized communities, especially those that may experience systemic obstacles to greater commercial success, to demonstrate that it is truly a venue for all people.”

In addition to the “Pass the Mic” events that will take place in person, a virtual product will be distributed via podcast and video to increase the accessibility of the theatre to more people and remove barriers to participation for the audience. As another facet of the initiative, community members will have opportunities to connect and interact through educational programs, such as masterclasses and workshops, and complementary partnerships with nonprofits. Stay tuned for more information about the release of the virtual series!

In addition to presenting regional talent through concerts, each event will incorporate other art forms through visual art galleries, spoken word performances, readings and other experiences featuring local artists. We are now accepting submissions for upcoming events. Please complete the form linked here if you are interested!

This project is being supported, in part, by federal award number SLFRP5534 awarded to the State of Tennessee by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as well as generous support from the following organizations: