Freedom Sings®

Freedom Sings,® a program of the First Amendment Center, is a critically acclaimed multimedia experience with an all-star cast of musicians, now in its 11th year of touring the country.

The presentation features music that has been banned or censored or has sounded a call for social change, and it invites audiences to experience the First Amendment in a new way.

This entertaining, irreverent and inspiring program is packed with live music, video and narration, and showcases hit songwriters, engaging performers and Grammy Award winners.

“In the nearly 10 years that I’ve been here, there has never been a more engaged and enthusiastic audience, students and members of the community alike,” said Grant Vosburgh, director of communications at Martin Methodist College in Tennessee.

Mark Witherspoon, editorial adviser for the Iowa State Daily, said, “Freedom Sings is invigorating, engaging  and glorious fun. In 25 years of teaching First Amendment principles,  I’ve never seen a more entertaining way of educating students about these core freedoms.”

This celebration of the power, passion and poetry of music has featured a wide range of artists, including Judy Collins, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Steve Earle, Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals, John Kay of Steppenwolf, Mark Volman of the Turtles, Dobie Gray, Ashley Cleveland and many more.

Most recently, the Freedom Sings concert series has grown to include a new live presentation, “Express Yourself: The Music That Changed America.”

The Freedom Sings band in concert.

“‘Express Yourself’ offers an engaging look at some of the most controversial songs in American history,” said Ken Paulson, president and chief executive officer of the First Amendment Center. “It’s part concert and part conversation. The First Amendment has never been so entertaining.”

The 2012 schedule appears toward the bottom of this page.

Freedom Sings recognizes the full spectrum of political views, an approach praised by journalists including nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, who wrote in his column that the program is “fun … scrupulously well-balanced” and appealing to “all political perspectives.”

“Without question, ‘Freedom Sings’ was the most meaningful, memorable and educational keynote event I’ve ever seen,” said Chris Carroll of College Media Advisers.

“The show casts a brilliant light on the history of censorship and intimidation on artists and their work and was extremely entertaining and educational,” said Robyn Davis Sekula, president of the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “I can’t think of a better way to tell the story of how government has attempted to limit free speech than the Freedom Sings project.”

The performers with Freedom Sings “do a fantastic and eye-opening show that raises lots of issues students (need) to be aware of (and) talk about,” said Joe Sheller, associate professor at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “Plus, they’re just rockin’.”

The First Amendment Center works to preserve and protect First Amendment freedoms through information and education, and does not lobby or litigate.

Audience members applaud Freedom Sings performance.

Freedom Sings band members vary from show to show, but frequent performers include:

  • Craig Krampf, Grammy Award-winning songwriter and legendary rock drummer behind songs such as “Eye of the Tiger” and “Bette Davis Eyes.”
  • Jonell Mosser, soulful singer whose work can be heard in such films as “Hope Floats” and “Boys on the Side,” and who has performed with such talents as Ringo Starr and B.B. King.
  • Don Henry, Grammy Award-winning songwriter whose work has been recorded by Ray Charles, Kathy Mattea and many others.
  • Bill Lloyd, of the top country duo Foster and Lloyd, whose work has been recorded by Hootie and the Blowfish and other top acts.
  • Ashley Cleveland, a gritty, powerful singer and the only woman to win three Grammy Awards for best rock gospel album.
  • Joseph Wooten, a singer and songwriter, and keyboard player for the Steve Miller Band.
  • Jason White
  • Jackie Patterson
  • Dave Coleman
  • The Wrights
  • Michael Webb
  • Shonka Dukureh

Freedom Sings was written by Ken Paulson, president and chief executive officer, First Amendment Center.

Freedom Sings production:
Narrators: Gene Policinski, vice president/executive director, First Amendment Center
Ken Paulson

Technical director: Chris Amacher, First Amendment Center
Producer: Denise Philp, First Amendment Center

2012 schedule

Feb. 3
Iowa Newspaper Association, Des Moines

Feb. 24
Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Nashville

March 8
Wilbur Wright College, Chicago

April 12
Iowa State University, Ames

May 10

MTSU Educators, Nashville

May 11

Leadership Music, Nashville

July 17

Free Spirit at the Newseum, Washington, D.C.

2011 schedule

Feb. 10
Tennessee Press Association, Nashville

March 23
North Central Michigan College, Petoskey, Mich.

April 13
Winthrop University, Rock Hill, S.C.

May 14
Leadership Music, Nashville

June 25
Youth Leadership Summit, Holocaust Museum, D.C.

Nov. 2
Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro

Nov. 3
University of Memphis

Nov. 11
Jamestown College, Jamestown, N.D.

2010 schedule

Jan. 22
Chips Quinn Scholars (Free Speech in Music), Nashville, Tenn.

March 16
Free Spirit Conference, Washington, D.C.

April 27
Americana Free Speech and Music Award to Mary Chapin Carpenter, Washington, D.C.

May 15
Leadership Music, Nashville

Sept. 23
AP NewsTrain, Nashville

Sept. 24
Louisville Bar Association, Louisville, Ky.

Oct. 26
Martin Methodist College, Pulaski, Tenn.

2009 schedule

March 10
University of Illinois, Champaign

April 29
Berry College, Rome, Ga.

May 16
Leadership Music at First Amendment Center, Nashville

May 18
Community performance at First Amendment Center, Nashville

Sept. 15
Tennessee Tech, Cookeville

Sept. 16
Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro

Sept. 17
University of Kentucky, Lexington

Oct. 19
Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa.

Oct. 21
Bluebird Café, Nashville

Oct. 21
Tennessee History Conference

2008 schedule

Jan. 10
The Tennessean at First Amendment Center, Nashville

March 19
At the Newseum, Washington, D.C.

May 10
Leadership Music at First Amendment Center

May 17
Chips Quinn Scholars program at USA Today, McLean, Va.

Sept. 10
University of Missouri, Columbia

Sept. 13
Belmont University, Nashville

Sept. 15
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Sept. 18
Americana Music Conference, Nashville

Oct. 9
Al Neuharth Media Center/University of South Dakota, Vermillion

2007 schedule

March 17
Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion
First Amendment Center, Nashville

March 20
Free Spirit Scholars
Arlington, Va.

March 27
Monroe Community College
Monroe, Mich.

March 29
Center for Innovating College Media
First Amendment Center, Nashville

March 31
Fisk University

April 12
University of Nebraska

May 12
Leadership Music
First Amendment Center, Nashville

May 19
Chips Quinn Scholars
First Amendment Center, Nashville

Sept. 17
LaSalle University

Sept. 19
Bellarmine University
Louisville, Ky.

Sept. 21
First Amendment Center, Nashville

Oct. 11
Al Neuharth Center
Vermillion, S.D.

Oct. 24
First Amendment Summit
Washington, D.C.

Nov. 7
University of Wyoming

Nov. 8
Laramie County Community College
Cheyenne, Wyo.

Nov. 14
Syracuse University
Syracuse, N.Y.