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NEPM and Academy of Music to Host Best of Valley Voices Story Slam on April 13

SPRINGFIELD — New England Public Media (NEPM) and the Academy of Music will present the Best of Valley Voices Story Slam on Saturday, April 13 beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy of Music theater in Northampton. Click here to purchase tickets.

The 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 Mass.

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 stories with Valley Voices Story Slam is their first experience with the art form.

This is true for Josh Simpson of Shelburne, 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 Pedal People Cooperative; Amy Dryansky, former poet laureate of Northampton; and nine 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 will vote 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, adding that Academy of Music Executive Director Debra J’Anthony approached her with the idea to try a small slam to test the market in Western Mass., since the Moth Radio Hour is aired on 88.5 NEPM. “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 J’Anthony, co-host and co-executive producer of Valley Voices Story Slam.

At the April 13 event, hip-hop DJ Pzo Pete will set the stage with a custom set that reflects the themes, stories, and storytellers throughout the show. He appears thanks to a partnership with Genuine Culture, a Holyoke-based organization connecting music enthusiasts with dynamic live shows and cultural events.