Featuring funk and reggae legends Steel Pulse; award-winning singer/songwriter Ruthie Foster & roots and soul singer Shemekia Copeland; blues, funk, and R&B singer/guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington; multi-Grammy winner Fantastic Negrito; guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Christone “Kingfish” Ingram; New Orleans phenom New Breed Brass Band; Grammy-winning quintet Ranky Tanky; and Pittsburgh-based band The Commonheart      

Pittsburgh, PA – June 6, 2022 – The August Wilson African American Cultural Center (AWAACC) announced today the initial line-up for its 2022 Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival, taking place live and in person September 14-15, 2022, at Highmark Stadium (510 W. Station Square Drive). The fifth annual festival features an array of award-winning musicians, including Grammy Award-winning funk and reggae band Steel Pulse; award-winning singer/songwriter Ruthie Foster and blues powerhouse Shemekia Copeland; blues, funk, and R&B singer and guitarist Walter “Wolfman” Washington; multi-Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Fantastic Negrito; and more. Tickets are on sale today, Monday, June 6. The Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival is presented by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Created by AWAACC President and CEO Janis Burley Wilson, the festival celebrates the blues and honors the musical roots that continue to inspire today’s generation of artists, especially those who recognize the artists who came before them and have had a significant influence on their music. Additional festival acts include guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Christone “Kingfish” Ingram; New Breed Brass Band, the New Orleans funk, rock, jazz, and hip-hop phenom; Charleston-based quintet and Grammy Award-winning roots band Ranky Tanky, which celebrates the Gullah culture of the southeastern Sea Islands; and The Commonheart, a group of up-and-coming Pittsburgh-based musicians.

“The Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival is about hope, roots, and the connections that music creates across races, neighborhoods, and beliefs, and as the blues-inspired August Wilson, it continues to inspire listeners today,” said AWAACC President and CEO Janis Burley Wilson. “At a time when so many are grappling with the immensely difficult issues facing our nation, I hope this festival and the opportunity to come together in unity inspires hope for the future. I am incredibly grateful to Highmark Health for their continued partnership, enabling us to celebrate the blues and the artists who bring the music to life.”

Following the Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival, AWAACC presents the 12th annual Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival, taking place September 16-18. The lineup includes the most recorded bassist in history, multi-Grammy winner Ron Carter, who performs at the Center on September 16; jazz fusion pioneer Stanley Clarke; soul-funk icons, the Average White Band; award-winning vocalist and current phenom, Samara Joy; vocal storyteller and stylist, Vanisha Gould; award-winning pianist, Orrin Evans, and more performing at Highmark Stadium throughout the weekend. To purchase tickets and for more information, please visit pittsburghjazzfest.org.

The Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival extends the non-profit AWAACC’s mission to celebrate Black culture and the African diaspora and highlights the Center as a leader in presenting programming that reflects the diversity of Pittsburgh and the nation. To learn more about the Center and its year-round activities, please visit https://aacc-awc.org/.

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Tickets, starting at $30, are on sale now at https://blues.awaacc.org. Individual day passes as well as two-day passes are also available. For additional details and the complete festival line-up, please visit http://blues.awwaacc.org.


Christone “Kingfish” Ingram is a guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter who has quickly become the defining blues voice of his generation. In addition to headlining two national tours he has performed with acts such as Vampire Weekend, Jason Isbell and Buddy Guy. Since his Grammy-nominated debut album, “Kingfish,” Ingram has released his follow-up, “662,” co-written and produced by Grammy winner Tom Hambridge.

The Commonheart is a group of up-and-coming Pittsburgh-based artists formed to invoke emotion through tone and energy. The nonet is bonded by familial-like ties and a desire to foster spiritual uplift. Among its ranks are female backup singers, drums, bass, guitar, a horn section, and keyboards.

Shemekia Copeland is an award-winning vocalist who has grown to become one of the most talented and passionately candid artists on today’s roots music scene, with a recording career that began in 1998 at age 18. Born in Harlem, Copeland gave her first public performance at age 10 and has since performed thousands of gigs at clubs, festivals, and concert halls all over the world, including the White House. She has appeared in films, on national television, and on National Public Radio. On her new Alligator album, Done Come Too Far, Copeland continues the story she began telling on 2018’s groundbreaking America’s Child and 2020’s Grammy-nominated Uncivil War, reflecting her vision of America’s past, present, and future. On Done Come Too Far, she delivers her hard-hitting musical truths through her eyes, those of a young American Black woman, a mother, and a wife. But she likes to have a good time too, and her music reflects that at times putting her sly sense of humor front and center. “This album was made by all sides of me — happy, sad, silly, irate — they’re all a part of who I am and who we all are. I’m not political. I’m just talking about what’s happening in this country.”

Fantastic Negrito is an American singer-songwriter whose music spans blues, R&B, and roots music. His 2016, 2019, and 2020 all albums received the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. His latest album, “White Jesus Black Problems,” is an ode to the power of family and the enduring resilience of shared humanity.

Ruthie Foster, an award-winning singer/songwriter, hails from the tightly knit musical community of Austin, Texas. She has duetted with Bonnie Raitt, the Allman Brothers, and has traded verses with Susan Tedeschi. Drawing influence from legendary acts like Mavis Staples and Aretha Franklin, Foster developed a unique sound unable to be contained within a single genre, with some describing it as “some folk, some blues, some soul, some rock, some gospel.” Foster has been nominated for four Grammys and has won multiple Blues Music and Austin Music Awards, plus the Grand Prix du Disque from Academie Charles-Cros in France.

New Breed Brass Band lives and breathes the culture of New Orleans, infusing funk, rock, jazz, and hip-hop into a custom-made enhancement of the city’s second-line brass band tradition. Since making their street debut in 2013, the band has showcased their originality in North America and Europe, opening for bands such as The Fray, Red Baraat, Blackalicious, Dr. John, The Waterboys, and Trombone Shorty & New Orleans Avenue.

Ranky Tanky, the 2020 Grammy Award winner for Best Regional Roots Album, is a Charleston-based quintet that focuses on the music born from the Gullah culture of the southeastern Sea Islands. Playful game songs, ecstatic shouts, and heartbreaking spirituals can all be found on their latest release “Good Time,” which also offers the group’s first original songs inspired by Gullah tradition.

Steel Pulse, a roots and reggae band hailing from Birmingham, England, is led by front man and lead singer and guitarist David Hinds. Their twelfth studio album, “Mass Manipulation,” released in 2019, reflects four decades of the band’s commitment to bettering mankind through music. As reggae revolutionaries, Steel Pulse is revered by the younger generation of artists and remains a powerhouse on stages around the globe.

Walter “Wolfman” Washington is an American singer and guitarist who has been a mainstay in the New Orleans music scene since the early 1960s. He began his career backing up some of New Orlean’s most acclaimed performers, including Lee Dorsey, Johnny Adams, and Irma Thomas before putting together his long-time band The Roadmasters in the 1980s, who have been performing on national stages ever since.

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One of America’s leading health insurance organizations and an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Highmark Inc. (the Health Plan) and its affiliated health plans (collectively, the Health Plans) work passionately to deliver high-quality, accessible, understandable, and affordable experiences, outcomes, and solutions to customers. As the fourth-largest overall Blue Cross Blue Shield-affiliated organization, Highmark Inc. and its Blue-branded affiliates proudly cover the insurance needs of approximately 6.8 million members in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, and West Virginia. Its diversified businesses serve group customer and individual needs across the United States through dental insurance and other related businesses. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.

The August Wilson African American Cultural Center is a non-profit cultural organization located in Pittsburgh’s cultural district that generates artistic, educational, and community initiatives that advance the legacy of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson. One of the largest cultural centers in the country focused exclusively on the African American experience and the celebration of Black culture and the African diaspora, the non-profit organization welcomes more than 119,000 visitors locally and nationally. In 2022, the Center opened August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape, the first-ever permanent exhibition dedicated to the life and work of the prolific playwright. Through year-round programming across multiple genres, such as the annual Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival, Black Bottom Film Festival, AWCommunity Days, TRUTHSayers speaker series, and rotating art exhibits in its galleries, the Center provides a platform for established and emerging artists of color whose work reflects the universal issues of identity that Wilson tackled and which still resonate today.

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Media Contacts:

Cydney Nunn
August Wilson African American Cultural Center


Emilia Litwak / Julie Danni / Josh Balber
Resnicow and Associates
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