7. Pittsburgh, PA
Home to an incredibly diverse amount of musical influences and cultures, Pittsburgh has an unusually high number of professional theaters, classical music offerings, and a very lengthy tradition of jazz and bluegrass styles. The tradition of great musical culture in Pittsburgh can be attributed to wealthy 19th century industrialists who would commission music and art to enhance the culture of the city.
Some of the most widely regarded classical music institutions exist in Pittsburgh. Once led by the baton of one of the most well-known classical musicians of all time, Andre Previn, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, now one of the leading orchestras in the US, is flourishing under its current musical director, Manfred Honeck. The 8th oldest professional opera company in the entire country, the Pittsburgh Opera presents five fully-staged productions every year, each one spanning several nights that are presented to sold out audiences. This year in particular, they are performing works as diverse as Handel’s lesser known Rodelinda to a new work by enterprising young composer Mohammed Fairouz.
Other classical music establishments include the National Negro Opera Company, the first completely African-American opera company in the US, as well as the fiery and dynamic ensemble of new classical music, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.
One of the strongest epicenters for theatre in the country, one can seemingly never run out of places in Pittsburgh to find a company that satisfies expectations. From the Quantum Theatre, an experimental theatre company, to the Bricolage Production Company, the City Theatre, Phase 3 Productions, or literally countless other organizations that have become staples of Pittsburgh’s culture, your palette of entertainment options can be nearly limitless in this city.
Outside of classical music and theatre, the city is home to a number of major American popular music artists, including rapper Wiz Khalifa, who recently had a number one record on the Billboard Hot 100.
Notable Music Programs:
Carnegie-Mellon School of Music
Carnegie-Mellon School of Drama (For Musical Theatre Majors)
University of Pittsburgh Department of Music
6. Athens, GA
In the summers, Athens is home to a large number of music festivals, including Athfest, the free music and arts festival that also hosts a half-marathon in support of raising money for music education programs. Athens is also home to the annual festival the Athens Popfest, a music festival dedicated to indie rock and and popular music styles.
The city also has a rich diversity of classical music offerings, due in part to the very active school of music at the University of Georgia. In addition to the city’s Athens Symphony Orchestra, the Hugh Hodgson School of Music hosts the ARCO Chamber Orchestra, the Men’s and Women’s Glee Clubs, two symphony orchestras, and a number of jazz, brass, and woodwind groups.
Notable Music Programs:
University of Georgia Hugh Hodgson School of Music
5. Denton, TX
One of the best college towns in America for popular music and jazz enthusiasts, Denton was named in 2008 by Paste Magazine as having the very best music scene in the nation. The three most well-known musical landmarks of Denton include two major music festivals as well its college music program at the University of North Texas.
The Denton Arts and Jazz Festival, one of the nations pre-eminent jazz music festivals, is a completely free 3-day event that attracts over 200,000 people every single year. With over seven stages, 2,300 artists, and hundreds of arts and crafts booths, the festival is absurdly large. Students at the University of North Texas are regularly featured in this festival. In fact, one of the stages at the festival is completely dedicated to showcasing student and faculty talent at the University of North Texas!
In an attempt to recreate the famous South By Southwest (SXSW) music and arts festival held in rival Texas city Austin every year, Denton created the “35 Denton” festival, a four-day festival featuring indie-rock national sensations such as Neon Indian, the Mountain Goats, and the Flaming Lips. Although there was no festival in 2014, it appears as if the festival will be returning in March of 2015.
Finally, the University of North Texas is one of the leading music schools in the country, as well as a staple of culture in not just Denton, but in all of Texas. The school hosts over 1,000 performances every single year to residents of Denton and beyond. UNT has a spectacular symphony orchestra, an intriguing Center for Experimental Music and Intermedia, and even six-time Grammy nominated jazz combo known as the One O’Clock Lab Band.
Notable Music Programs: University of North Texas College of Music