4. Ann Arbor, MI
Ann Arbor has a rich history of music both in the University of Michigan and out. Household-name musicians like Glee’s Darren Criss, Madonna, and Iggy Pop all had their beginnings at the University of Michigan. Dozens of Broadway performers, pre-eminent classical music composers, and avant-garde modern dancers also received their education at the University of Michigan.
The college’s Hill Auditorium is home to a number of concerts presented each year by the University Musical Society, a professional concert series run in conjunction with the university. Ensembles as well-known as the New York Philharmonic have toured to Ann Arbor to perform at the historic Hill Auditorium for decades in the University Musical Society concert series.
The city itself has a diverse history of other classical music and theatre offerings, including the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, a professional orchestra performing in the historic Michigan theater. The Ann Arbor Opera Theatre and the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre are also mainstays of the city’s music and arts scene.
Many venues in Ann Arbor are well-known not just in Michigan, but in music circles throughout the country. The Ark is an epicenter for singer-songwriters, as it is host to the annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival. The Kerrytown Concert House is a favorite for acoustic and chamber musicians touring throughout the city, and the Blind Pig is a non-stop party for local and touring rock groups.
The school of music at the University of Michigan contributes a great deal to the musical scene in Ann Arbor as well, contributing over 600+ performances every year from the school’s choirs, orchestras, nationally-recognized concert bands, and chamber ensembles. One of the city’s favorite shows every single year, the Collage concert, is a diverse showcase of student groups and performers at the university’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.
Notable Music Schools: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor School of Music, Theatre, and Dance
3. Austin, TX
In terms of independent rock music on an international scale, there is probably no better scene in the entire world than Austin, Texas. Home to what could very well is the biggest music festival of its type on the entire planet, South By Southwest (stylized SXSW) is an event lasting 9 days. With over 2,200 artists performing every single year at 100 venues, Austin’s SXSW has been a staple of American musical culture for 27 years since 1987 when it was inaugurated. Certainly, if you are a musician living in Austin, you will have limitless opportunities to network with top musicians over the globe.
Outside of SXSW, Austin is home to the historic Sixth Street district, which has many bars, clubs, and venues that feature live music throughout the entire week. Sixth Street not only hosts many events at SXSW, but also a completely unique event, the Pecan Street Festival, an exhibition of arts and crafts that also features five stages of live music.
If that weren’t enough music festival talk for you, Austin also hosts another festival that has had a tradition of 50+ years of benefiting non-profit organizations called Eeyore’s Birthday Party. This festival is a one day event that includes food, music, and drink.
Of course, Austin also has a rich history of classical music as well, with the Austin Symphony Orchestra being the city’s oldest performing music group. Although not a full-time orchestra, the orchestra does have a regular concert season. Students of UT-Austin’s Butler School of Music regularly perform with the Austin Symphony Orchestra as well as the Austin Civic Orchestra, a semi-professional non-profit organization similar to the Austin Symphony.
Notable Music Schools In Austin: UT-Austin Butler School of Music