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A performance of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
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Hear the Classical

Experience the USA

Fred Stucker

Echoing the history of the USA itself, American classical music broke from its solemn European roots in the 18th century and evolved into a varied sonic melting pot influenced by blues, jazz and pop music. Experimental, colorful and daring symphony orchestras and artists can be found in just about every major U.S. city.

Explore Classical

Carnegie Hall

For more than 125 years, Carnegie Hall, located just two blocks from Central Park in the heart of New York City, New York, has been the gold standard venue for live classical music. Musicians and patrons will tell you it’s the concert hall’s acoustics, designed to reflect sound rather than soak it in. In addition to hosting the greatest classical performers, from pianists to string quartets, the hall has also welcomed legendary jazz and popular musicians. Visitors can schedule a behind-the-scenes tour of the building, which also houses the Carnegie Hall Archives and the Rose Museum, dedicated to the Carnegie’s history. Nearby, options for dining and entertainment are dizzying.

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia, isn’t so much a venue as it is an amusement park for music: The park’s Filene Center hosts 100 shows each season – representing multiple genres – and is surrounded by expansive natural beauty, hiking trails and dining. The outdoor concert amphitheater has 7,000 covered lawn seats and has been catering to classical fans since 1971, when world-renowned Russian pianist Van Cliburn was among the first performers. Legends who have graced the stage include Yo-Yo Ma, Placido Domingo and Emanuel Ax.

Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point

The mountainous beauty and small-town charm of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, make it an ideal home to Opera in the Ozarks, an annual summer opera festival that doubles as a training ground for young opera professionals. Fans cite the quality of the acoustics and the reasonable prices as big draws. In addition to the preserved Victorian buildings throughout the city’s Historic District, two worthwhile stops are Castle Antiques at Inspiration Point, for its breathtaking overlook and array of antiques; and the laid-back Angler’s Restaurant, which offers catfish, burgers and beer on its outdoor deck.

Florida Orchestra

The Florida Orchestra performs nearly 100 symphonic concerts annually in the tri-city area of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. The orchestra has re-enacted 17th century concerts by Bach and Vivaldi, performs with pop stars like Seal and treats fans to free outdoor concerts year-round. Many shows are held at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, which is just off Tampa Bay and right next door to The Dali Museum, the largest collection of the surrealist’s work outside Europe.

Sacred Heart Music Center

There are three things you’re likely to find in an old church: great acoustics, striking architecture and a phenomenal organ. The landmark Neo-Gothic cathedral housing the Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth, Minnesota, is no exception. It has a natural tonality perfect for classical artists, as well as the Felgemaker organ, a sonic wonder with a large, reverb-soaked sound. Past performers include acapella group Tonic Sol-fa; Robert Robinson, the “Pavarotti of Gospel”; and a performance of “Phantom of the Opera,” perfect for the Felgemaker. Other popular Duluth hangouts include Blacklist Artisan Ales, for live music and brews, and Sir Benedicts Tavern on the Lake, for English-style beer overlooking Lake Superior.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

The striking Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, California, is home to many of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 250 annual concerts. It has been featured in TV shows (“The Simpsons”) and movies (“Iron Man”) but is most famous for hosting stars: Cellist Gautier Capuçon, concert pianist Lang Lang, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and even non-classical artists. Visitors will find the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Grand Central Market, featuring food, movies and game nights, within walking distance.

Curtis Institute of Music

Composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, soprano Helen Jepson and classical pianist Shura Cherkassky are among the alumni of The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While students work toward a diploma from one of the world’s most prestigious music schools, they also perform regular concerts and recitals, providing music lovers with the chance to see the next legend-in-the-making. Located in Philadelphia’s Center City neighborhood, the Curtis sits among a treasure trove of restaurants, from farm-to-table Talula’s Garden to the bustling Victor Café, where Italian fare is served with a side of opera-singing waiters.

Opera on Tap

The folks at Opera on Tap decided to turn the traditional opera upside down: They’d take opera out of the confines of the music hall and bring it to the people. The small local productions, which began in Brooklyn, New York, feature classically trained singers and performers who offer casual opera concerts for little or no cost. Keep an eye out in cities throughout the USA; you might find a campy twist on a classic like “The REAL Phantom of the Opera,” foot-tapping jazz brunches or carolers popping up just about anywhere over the holidays.

Violinist performing in an outdoor festival
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