- New York
- South Dakota
No matter where you travel in the USA, you’re certain to be near one of these classical music ensembles.
New York Philharmonic, MET Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra – there’s no doubt that the USA boasts some of the most famous classical music companies in the world. Take a closer look, and you’ll be surprised to find performance venues and groups in unexpected places, too. From the remote U.S. territory of Guam to country music-loving Knoxville, Tennessee, here are noteworthy and lesser-known places to hear outstanding classical music concerts.
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra – Buffalo, New York
This respected New York organization presents an expansive musical calendar – more than 120 concerts a year – that includes everything from Baroque classical to orchestral renditions of Motown and rock ‘n’ roll. After the symphony, tour Buffalo’s other artistic offerings, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House, Albright-Knox Art Gallery and St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
Exploring the Martin House, one of Buffalo’s many cultural offerings
Cincinnati Music Hall – Cincinnati, Ohio
Housed in a renovated 1878 Venetian Gothic building, Cincinnati Music Hall hosts Cincinnati’s Symphony Orchestra, Pops Orchestra, Ballet and Opera. This National Historic Landmark boasts a full calendar of musical performances from Broadway shows to orchestral takes on modern music. Outside, stroll Washington Park and look for the American Classical Music Walk of Fame that honors more than 130 composers, performers and organizations with Samuel Barber, George Gershwin and Leontyne Price among them.
Dallas Symphony Orchestra – Dallas, Texas
For canonical classical works, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra is a must-visit experience. Each concert series is preceded by a Performance Prelude featuring a guest speaker to enhance the program. The Meyerson Symphony Center is in the Dallas Arts District within walking distance of other cultural landmarks such as the Winspear Opera House, Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher Sculpture Center.
Opera Colorado – Denver, Colorado
Opera Colorado may be a relative newcomer – its first season debuted in 1983 – but it has attracted big names from the very start –James McCraken and Placido Domingo were among the first tenors to perform. The Ellie Caulkins Opera House is just steps from Denver’s 16th Street Mall, a pedestrian-friendly corridor lined with shops, restaurants and entertainment.
Guam Symphony Society – Hagatna, Guam
The Guam Symphony Society is the oldest such organization in the remote Marianas region. Its season runs September through May and features approximately 10 classical performances. The organization is unique in that amateur volunteer musicians can play with international visiting professionals. Occasionally, some arrangements, including Handel’s “Messiah,” have been reinterpreted in Guam’s native Chamorro language.
Knoxville Symphony Orchestra – Knoxville, Tennessee
Knoxville Symphony Orchestra is the longest continually performing symphony orchestra in the Southeast. The company, founded in 1935, performs more than 200 concerts throughout the season at local schools, the iconic Bijou Theatre and Knoxville Museum of Art. Knoxville is also home to the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, a 17-piece big band ensemble, and Knoxville Opera.
Ornate interior of the Tennessee Theatre, one of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s venues
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
From classical masters to modern-day movie scores, Milwaukee Symphony delivers a varied lineup of orchestral music at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts near the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan. Notable among its offerings is an extensive family and youth outreach programming. It’s also the first orchestral assembly to offer live recordings on iTunes and boasts the longest consecutive series of nationally syndicated orchestral music in the USA.
Nighttime outside the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts
Palm Beach Symphony – West Palm Beach, Florida
Amid Palm Beach’s luxury hotels, world-class attractions and beautiful beaches is the Palm Beach Symphony, offering a significant lineup of masterworks and chamber music performed at a variety of venues. Families will also enjoy its children’s concerts featuring musical accompaniment to classic children’s tales.
The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, home to the Palm Beach Symphony
Philadelphia Orchestra and The Academy of Music – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Founded in 1900, the Philadelphia Orchestra is one of the oldest in the USA. Treat yourself to a performance at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in the Avenue of the Arts cultural district, or catch a neighborhood chamber music concert — performances take place throughout the city from February to June and are free to attend. Just down the street, the orchestra owns the historic Academy of Music, the oldest opera house in the USA still hosting ballets, Broadway musicals and rock concerts.
St. Louis Symphony – St. Louis, Missouri
Established in 1880, the St. Louis Symphony is the USA’s second-oldest orchestra – behind the New York Philharmonic, founded in 1842 – and is renowned for its exquisite performances. In addition to global classics – such as works by Beethoven, Haydn and Copland – check the calendar for jazz, gospel and movie soundtrack concerts. Powell Hall, the company’s primary performance venue, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and offers free tours of the facility.
San Diego Symphony and Copley Symphony Hall – San Diego, California
Copley Symphony Hall was built in 1929 as a movie palace theater. Today, the venue is home of the San Diego Symphony, a company more than 100 years old and a musical fixture in the region. Whether you enjoy Tchaikovsky or Mozart, Bernstein or Britten, you’ll love the symphony’s top-notch lineup. If it fits into your travel schedule, join the free monthly tour to see Copley Hall’s original organ with giant pipes built into the walls.
South Dakota Symphony Orchestra – Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Known for landmarks like Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park, South Dakota also is home to a symphony orchestra. Headquartered in Sioux Falls, the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra presents 21 performances throughout the season. Part of the ensemble’s cultural offerings include Music as Medicine, bringing music into health facilities, and the Lakota Music Project, a program joining Lakota Indian drummers with symphony performers.
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square – Salt Lake City, Utah
This GRAMMY Award-winning chorale is comprised of 360 vocalists accompanied by an impressive 11,623-pipe organ. While widely known for Christmas performances, the choir also established The Orchestra at Temple Square and Bells on Temple Square, a handbell choir. Don’t miss the daily organ recitals, Thursday choir rehearsal or Sunday Music and Spoken Word broadcast featuring a choral performance with orchestral music. Afterward, stroll Temple Square and marvel at the awe-inspiring architecture.