Although people associate Nashville with country music, the city’s music scene is rich and diverse. Many bluegrass, classical, rock, country, and gospel musicians call the city home. In fact, there are few places in the country that offer the range of musical experiences available in Nashville. In Music City you can visit a world-class country music museum, cross the street and stroll on the Walk of Fame to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center to attend a classical concert, and when the concert’s finished, round out the day one block up at the Broadway Street honky tonks, where you can hear some of the best live music in the country. You are truly surrounded by music in Nashville.
The live entertainment scene is nonstop. On Broadway Street you can visit legendary venues like Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Robert’s Western World, Full Moon Saloon, Silver Dollar Saloon, and Legends Corner, displaying music memorabilia and instruments from around the world. While still on Broadway, check out Ernest Tubb Record Shop. Founded by the legendary musician, its known for its wide selection of country and bluegrass music. At Grimey’s New and Pre-Loved Music Record Store you can shop for music, and hear live music in The Basement downstairs, which is a cornerstone of the local independent rock scene and the first Nashville venue for many bands from around the country.
Texas Troubadour Theatre broadcasts The Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree, a live country music radio production, every Saturday night. It’s the nation’s second longest-running radio show. Third Man Records, founded by Jack White, established a location in Nashville in 2009. It is a record store, record label, live venue, and one-stop production house. Other popular Nashville live music venues can be found on 2nd Avenue, in Printer’s Alley, and in SoBro.
For a more intimate experience visit the little Bluebird Cafe, where you can catch performances from some of the city’s best songwriters—newcomers and seasoned veterans alike. In its 30th year, the venue helped launch the careers of Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, and Faith Hill, and many other hit songwriters. For acoustic bluegrass and roots music visit the Station Inn in The Gulch area of Nashville. Greats like Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs, and Béla Fleck have performed at this venue.
A National Historic Landmark, the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974, is one stop you shouldn’t miss. Self-guided and backstage tours are available during the day. Try to catch a performance and experience its exceptional acoustics. Today the Grand Ole Opry House, located at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, hosts the famous show from February through October (the show takes place at Ryman Auditorium in the off season). You can take a tour to get a behind the scenes look at country music’s most famous show.
Completed in 2006, the state-of-the-art Schermerhorn Symphony Center, home of the world-class Nashville Symphony, was designed so the listener feels immersed in sound. You can take guided tours at 1 PM on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
For Nashville contact information, more photos, and videos go to: www.makingmusic.wpengine.com/destination/nashville2.html.
As you might expect, there is no shortage of music museums in Nashville. The city’s Country Music Hall of Fame is its most popular museum with 40,000 square feet of memorabilia—photographs, costumes, instruments, artifacts, performance space, and more. Its latest exhibit: “The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country” will be on display until December 2013. Incredibly, the world’s largest music museum is expanding and plans are to double its size by 2014.
Across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame you can visit the Music City Walk of Fame on Nashville’s Music Mile. Inductees to the Walk of Fame are from all genres of music—each with a connection to Music City. From Country Music Hall of Fame you can catch a bus to historic RCA Studio B, “home of 1,000 hits,” where artists like Elvis, Roy Orbison, and the Everly Brothers recorded famous hits.
The Willie Nelson & Friends Museum and General Store is one of the oldest in Nashville. Its exhibits honor Nelson and greats like Patsy Cline, Porter Wagoner, George Jones, Mel Tillis, Jeannie Seely, and many others. Fontanel Mansion, a 27,000-square-foot log home formerly owned by Barbara Mandrell gives visitors a peek into the life of a country music great.
This fall, a 18,000-square-foot Johnny Cash museum will open downtown, and the National Museum of African American Music is slated to open in 2013. The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, honoring the talented musicians who played on the greatest recordings of all time, was closed during the construction of Nashville’s new guitar-shaped Music City Center convention facility. It will reopen in the coming months at the Municipal Auditorium.
Nashville hosts many music events year-round, but the festival season runs from April through Labor Day.
Here are some of the highlights to help plan your trip:
Awesome April: To kick off the festival season, Nashville annually hosts one major music event every weekend during April.
Tin Pan South: This week-long songwriter festival (held 2-6 April 2013) includes about 80 live club shows and more than 250 songwriters performing original works.
Rites of Spring Music Festival: Held at Vanderbilt University at the end of April, this two-day festival features up and coming acts in a variety of genres.
CMA Music Festival: Held in early June, this four-day festival features hundreds of musicians on multiple stages and is dedicated to bringing country music fans and stars together.
Bonnaroo: This June camping festival held in nearby Manchester includes four days of the best music in many different contemporary styles from rock to jazz to hip-hop.
4th of July Spectacular: Nashville celebrates Independence Day in it’s own way with a free, live, downtown concert featuring the Nashville Symphony performing with some of music’s greatest stars.
Music City Jazz & More: Over Labor Day weekend, this family friendly event is held on the banks of the Cumberland River.
This article is from our September-October 2012 issue. Click to order!