Try something new! These unique modern and historic music venues are worth the visit.
The Crooked Road is Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. Extending 333 miles throughout the southern part of the state, the trail opened in 2004. Along the trail, you’ll find eight different venues showcasing the roots of America’s music. The songs and tunes of the region told the stories of early pioneer life, immigrant experiences and the day-to-day trials and tribulations. The ballads of the early Scots-Irish and settlers of the British Isles are evident, as are their instruments, such as the fiddle.
Travel to Galax and you’ll find the Old Fiddlers Convention, the oldest and largest such convention in the world! The area’s rich musical heritage has earned Galax its status as the “World’s Capital of Old Time Mountain Music.” Along the trail, tourists can explore communities along the way, offering a fun way to learn about local music, history and heritage. Also included is the Birthplace of Country Music in Bristol, where its famous Music Sessions took place in 1927 – the “big bang” for country music recording. The Birthplace museum, now under construction, will immerse visitors in the sounds and stories of Bristol’s music history. Bristol’s music continues most nights in restaurants and clubs along State Street and swells to fill the city during the Rhythm and Roots Reunion in September, when three days of concerts, jams and performances bring thousands of music lovers to more than 20 stages up and down Bristol’s main street. Stop along any of the venues and enjoy the many concerts, festivals and jam sessions the trail has to offer.
Check out the nTelos Wireless Pavilion to experience the architecturally striking entertainment venue on Portsmouth’s waterfront. It has already become a landmark and a premier regional attraction. As part of the lush new five-acre Harbor Center Festival Park, the nTelos Pavilion is unlike anything in Hampton Roads – or anywhere else for that matter. With 6,500 seats, the nTelos Pavilion is large enough to attract a wide variety of incredible acts, shows, and performers, yet intimate enough so that every seat is awesome. The intimacy of this venue is one of its greatest assets.
The Virginia Beach Amphitheater is a 20,000 seat outdoor concert venue located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. There are 7,500 reserved seats under the pavilion roof and room for 12,500 on the “festival lawn”. Under cover or under the stars on the lawn, it’s a good place to hear a concert. Since opening its doors in 1996, the Verizon Wireless Virginia Beach Amphitheater has hosted such performances as: Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, Kenny Chesney, Jimmy Buffett, 311, Aerosmith, Rascal Flatts, Mary J. Blige, Gwen Stefani and tours like Warped Tour and Ozzfest.
As America’s National Park for the Performing Arts, Wolf Trap plays a valuable leadership role in both the local and national performing arts communities. Through a wide range of artistic and education programs, Wolf Trap enhances our nation’s cultural life and ensures that the arts remain accessible and affordable to the broadest possible audience. A typical season at Wolf Trap includes something for everyone with performances ranging from pop, country, folk, and blues to orchestra, dance, theatre, and opera, as well as innovative performance art and multimedia presentations. A facility with a rich history dating back as far as 1632, Wolf Trap is not only a place to experience music, but also a place to receive a great history lesson.
The Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall & Arts Center in Alexandria will treat audiences to a premier performance space with its state-of-the-art acoustics, striking architecture, and wood paneled stage shell complementing the rich burgundy furnishings. Community-wide discussions between the college and local arts groups in the early 1990′s led to the concept for a premier performing arts center on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. As plans for the Center developed, details were added to the design so that the building could accommodate large performance groups and off-Broadway theater companies, yet remain affordable for local non-profit groups. Fundraising for the Schlesinger Center began in 1993 and was led by the Campaign Management Committee for the Alexandria/Arlington Cultural Center. Among the leaders of the Campaign committee was Rachel M. Schlesinger, a violinist and board member of the Arlington Symphony. Mrs. Schlesinger worked tirelessly to raise money for the Center, but never saw the dream become a reality. It was not until 1996 that Schlesinger’s husband made a $1 million donation in his wife’s name, bringing the center to life.
The Garth Newel Music Center in Hot Springs provides an intimate, informal music experience with a twist. Its name, a Welsh phrase meaning New Home, was the name given to the property in the 1920s. Enjoy music from classical to jazz all the while sipping a glass of wine, or perhaps enjoying a five-course meal. As one of the most active chamber music organizations in the country, Garth Newel’s mission has always been to share, explore and celebrate the infinite variety of chamber music in a setting of natural beauty. In addition to public concerts, educational programs are available, as well as on-site lodging. The Garth Newel Music Center has gone from a half dozen concerts in the 1970s to more than 50 today.
The Washington, D.C. area attracts national acts from around the world. If you’re looking for a musical experience in a more natural environment, travel about an hour northwest to Purcellville and you will find Franklin Park Arts Center. A process more than 10 years in the making, the Arts Center opened in 2008 on the site of Franklin farm, which burnt to the ground in 1997. Today, Franklin Park Arts Center boasts a 263-seat, timber-framed facility. The Center hosts local, regional, national and international artists from all genres of music. The Arts Center strives to promote individual creativity and expression by presenting quality performing, visual and literary arts in an accessible, affordable manner.
The City of Hampton holds one of the true musical landmarks in Virginia, The American Theatre. Originally opened in 1908, the Theatre was designed to provide “clean, wholesome amusement” to the town’s residents and visitors. Tragically burning to the ground barely a year after opening its doors, the Theatre’s owner rebuilt the facility in less than a year. It enjoyed a century of growth and change, all the while becoming The Lee for a while, then The Lee Adult when Phoebus (the town which was incorporated into Hampton) was enjoying its reputation as “little Chicago.” During the 1980s, the Theatre became The New American Theatre, where beer and pizza accompanied a movie and local bands played. Closing in the 1990s, it’s been reopened since 2000 and now hosts more than 50 acts a year, with many well-known artists performing on its stage.
Another rocky story, The State Theatre in Falls Church opened in 1936 and operated as a movie theater until the late 1980s. In November 1988, the State closed its doors. After a multi-million dollar restoration in the late 1990s, The State turned into one of the Washington Metro area’s favorite new venue for live music, hosting dozens of well-known local and national artists.
If you find yourself in the Commonwealth’s capital city, taking in a show at The National is a must. Built in 1923, the now historic venue was a hotspot for the thriving downtown scene in Richmond. At that time, The National was a place for fans to enjoy vaudeville acts on its stage, silent movie screenings and boasted the largest orchestra pit in the state. Today, The National lives up to its name, bringing in dozens of international and nationally acclaimed artists, while providing fans with great views of the stage from any angle. The venue’s original brick walls and hardwood floors will treat fans to the nostalgic feel of the concert hall the way it was more than 90 years ago. Music acts from all genres step on its stage each year, ensuring fans will be in for a great experience.
A member of the League of Historic American Theatres, The Lincoln Theatre in Marion is one of three existing Art Deco Mayan Revival-style theaters in America. The Lincoln is a Virginia Historic Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Theatre opened in 1929 to nearly 1,000 patrons who experienced the first talking picture. Thousands of motion pictures flickered across the screen unil 1973, when it closed its doors. The Lincoln Center reopened in the mid-‘70s only to close again in ’77. The Theatre sat neglected until the 1990s, when the initiative was revived. The Lincoln Theatre reopened in 2004, now offering year-round musical events for both groups and individual artists.
© Stefanie for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2014