When you travel to Cleveland, be prepared to get the goosebumps.
Groups will enjoy haunting melodies, thumping beats and perfectly pitched voices that ring out nightly at venues across the Ohio city.
Cleveland is known as the rock ‘n’ roll capital of the world; its love affair with music took off around the 1920s with the founding of Playhouse Square, the Cleveland Orchestra and other musical venues. And rock music swept through the city in the 1960s when Cleveland became a key breakout market for national performers.
The city continues its strong ties to music, which groups can enjoy whether they prefer tunes from George Gershwin or George Harrison. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Orchestra, Music Box and Playhouse Square all strive for high-quality music interpretation while staying relevant to a wide range of music tastes.
Group leaders can plan trips to these Cleveland music attractions to give travelers an auditory treat.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Visitors inspired by the musical genius all around them will soon be able to pick up a guitar and rock out at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “Interactive Garage” will open late this year as a permanent exhibit where guests can play real instruments with interactive screens aiding their journey to becoming the next rock star.
Guests to the museum usually first notice the double-pyramid architecture of the glass-enclosed, 150,000-square-foot building. The museum’s striking design reflects the innovative exhibits inside that immerse guests in music from a wide range of genres.
“Seniors might think they don’t want to go in if they don’t like rock ‘n’ roll,” said Jane Tougouma, group tour sales manager for Destination Cleveland. “But the music starts at the 1920s and goes on to modern day. All types of music are included. Docent-led tours are a great way for groups to experience the museum.”
The museum continually rotates exhibits, though a few standout permanent exhibits remain favorites among the site’s seven floors of galleries. The Elvis Presley exhibit features a 14-minute film on the life of the King. Other exhibits chronicle the impact of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. At the “Power of Rock Experience,” groups can feel like they’ve stepped into a rock hall induction night event with video and audio recordings.
Known around the world as one of America’s “Big Five” orchestras, the Cleveland Orchestra is considered both world-class and accessible.
“The Cleveland Orchestra just celebrated its centennial,” said Tougouma. “They are very group-friendly and affordable. They keep things innovative to reach many people while maintaining their quality. For example, they will host an Aretha Franklin tribute concert this summer that will be very popular.”
The orchestra hosts a Friday evening series for a themed, hourlong performance followed by a post-concert party. This laid-back event is an engaging way to introduce the classical music artform to new listeners.
Visitors marvel not only at the Cleveland Orchestra’s musical prowess but also its main venue: the gorgeous Severance Hall. The 1931 building’s exterior reflects the classical feel of the neighboring Cleveland Museum of Art. Inside, visitors find a mix of Art Deco, French Nouveau and Egyptian Revival architectural techniques.
Groups can tour the building while hearing stories from the Cleveland Orchestra’s illustrious past. Those venturing to Cleveland in the summer can attend the Blossom Festival at the Blossom Music Center’s amphitheater. The festival usually incorporates pop culture fare, such as recent shows based on music from “Star Wars” and “Tommy.”
Concert-lovers know the difference between live music and recorded music can prove as stark as the difference between a picture with color and one without. Music Box allows groups to easily experience top-notch music in a venue suitable for groups.
The two-story concert venue sits along the Cuyahoga River with plenty of windows and open space for enjoyable vistas. Attendees regularly hear blues, jazz, soul and Americana musicians on the first-floor Supper Club stage.
The Supper Club includes a fine-dining menu with local and sustainable cuisine offerings that pair well with toe-tapping tunes. Instead of staying out late after a long day of touring, guests can listen to a concert while enjoying a delicious meal.
The entertainment showplace opened in 2014. In 2015, Cleveland Magazine voted Music Box the city’s favorite live-music venue. Acts range from local favorites to nationally touring bands.
“They are happy to custom tailor the music to fit your group,” said Tougouma. “If they are Sinatra fans, Music Box can arrange a Sinatra tribute band to play that night. Or they can even play that music in the background. They are really flexible when working with groups.”
In the early 1970s, several of the theaters on Playhouse Square were slated for demolition to make room for a parking lot. Citizens raised an outcry and managed to save the theaters and reopen Playhouse Square.
Today, Playhouse Square’s 11 theaters host more than 1,000 annual events, including top-billed Broadway shows like “Hamilton.” Groups can grab tickets to the latest Broadway production or check out what is currently playing, since several of the theaters regularly host concerts, comedy shows and dance performances.
“Cleveland has the largest season ticket holder subscriber database in the United States,” said Tougouma. “We are huge supporters of the arts. Because of this, Broadway shows run for three weeks here, whereas in most cities our size they only run for two weeks. So when ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ comes here, there will be more chances for groups to go and see it.”
Visitors walking through Playhouse Square will marvel at sparkling marquees, a contemporary streetscape and the world’s largest outdoor chandelier.
Playhouse Square is the largest performing-arts center in the country outside of New York. Upcoming productions include “Mean Girls,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “My Fair Lady.”
Even if you don’t stay for a show, your group can see as many as five of Playhouse Square’s restored theater spaces on a behind-the-scenes tour. The theater company invites groups to go beyond a passive viewing of the performances with customizable experiences, such as after-show discussions, master classes and workshops.