“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” — Billy Joel
Take a cue from this popular singer and pianist: When it comes to choosing entertainment that everyone loves, there may be no safer bet than music. In addition to huge arenas, we can enjoy our favorites at intimate locations where the musicians seem to be performing just for us.
Some of these state-of-the-art venues are home to live radio or television broadcasts, showcasing the best of upcoming talent as well as well-known names. Others introduce us to history, heritage and harmonious experiences that will be forever remembered as a cherished bank group adventure.
River Music Experience
Housed in a 19th-century structure that once was a department store, the River Music Experience (RME) offers river roots music nearly every night of the week.
“What is river roots music? My definition is that it is the music I grew up with around the Mississippi River,” said Jessica Waytenick, public relations and marketing manager for the Quad Cities CVB. “It’s all the music that went around the nation via the railroad and steamboats, like the jazz in New Orleans.
“RME offers it all: folk, bluegrass, country, rock and more.”
Groups can catch a live performance from local musicians every lunchtime hour at Mojo’s Coffee Shop, but the primary venue is the Redstone Room, a state-of-the-art professional venue that features the best in national, regional and local acts. A new series of concerts developed to attract an older audience has been announced for the Redstone Room.
Waytenick suggested that groups also enjoy time in RME’s educational center, where they can listen to river roots music galore via ear ports and enjoy a speaker prepared to speak on a variety of subjects.
The building is also home to a museum that celebrates the Quad Cities’ musical heritage. Permanent exhibits include a scale model of the SS Capitol, an excursion boat that played a major role in the movement of music along the Mississippi River.
Lyric Opera of Chicago
The Lyric Opera of Chicago, “one of the best opera companies in the world” according to Esquire Magazine, calls the Civic Opera House home. Built in 1929 and opened just a few days after the stock market crash, this art-deco skyscraper is shaped like a throne and faces the Chicago River.
“Our 3,500-seat auditorium and stage occupies one-third of the building. Visitors are greeted by bronze doors, Austrian crystal chandeliers, marbled floors, stenciled ceilings and lots of gold leaf,” said Magda Krance, manager of media relations.
Each October through March, the Lyric presents eight operas, a combination of new productions and revived productions, according to Krance.
“We offer a mix of musical and theatrical styles, and each opera is presented in the original language, be it Italian, French, Russian, German or others, with projected English titles on the screen,” she said.
For bank leaders a little nervous about the idea of opera, take a close look at the offerings for the 2011-‘12 season. The Chicago Sun-Times stated that Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” offers “slapstick humor that appeals to the kid in all of us,” and “Show Boat,” that classic American musical, presents “powerful subject matter, astonishing musical variety and an unmistakably American atmosphere.”
To extend your group’s experience amidst the grand surroundings, consider dinner or lunch at one of the two restaurants at the Opera House.
‘Live from Mountain Stage’
Charleston, West Virginia
The West Virginia Cultural Center is home to this two-hour show to which music fans tune in 26 times a year by way of a variety of listening options, including more than 100 public radio stations.
The show is usually broadcast on Sunday evenings, and “groups can be part of the studio audience and not only experience the excitement of a live show but hear performances that range from big names to local talent,” said Jama Jarrett, director of communications for the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Host and entertainment master Larry Groce believes that all music is related, so an evening’s lineup might include a jazz quartet, a folk singer and a blues ensemble. “But Mountain Stage also showcases lots of Appalachian folklore, traditions and themes. It’s a great opportunity for us to show off our culture,” said Jarrett.
The center also includes a newly remodeled museum that gives visitors a chance to walk a path through history, starting before West Virginia became a state.
“John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, the River Gorge Bridge, our fairs and festivals — these are just a few of the events and attractions groups experience on the path. And, don’t miss time in the gift shop that features West Virginia-made crafts and products,” said Jarrett.
‘Austin City Limits’
For more than 36 years, the PBS television show “Austin City Limits” (ACL) has presented audiences the world’s most accomplished talents and put Austin on the map as an undeniable music capital.
In February, the newest home for ACL and the newest music venue in Austin — the Moody Theatre — opened, and groups can choose from nearly 100 concerts a year and enjoy the brightest upcoming stars, as well as well-known performers such as Willie Nelson and Tony Bennett.
“There is not a bad seat in the house, and the acoustics are phenomenal,” said Margo Richards, director of tourism for the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The 2,700 theater seats are divided into three levels. Although television tapings usually call for a smaller audience, groups are often privy to the same artists and shows that are on television. Music aficionados won’t want to miss a tour of this state-of-the-art theater to see the many ACL artifacts on display.