As one of the only U.S. cities where you can hear live music 24/7, 365 days of the year, it’s no wonder Nashville has earned the nickname “Music City.” I recently visited Nashville during the National Association for Music Education Conference in October and got a backstage look into its vibrant music scene. With literally hundreds of music venues and sites in the area, it is difficult to narrow down the best places to visit, but here’s my list of Nashville’s music “must-sees”:
Ryman Auditorium was home to the Grand Ole Opry in the mid 1900’s and still hosts the Opry during their winter season. The tour of the Ryman is unlike any other venue tour I have ever experienced. It starts with a video introducing you to the history of the Ryman. But unlike your typical historical video, their theater offers an almost 3-D like experience and captivates the audience with the fascinating story of the Ryman as told from Lula Naff’s, the former manager’s, ghostly perspective. After the video, you can explore the Ryman’s seats and stage and check out the acoustics for yourself. Booking a recording session at the Ryman is also possible and they have a variety of songs to choose from.
Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum
When it comes to country music, being elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame is considered the highest achievement. The museum shows you the history of country music from start to finish. Immerse yourself in country by listening to old recordings, watching videos, experiencing the fashions and even checking out Elvis’s car and gold piano! My favorite part of the museum was the popular country section where they have a variety of interactive activities you can do. One of which is to record yourself singing a song and adjusting the levels of the recorded band. It’s by no means a professional recording, but it’s a lot of fun and gives participants a basic understanding of studio recordings.
RCA Studio B
Here’s your chance to get a professional recording of your group inside RCA Studio B where the greatest country legends have recorded their hits. Before your recording, you will be led through the entrance of the studio with portraits of musicians who have recorded here in times past. You will be given a brief history about the studio then will listen to the tracks while learning about the stories behind them. After, head into the studio, meet your technicians and start rehearsing for your session! Every group will walk away with a copy of their recording.
Grand Ole Opry
A backstage tour and show at the Grand Ole Opry should not be missed when visiting music city. The backstage tour takes you to the dressing rooms, the new 90th anniversary wall featuring living members of the Opry and on stage where you can stand on the famous 6-foot circle where every musician who has ever performed at the Opry has stood before you. There’s something very special about attending a concert here. If you come from a classical music background, you’re probably used to sitting quietly in the audience and avoiding clapping between movements. This is not the case at the Opry. Hooting and hollering is completely accepted and there’s an unmistakable energy that spreads the moment you enter the auditorium. You’ll be sure to see some of the greats like Loretta Lynn, Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley or Connie Smith, but you’ll also see new acts that are taking the country music scene by storm. While every concert is different, you’re guaranteed to have an equally good time.
Broadway & Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge
Broadway is the main drag downtown for visiting tourists. The street is lined with bars, restaurants and shops – all of which have a stage and live music every night making it a popular scene for music lovers. Among the bars stands Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, a famous Honky Tonk bar which has hosted stars like Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson, to name a few. Today, musicians perform there every night to packed crowds. Don’t let the crowds turn you away, it’s all part of the experience and you’ll be sure to hear some of the best country acts here every night!
Schermerhorn Symphony Center
Nashville’s not just Honky Tonk. You can catch the Nashville Symphony and other professional artists at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center downtown. This is a great venue for music lovers of all genres as they offer a good variety of orchestral programming, jazz, pops and more!