What do you get when you combine an 81-year-old classical music festival and the best bluegrass anywhere with the endless beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains?
You get the western North Carolina mountain town Brevard, where bluegrass, mountain and folk rub shoulders with classical, jazz, rock and symphony most nights in local pubs, breweries, restaurants, community centers, pottery studios and downtwon alleys.
It’s easy to see why Brevard and Transylvania County might be home to more banjos, guitars, fiddles, violins and basses for 10 weeks every summer than anywhere east of the Mississippi.
Here are the musical treats you’ll find in Brevard and nowhere else:
Brevard Music Center Summer Institute and Festival
1 | The exhiliarating Brevard Music Center and Summer Institute and Festival is “where classical music spends the summer.” For 10 weeks Brevard becomes a mecca for 425 highly talented musicians from around the world, age 14 to post-college, who commit to a rigorous schedule under the tutelage of world-class musicians and teachers. More than 30,000 music patrons from across the United States flock to the picture-perfect mountain setting for dozens of open-air and intimate performances around town.
2 | A record-number 80 concerts during the 2016 Summer Festival celebrated the BMC’s 80th anniversary — almost half of them free. The 2017 opening spectacular featured Lee Ann Womack and Petrushka.
3 | Conductor Keith Lockhart, the driving creative force behind the vitality of the Music Center. A BMC alumnus, Lockhart has been artistic director of the Music Center since 2007. He also is director of the Boston Pops and the BBC Concert Orchestra in London.
4 | World-class soloists who have graced the BMC stage during the last 80 years include Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Frederica Von Stade and many more well-known performers.
5 | The popular “BMC Presents” series has featured a star-studded array of non-classical musicians as diverse as Amy Grant, Béla Fleck, Garrison Keillor, the Steep Canyon Rangers, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Marvin Hamlisch, Peter, Paul and Mary, PDQ Bach and Michael Feinstein.
6 | The heart of the Brevard Music Festival is the Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium at the BMC, an inviting open-air auditorium centered in a mountain glade. Settle down for a show, close your eyes and drift away with the music while a mountain breeze tickles your hair. The auditorium was recently upgraded with a new acoustical stage shell and monstrous ceiling fan to help keep patrons cool.
7 | Brevard Music Center’s Janiec Opera Company presented the world-premiere of Falling Angel, a noirish thriller by J. Mark Scearce during the 2016 festival. Each festival season the 30-singers of the Janiec Opera Company presents three fully staged operas and one opera workshop. Previous operas have included classics like Rigoletto, Cosi fan tutte, Madama Butterfly, Don Giovannie and La bohemè, along with modern works such as The Ballad of Baby Doe, Albert Herring and Sweeney Todd.
Steep Canyon Rangers
8 | The Grammy-winning bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers also call Brevard home. The Rangers’ repertoire pushes traditional bluegrass in new directions and blends it with North Carolina folk and pop. After 15 years and nine albums, the multi-talented band is a popular draw at festivals and stages worldwide, as comfortable playing with a full symphony as playing back-up for comedian and banjoist Steve Martin. You can frequently find the Rangers playing at local bars with friends when they’re not touring.
9 |The Mountain Song Festival expanded from to to three days in 2015 to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Hosted by the Steep Canyon Rangers, Mountain Song brings in headline bluegrass musicians from around the world and supports the Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County. The 2016 festival, September 9-11, featured the Earls of Leicester, the Kruger Brothers with the Kontras Quartet, Tim O’Brien, the Dom Flemons Trio, the Steeldrivers, Darrell Scott, Shannon Whitworth and Front Country. The 2017 festival is September 8-10.
Brevard Blues Festival
10 |The fourth annual Brevard Blues N’ BBQ Festival, held at the Brevard Music Center on June 2 and 3, hosted a rousing mix of local and national talent. Featured at the 2017 Festival were: Delta Moon, Roomful of Blues, Lee Griffin Band, Tinsley Ellis, Mojo Brothers Blues Band, Peggy Ratusz, Dangerous Gentlemens with Anson Funderburgh and Unpaid Bill and the Bad Czechs.
What could be better than blues with a barbecue competition?
11 |Don’t miss the the intimate performance venues at Brevard College, a 163-year-old Methodist college in the heart of the city. Delight to performances during the Summer Music Festival and throughout the year at the 700-seat Scott Concert Hall, Morrison Playhouse or Scott Commons in the Porter Center, or the Ingram Auditorium in the center of campus.
Musicians Gather from Across Transylvania
12 |The Brevard Community Band, comprised of more than 77 volunteer professional and amateur musicians aged 16-80 from Brevard and Transylvania County, adds its grace notes to the summer music schedule that includes the Pendergrast Patriotic Pops for the 4th of July.
13 |The Transylvania Choral Society is a volunteer community choir founded in 1975 that presents sacred and secular music twice a year. Performances in 2016 included Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass.
14 |The Brevard Philharmonic, a 55-piece orchestra celebrated its 40th year in 2016 with performances of a Tchiakovsky Piano Concerto, Best of Beethoven and Swan Lake.
Dancing in the Streets
15 | Main Street is closed and dancers take over the street Tuesday nights in June, July and August for Brevard’s Old Time Street Dance series. Two hours of dancing from 7 -9 pm is preceded by a half-hour of free instruction in Appalachian Square Dancing. Young, old and children dance together to live music.
Festivals for All of Us
From the slightly nutty White Squirrel Festival during Memorial Day weekend to the quirky HalloweenFest in September (this is Transylvania County!), live music takes the stage throughout the year.
16 |May — White Squirrel Festival
17 | June — Brevard Blues N’ Barbeque Festival
18 | June — Upper French Broad Riverfest
19 | July — 4th of July Festival
20 | June-August — Brevard Music Center Summer Institute & Festival
21 | September — Mountain Song Festival
22 | September — HalloweenFest
Pockets of Music Throughout Brevard and Transylvania
23 | 185 King Street is a relaxed music venue that offers weekly shows by nationally touring and local bands, along with craft beers, food, pool , NFL on the big screen and comedy acts. Local music fans know to watch the event schedule for jam sessions that bring together some of Brevard’s top talent.
24 | The Phoenix & The Fox, touts itself as Brevard’s only Farm to Table Gastropub and Music Venue. Nightly music during the summer season. Recent artists included the Howie Johnson Trio and Shotgun Gypsies.
25 | Duck Pond Pottery offers the “Duckpond at Dusk” concert series. Situated next to Greenville Highway south of Brevard, sit on the porch overlooking the French Broad River while listening to traditional mountain and bluegrass. A line up of cars hugging Greenville Highway and the nearby mountain roads cue you when the music’s playing. Recent artists included the Moonshine Babies.
Find Music Close to Home
Local communities throughout Transylvania give their musicians a frequent stage.
26 | The Lake Toxaway Community Center hosts Friday night musical jamborees.
27 | The Cathey’s Creek Community Center fills with bluegrass from 6-10 pm most Saturdays. On Island Ford Road. (828) 883-3557
28 | Take a twisty drive up beautiful 215 to the Balsam Grove Community Center for music and food at 6 pm every third Saturday. (828) 883-8011
Traditional Mountain Music is Alive and Well
If traditional is your thing, there’s a twice-a-week fix in town.
29 | The Silvermont Mansion, a historic mansion turned community center and park, hosts “Mountain Music” jams every Thursday at 7:30 pm, 364 East Main St. throughout the year.
30 | Southern Comfort Records, downtown at 16 West Main St., hosts Tuesday Night Old-Time Music Sessions at 6:30 pm.
Food, Beer, Wine and Music
But of course.
31 | Oskar Blues Brewery hosts live music Thursdays through Monday at it’s Tasty Weasel Taproom. “Mountain Music Mondays”are a jam open to musicians of all skill levels, and the other nights feature bluegrass, rock, indie, jazz or Americana.
32 | Brevard Brewing Company hosts music most weekends throughout the year.
33 | Fork of the Rivers Taproom in Rosman is now hosting live music on the weekends.
34 | Jordan Street Café is host to live events in its dining room, with Steep Canyon Ranger mandolinist Mike Guggino and guitarist Barrett Smith frequently offering their “Italian Night” of music and dinner there.
35 | Broad Street Wines, 30 Broad St., also hosts an annual “Italian Night” with Guggino and Smith, pairing appetizers with wine tasting.
36 | The DFR Room, Brevard’s underground music venue below Jaime’s Brasserie at 44 East Main St., is the newest music spot in town.
37 | The Square Root, 333 Times Arcade Alley, features local musicians in the alley every Friday and Saturday evenings starting at 7 pm starting Memorial weekend.