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Student Performance Cities Take Center Stage

Student Performance Cities Take Center Stage

Why limit your musicians to dingy practice space when you can expose them to some California sunshine? Why limit your actors’ audience to parents and faculty when they can act before thousands of Walt Disney World guests? Performing arts trips are an excellent way to expose your students to a wider audience and the musical cultures of America’s cities. Combining great venues, workshop opportunities and rich cultural heritage, these eight locations are superior options for your next performance arts tour.


The “Live Entertainment Capital of the World” welcomes students from across the nation with its venues and programs.

  • The Silver Dollar City 1880s theme park presents over 40 different live shows daily and has over 40 rides and attractions. At different times across the year, groups can perform at Silver Dollar City ceremonies or on the gazebo stage as guests enter the park.
  • Students can also catch a raucous dinner theater show at Dixie Stampede or embark on the Showboat Branson Belle, a cruise complete with a three-course meal and Broadway-style musical numbers.Popular crooner Andy Williams opened the Moon River Performing Arts Center and Theatre in 1992, and the complex welcomes iconic artists like Loretta Lynn and features open rehearsal space for students.
  • Bands and theater troupes in the Branson On Stage Live! program are assigned a performance coordinator who organizes workshops and rehearsal time with local showbiz professionals. Groups then play for paying audiences at iconic venues like the Starlight Theatre and Clay Cooper’s Country Express, where tenured musicians and dancers cheer them on.
  • Choral conductors who want a competitive atmosphere should consider the Music Summit Choir Festival, held annually at Silver Dollar City. Middle and high school students entertain park guests at the Riverfront Playhouse and receive scores from judges. After their set, students have time to ride the WildFire roller coaster and American Plunge flume ride.
  • At the Clay Cooper Theatre, instrumental, choral, show choir and dance groups are welcome. Participants have the one of a kind opportunity to be taken step-by-step through the audition process where they will learn how to dress, how to prepare and how to get the job.
  • Located on Branson’s historic 76 Country Boulevard, the Starlite Theatre presents music clinics and live performance opportunities. Students will be taken through the sound check, rehearsal and the performance, ensuring a professional experience. Group rates and Q&A sessions are also available at each theater.
  • The Silver Dollar City 1880s theme park presents over 40 different live shows daily and has over 40 rides and attractions. At different times across the year, groups can perform at Silver Dollar City ceremonies or on the gazebo stage as guests enter the park.

New Orleans

The birthplace of jazz and zydeco thrives on visiting musicians who can walk the same streets as Louis Armstrong, Allen Toussaint and Dr. John. Students can visit concert halls from the 18thcentury and witness contemporary artists continue to innovate “America’s Art Form” on French-influenced boulevards.

  • French Quarter revelry

    French Quarter revelry

    Groups are able to play in venerated locations such as St. Louis CathedralMardi Gras World and Houmas House Plantation, a 1775 countryside mansion that will erect a stage on its front lawn. Smaller ensembles can play for the public on the famous Newman Bandstand in Audubon Park, a 350-acre public space filled with pavilions for lunches.

  • Every New Orleans music tour requires a visit to Preservation Hall, a 1750 aristocratic residence converted into a performance space. Your group can see exceptionally talented jazz combos seven nights a week and might even catch a set from the famed house band.
  • Directors who wish to integrate lessons or clinics into their trip should consider Tulane University’s Newcomb Department of Music, which offers workshops for bands, orchestras and gospel choirs.
  • In Jackson Square, with the St. Louis Cathedral as its backdrop, the Washington Artillery Park Amphitheater is popular for its picturesque setting and live music. Groups have the opportunity to apply to play at the amphitheater where they can share their musical talent with the locals and tourists of the city.
  • Armstrong Park is a must-visit destination for any student performance group. On any given day, the sounds of the city can be traced back to Armstrong Park as it features weekly jazz concerts, drum circles, food tents and merchandise vendors.


“Music City” has more bands and music venues per capita than any other in America, and its central location makes it an excellent touring option.

  • Vanderbilt Symphonic Choir

    Vanderbilt Symphonic Choir

    Groups can participate in a rigorous clinic at Vanderbilt University’s prestigious Blair School of Music, which specializes in county performance in addition to classical and vocal. Many of the program’s graduates are members of the Nashville Symphony, which you can hear at the neoclassical Schermenhorn Symphony Center.

  • Further explore Tennessee’s country heritage at Ryman Auditorium, a former church and original home of the Grand Ole Opry, and the Country Music Hall of Fame, which houses instruments and gold records belonging to Johnny Cash and Carrie Underwood. Students can experience a show or even play for themselves at the 4,000-seat Grand Ole Opry House, where Dolly Parton and Brad Paisley have taken the stage.
  • Students interested in contemporary Nashville sounds should consider a visit to Jack White’s Third Man Records, the creative hub for the White Stripes frontman. The space includes an instrument store and label offices, and your students can record with a professional sound technician in a vintage-inspired studio.
  • The Tennessee Performing Arts Center is a non-profit organization that presents Broadway shows and even administers educational programs. The arts center conveniently houses the Tennessee State Museum. Filled with history and culture of the town, the center has become a desired destination for entertainment and learning.
  • The Gallery of Iconic Guitars at Belmont is a venue featuring some of the most rare guitars and stringed instruments ever known.
  • The Historic RCA Studio B was once used by popular music icons such as Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton. Since then, the studio’s exterior has been renovated, but the interior has been restored to its 1970s charm. The studio is currently a cultural attraction for visitors to commemorate some of Nashville’s finest artists as well as a classroom for students to learn about the science of recording technology.

Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge

Nestled below the Great Smoky Mountains, these cities claim a rich country and folk music heritage.

  • Country Tonite live performance

    Country Tonite live performance

    At Country Tonite, your student group can play a role in the opening act, take backstage tours, get their most pressing questions answered by the cast and sign up for dance, comedy or vocal workshops. Groups of 20 or more receive a discounted price to attend the show with the most awards in the Smokies.

  • Since Dolly Parton established her eponymous Dollywood theme park and Dixie Stampede Theater 30 years ago, the number of live music venues in the area has swelled. Students can boogie to an Elvis impersonator at the Memories Theatre, hear hard-rocking Garth Brooks covers at the Smoky Mountain Opry and witness a honky-tonk revue at Country Tonite.
  • In nearby Knoxville, the University of Tennessee School of Music offers clinics and opportunities to play in the Sandra Powell Recital Hall.
  • Your band can entertain Dollywood attendees when it performs in the park’s main plaza. Students receive a meal voucher, rehearsal time and an on-stage clinic with a festival technician. After playing for park guests, your group can experience the rest of Dollywood’s thrills, including the Wild Eagle roller coaster and River Battle splash ride. Schools visiting in May can indulge in the Barbecue and Bluegrass Festival, which books nationally-renowned bluegrass artists and serves savory Tennessee barbecue.
  • Sign up your students for the Smoky Mountain Music Festival to expose them to friendly competition. Open to elementary, middle and high school music students, the festival is a great opportunity to perform in front of an audience. The two-day competition includes performances followed by judging first day and a parade and awards ceremony to conclude the event.

New York City

For the musically-minded, there’s no better place than New York. Your students can enjoy a Broadway show, take a theater tour and perform for an audience.

  • Broadway


    How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, for one thing. Or you can rent one of the three performance areas in the world-famous music venue. These theaters range from the 2,804-seat Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage (the most familiar to PBS viewers) to Zankel Hall (the newest space) to Weill Recital Hall, the smallest venue, which often hosts chamber music concerts. Tours include stories of the famous musicians whose signed photographs hang on the walls and the Rose Museum, which has more than 400 Carnegie Hall artifacts on display.

  • Another high-profile cultural magnet is Lincoln Center, a 16-acre campus with theaters hosting everything from jazz and opera to Shakespeare and musical comedy. Lincoln Center’s Young Music Makers Series allows school concert bands, orchestras, jazz ensembles, choirs and choruses to perform on its outdoor plazas.
  • City parks in all five New York boroughs provide performance spaces at bargain rates, usually not more than the basic $25 processing fee. Or consider performing indoors or out at Ellis Island; with views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline, it’s a stunning backdrop for your choir or band.
  • The lights of Broadway draw student groups to Times Square, where dozens of theaters in the neighborhood present long-running musicals like The Lion King and The Phantom of the Opera, plus the latest smash hits. offers workshops that expose students to behind-the-scenes aspects of staging a Broadway production, delving into subjects from stage makeup to the business side of showbiz. Off-Broadway shows include classics like Blue Man Group, a multi-sensory experience that students won’t soon forget.
  • Radio City Music Hall, New York’s largest and most celebrated theater, is the place to be during the holidays. Its Christmas Spectacular, featuring the high-kicking Rockettes, has been a tradition since 1933. On an educational tour, students can go backstage to see what goes into making the show, from costume and stage design to dress rehearsals and everything in between. They can even meet one of the Rockettes.


Have your students ever imagined marching through Fantasyland in front of Cinderella Castle? That dream can be realized on a visit to Orlando—the “Theme Park Capital of the World.”

  • Disney OnStage program

    Disney OnStage program

    Students can perform in Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland or Animal Kingdom and participate in a Jazz It Up workshop, where a Disney clinician conducts a rehearsal and recording session of classic Disney selections done in a jazz style. Vocal groups can join Disney “cast members” onstage to sing Frozen musical numbers in front of guests, and marching bands have the opportunity to join the Festival of Fantasy Parade down Main Street U.S.A.

  • In nearby Universal Studios, students can enroll in the Music and the Art of Foley workshop. Participants will compose scores or choral arrangements for movie scenes and can replicate sound effects from classic films like Jurassic Park. Universal’s STARS Stage Performance Program lets bands play on the Universal CityWalk or Plaza Stage, and the resort’s Dance is Universal workshop pairs students with professional choreographers. Musical groups looking to improve sight reading, intonation and articulation should sign up for the Orlando Fest workshops held in Universal parks year-round.
  • Offering an aquatic backdrop, SeaWorld Orlando’s SoundWaves program consists of pop-up stages throughout the park. Groups can perform in front of penguins and dolphins, and many packages grant free time for thrilling attractions like the Mako and Kraken roller coasters.
  • Catching a performance at the Orlando Ballet is yet another way to spend time with a group of students in Orlando. The Orlando Ballet offers workshops and master classes and is a great place to stop for groups that specialize in dance.
  • If you are looking for a performance experience that is not done through Disney, Music USA Festivals is a great way to get your group into a less stressful competitive environment. Featuring festivals year-round at Universal, Music USA is yet another option to keep your students performing.

Los Angeles

The entertainment industry epicenter, Los Angeles has welcomed actors and artists for generations.

  • Millennium Dance Complex

    Millennium Dance Complex

    Aspiring dancers should beeline to the Millennium Dance Complex, the studio that’s collaborated with Britney Spears, Usher and Justin Timberlake. Professional choreographers teach hip-hop, jazz and classical ballet, and working dancers can take questions about the industry.

  • Bands have the opportunity to tour the Hollywood Bowl and the Walt Disney Concert Hall (both home to the Los Angeles Symphonic Orchestra) and perform onstage at Universal Studios Hollywood or Disneyland in Anaheim, where they can meet the theme parks’ house bands.
  • Groups should also pay a visit to USC’s Thornton School of Music, which counts Dr. Dre as a patron and offers programs in film and TV scoring. Students can meet composers and learn about career trajectories while touring an editing suite.
  • Since LA is synonymous with film production, aspiring actors should pay a visit to the CBSNBCUniversal or Warner Bros. studio lots in the San Fernando Valley. The Warner Bros. Studio Tour will guide students through The Big Bang Theory and Ellen DeGeneres Show sets, and you might even spot a movie star cruising down the Ventura Freeway.
  • Groups can take a tour at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and even see a movie in one of its famous auditoriums. Conveniently located along the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame, this theater has hosted famous movie premieres and red carpet events.
  • Give your group the full Los Angeles experience by watching a classic movie at the Rooftop Cinema Club. Audiences can view their favorite movies such as Grease, Dirty Dancing, The Godfather and even new releases while atop the Ricardo Montalban Theatre every Tuesday through Saturday.
  • Students will rave about the Grammy Museum and its in-depth music timelines, engaging artist biographies and hands-on exhibits. One of the attractions at the Grammy Museum even gives students the chance to mix their own song.

Myrtle Beach

This seaside oasis is a major hub for thespians as well as vacationers.

  • Carolina Opry Broadway Workshop

    Carolina Opry Broadway Workshop

    The Calvin Gilmore Theater, home to the Carolina Opry, facilitates educational workshops for drama groups, and your young performers can meet the professional dancers and singers who work there. The facility also offers a Professionalism 101 class for students who wish to pursue theater as a career. Actors discuss auditions, unions and relationship development in show business, and they will provide a behind-the-scenes tour of the building’s dressing rooms and rehearsal spaces.

  • Myrtle Beach also boasts numerous venues that welcome student performers. The House of Blues main stage and Palace Theater allow your students to play before crowds of hundreds and tune up with a professional grade sound system.
  • If your group prefers an audience chair instead of the spotlight, they can cheer for jousting knights at Medieval Times, giggle at comedians at the Carolina Improv Company or experience a New York-caliber musical at the Broadway on the Beach facility.
  • The renowned Alabama Theatre offers its signature, dynamic show One and a slew of benefits for group travel. Visitors will delight in convenient dinner packages and even the opportunity to perform prior to the main show. The Motor City Musical at the GTS Theater will captivate audiences and bring the magic of Motown music to life. The theater also allows students to interact with the performers and ask questions before or after the show as well as offers educational opportunities about the historical context of the performance.
  • The Legends in Concert theater provides groups an opportunity to witness iconic performances by celebrity look-a-likes of Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton and Steven Tyler.