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Kentucky Music Hot Spots

75-year-old rural music tradition and a youthful conductor injecting new life into the state’s largest city’s orchestra, a mountain venue showcasing rising country music stars and a museum with weekly bluegrass jam sessions: Kentucky’s rich and varied musical heritage continues to entertain visiting groups.


Louisville Music Scene

Bruce Springsteen at the YUM Center, the Louisville Orchestra and its 28-year-old conductor with local favorite My Morning Jacket at a waterfront festival or nightly blues at Stevie Ray’s Blues Bar on East Main Street: The Louisville music scene is varied, bustling and jam-packed.

“For the traveler, we may be under the radar, but people of the city love live music,” said Jessica Dillree, marketing communications coordinator for the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a big part of who we are.

“It’s across the board, from big-name concerts in large venues to free concerts on the waterfront to local venues. There is a lot to do.”

The 5-year-old YUM Center downtown has added a new dimension to the Louisville music scene. “It bumped us up a tier as to the kind of performers who come to town,” said Dillree.

After opening with a concert by the Eagles, the YUM Center has hosted stars such as Springsteen, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.

Just up Main Street, the Kentucky Center for the Arts remains a mainstay for concerts. Diana Krall and Lyle Lovett played there this past summer, and upcoming concerts include Natalie Cole, Bela Fleck and Straight No Chaser. It is also home to the Louisville Orchestra, newly energized by conductor Teddy Abrams.

“We have the youngest conductor in the country,” said Dillree. “He does concerts with local bands, such as My Morning Jacket at the Forecastle Festival, and will do popup concerts on Fourth Street and the NuLu District. It’s a fun way to get people excited about the orchestra. He is making it relevant and cool again.”

“The Louisville Palace is a more intimate venue but still draws some pretty impressive concerts,” said Susan Dallas, marketing communications manager for the CVB. “It’s where Prince had his concerts this past spring. Concerts I have seen there include Alison Krauss and Union Station, John Fogerty, Ray Charles and Tom Jones.”

Paramount Arts Center


When a group of out-of-town attorneys were attending a meeting in Ashland, they used the facilities at the downtown Paramount Arts Center. Interim theater executive director Norma Meek found several of them sitting in the theater’s seats during breaks.

“They were admiring it,” she said. “They said they had not seen a theater like this in a city of our size.”

Paramount Studios opened the theater in 1931 as an opulent Art Deco movie theater. After going into decline over the years, the theater was restored to its original splendor in the 1970s, with many of its original fixtures and furniture.

An Egyptian-style sculpture adorns the middle of the elaborate proscenium arch, paintings of leaping gazelles are on the acoustical plaster ceiling, the walls feature large murals of 16th-century theatrical characters, and the 1,400 reupholstered wine-colored seats are from 1937.

The theater is now a regional center for a wide variety of entertainment — but not movies. It is home to a Broadway series, the Kentucky Music Trail, featuring shows by country stars; a Discovery series, with acts such as Chinese acrobats and the British Marine Pipe and Drums; and five shows a year by the Paramount Players, comprising local children and adults.

“They are almost as professional as the touring shows,” said Meek.

Next year, the Performing Arts series will feature the Band of Royal Marines, a Michael Jackson tribute, the Drifters, Mary Wilson and Freda Payne.

The theater also rents to promoters for concerts with “a lot of big headliners,” said Meek. Past performances have included Gallagher, George Carlin, the Coasters and the United States Air Force Band. Next year will include “A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline.”