In West Virginia, music is part of life. Whether your taste runs to Appalachian traditional music that echoes the strains of the state’s Celtic, Scotch and British ancestry or the wonderful rhythms of African-American hymns and southern Gospel harmonies or the driving beat of true country and bluegrass sounds, there’s a place for you in the Mountain State.
Experience a variety of music at concert halls, coliseums, auditoriums and amphitheaters. In addition, you’ll find dozens of charming cafes and coffee shops throughout the state that host a wealth of talent representing every genre, from folk to rock to jazz. Don’t forget to check out the state’s music heritage at traditional music festivals, including the Vandalia Gathering, FestivALL and Augusta Festival. Many venues also offer workshops in music, craft, dance and folklore in addition to public performances and competitions.
Learn More: choose the "music" category on the Travel Planner.
In a state that regularly produces national flatpicking champions – and where many gatherings include at least a couple of fiddlers and mandolin players – it’s hard to overestimate the popularity of traditional music. Pick a week, from early spring to late fall, and you’re sure to find at least one old-time, bluegrass, country or gospel music event underway in West Virginia.
Playing the classics
West Virginia’s music festivals
West Virginia, a state largely settled by Scots-Irish immigrants, owes much of its bluegrass heritage to the United Kingdom. In fact, give a listen to some Celtic music and you’ll likely pick up on a few similarities. But Mountain State music is not all bluegrass, or even country. Travel the state and you’re likely to discover a rich diversity of music influence by different cultures and heritages. So, take out your dancing shoes and tap your toes to a range of sounds.
Learn More: see a list of West Virginia's music festivals.
All that Jazz
The best of the bayou can be heard at concerts in Lewisburg's Carnegie Hall or Wheeling's Stifel Fine Arts Center, or at events like Marshall University’s Jazz-MU-Taz in Huntington or “Wine and Jazz” festivals at Snowshoe Mountain and in Morgantown. Martinsburg boasts its own 16-member jazz orchestra that performs throughout the state, and Pipestem Resort State Park promotes jazz performances during its Outdoor Amphitheater Series.
The jazz scene also lives and flourishes in Charleston, where the Charleston Jazz Series organizes dinner concerts, workshops and educational events featuring top musicians. The series includes everything from straight-ahead jazz to cutting edge artists such as Matthias Lupri. The local jazz scene in Charleston also features the Bob Thompson Unit, which plays each Tuesday night at Legends on Kanawha Boulevard.
A bit of Branson in West Virginia
Located in the historic rail yard in downtown Elkins, the American Mountain Theater is the state’s first and only “Branson Style” family-friendly music, comedy and variety show. The cast of professional entertainers will keep your toes tapping and hands clapping throughout the two-hour mix of country, southern gospel, bluegrass, pop and patriotic music to bring you the “Freshest Sound in the Mountains.”
Throughout the state, concert halls, coliseums, auditoriums, amphitheaters and sometimes even tents echo with classical and pop music performed by professional symphony orchestras. Chief among them is the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra , housed in Charleston’s magnificent Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences. The symphony regularly performs at home and tours the state; occasional outdoor concerts play in Elkins, Beckley, Parkersburg and at Snowshoe Mountain.
The Wheeling Symphony Orchestra
The Wheeling Symphony Orchestra makes its home in the grand old Capitol Theatre , where it holds classical concerts as well as pops and children's concerts. The River Cities Symphony Orchestra performs throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley; the Huntington Symphony Orchestra entertains classical fans in the Metro Valley; and the Millbrook Orchestra regales the Eastern Panhandle.
The Huntington Museum of Art
The Huntington Museum of Art sits on a hill above the city. In addition to a permanent collection and traveling exhibits, the museum’s Van Cliburn Amateur Piano Competition gold medalist Victoria Bragin presents regular concerts and coordinates music workshops.
Live from Mountain Stage
Most Sunday evenings in Charleston, you can be part of something truly unique as a member of the live studio audience of “Mountain Stage,” which REM’s Peter Buck called “the best live show on radio.” Featuring musical guests and styles from all over the world, the two-hour show is produced by West Virginia Public Radio 26 times a year and broadcast on more than 100 public radio stations, the Voice of America, XM Satellite Radio and, more recently, on public television affiliates as well.
A family feeling makes “Mountain Stage” unique, says host Larry Groce, and is one of the reasons entertainers like Joan Baez, Taj Mahal, Lucinda Williams, The Indigo Girls, Bruce Cockburn, Todd Snider and Charlie Musselwhite return time and time again.
Planning for a group or need package tour information? Click here for more on planning your group’s trip to West Virginia.