Music thrives in Chicago, from the street corners to the opera halls. It is a place where musical cultures and currents mix, and where your ears can be entertained for $5 or $50 on any given weekend. All that stands in your way is the willpower to pry yourself away from your dorm room stereo and venture out into the city to experience a live performance.
Blues and jazz are the musical forms most closely identified with the city. Along with New Orleans and New York, Chicago was in the triad of cities that developed jazz. You can still find places for great, live jazz and blues all over the city: the Checkerboard Lounge
(5201 South Harper Avenue, (773) 684-1472) in Hyde Park, the House of Blues in River North (329 North Dearborn Street,
(312) 923-2000, hob.com), and other clubs dotting the city’s neighborhoods. Unfortunately, most jazz venues are 21 and up. Ironically, considering the historical reaction to the growth of jazz, community churches, such as Hyde Park Union Church near campus, which hosts an annual program called “Jazz Christmas,” are one type of venue where the tender youth can be corrupted by those hot rhythms in a family-friendly environment.
A more recent development in Chicago’s musical culture is the growth of a thriving indie- rock community. The North Side is littered with indie-rock venues. They can be anything from grand theaters gone to seed, like the Riviera (4746 North Racine Avenue, (773) 275-6800, jamusa.com) or the Metro
(3730 North Clark Street, (773) 549-4140, metrochicago.com), to gymnasiums, to cramped back rooms, to old Baptist churches.
And of course, for the classically inclined, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
(220 South Michigan Avenue, (312) 294-3333, cso.org) is world-class. Student tickets are only $10, when they are offered. If you are even remotely interested in classical music, that is $10 well spent. You are unlikely to hear more practiced and powerful musicianship anywhere. Even if student tickets are not offered for the show you want, you can get rush tickets for concerts that aren’t sold out an hour before the orchestra tunes up.
There is also plenty of quality opera in the city. Lyric Opera of Chicago
(20 North Wacker Drive #860,
(312) 332-2244, lyricopera.org), where an annual, free student membership will get you $20 tickets, puts on productions that are both musically and visually incredible. The seats that your student ticket will buy may cause vertigo, however, and binoculars are a must.
Okay, so I can’t say that Chicago is the greatest city for every genre. Our country music scene is a little weak. But no matter what kind of music you like (even country), you can find it live.