Cleveland is a music capital that should be embraced by the city

Rock and symphony music roll together in Cleveland

CLEVELAND - If you listen closely to the sounds emanating from the streets of Cleveland, you will hear music.

It pulses with the many rhythms and rhymes of rock 'n' roll. The music also reaches a crescendo with the crash of the cymbals of  the symphony. In Cleveland, the two distinctive styles of music live together in a rich harmony. Both are bandleaders for a city that is blessed to be one of the capitals of music.

Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The Rock Hall does a wonderful job of promoting the music and the culture that surrounds the many, many decades of the various styles that live under rock's upbeat umbrella.

When Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra, was built in 1931, it became a permanent home for the Orchestra, which is world-renown and a frequent traveler as it performs around the globe. The Cleveland Orchestra is one of the premier orchestras of the world, joining with those in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. They comprise what is known as the "Big Five" of American symphony music.

Couple the Orchestra with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and the sounds which come from Cleveland keep toes tapping and hands clapping.

So why aren't there stronger references to rock 'n' roll's capital at the Cleveland Orchestra at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Public Square and the many other Cleveland area places where people gather by the tens of thousands on a daily basis?

This city has always had music pulsing through its veins. When steelworkers poured the molten metal from the vast furnaces containers where steel ran yellow-red hot, it was the melodies of the steelmills. When the heavy presses stamped out steel products in the industrial valley of Cleveland, it was like the beat of a bass drum.

Cleveland has long been a community where products for the world's use have been made. There is an industrial music on the assembly lines where hefty equipment is handled by Clevelanders fashioning products destined for the world's garages, kitchen tables, hospitals.

In many ways, Cleveland is a musical city. It is in the work ethic of men and women who have a hard-working rhythm in their lives.

So I celebrate the music that has long come up from the sidewalks and streets. It also comes in the form of honking car horns, wheels whirring on the city's highways and jet engines whining their distinctive sounds as jetliners depart and land at Hopkins Airport.

In other ways, Severance Hall and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum keep such steady drumbeats in Cleveland. What I want is more recognition for both institutions and the roles they have played in making Cleveland a great music center. They promote themselves very well. However, others need to promote them, too, because symphony and rock and roll keep steady heartbeats in the community.

Go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, now celebrating its 16th year, and you will find fans of the music from around the world. It is a musical gemstone on the shoreline of Lake Erie.

Visit Severance Hall in the University Circle area of Cleveland and you will hear sounds that will captivate your soul as they did mine the first time I visited the home of the Cleveland Orchestra when I went there as part of my third-grade class.

From my comfortable seat in the expansive auditorium, the music of scores of musicians engulfed me and filled me with a desire to hear more. I have visited Severance Hall regularly ever since my elementary school day years.

If you attend a concert at the summer outdoor home of the orchestra, the Blossom Music Center, the symphony music streams an echo off the landscape's lush and green rolling hills. To hear the Cleveland Orchestra under the stars on a comfortable evening is a treat.

The two musics -- rock 'n' roll and symphony -- are really one. They are the results of composers wishing to express themselves through sounds pushed, plucked, beat and breathed through an array of instruments.

Cleveland celebrates both musics, but not nearly enough. When Alan Freed was a Cleveland disc jockey who popularized the old phrase "rock 'n' roll" on his old Moon Dog radio show in the early 1950s, he took an old rhythm and blues phrase, loaned it to a music form and helped turn the music into a culture that has traveled around the world.

Through symphony pieces played by the Cleveland Orchestra, the city's classical institution found its own distinctive voice. Visitors to Cleveland come from around the world to hear the Cleveland Orchestra make the magic it makes on its historic stage. When Cleveland's musicians travel the world, those who want its offering crowd in shoulder-to-shoulder to hear on of the world's great orchestral groups.

The cities of New Orleans, Nashville and Memphis have long celebrated their musical heritages. You need only fly into their airports and you are hit by the music that helped fashion those communities. If you don't hear the notes, there are references to jazz,

country and western or blues music. Those communities are washed in their distinctive sounds and the world knows if the musical contributions the cities have made to the world.

For decades, Cleveland was on the "chitlin' circuit," that group of cities where jazz musicians traveled from the 1930s to the 1960s. It was common for many of the greats of jazz to come to Cleveland and keep the community jumpin', jivin', and jazzin.' For many generations, music has found a home in Cleveland.

The city is still a hot spot for many musical groups like the Cleveland Pops Orchestra and numerous smaller units where the horns sound and the rhythm sections keep a heartfelt beat.

It is time for Cleveland to sing higher notes of Cleveland's contributions to the world of music.

So, c'mon, Cleveland! Let's help the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Orchestra put their music in the streets, and at the airport, and other places where people gather. To simply say music is played in Cleveland is not enough. We need to hear it and see many references to it in Cleveland airports, bus stations and train depots.

The music should be heard or referred to at city hall and anyplace where Cleveland can squeeze in beautiful notes. Even supermarkets and department stores can get in on the mission. Yes, even elevators could strike up the band with a different sound.

Cleveland is really a rockin' place. We need to let the world know it. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves just how beautiful the music can be. With the Cleveland Orchestra and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, we have two great musical institutions that the world has heard about. However, we ought to sing our song even louder. Cleveland, are you listening?

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