Summer Music Scene Heats Up in Grand Rapids

Looking to experience a lively music and arts community? Grand Rapids is your answer! Guest blogger Meagan Francis fills us in on what the Grand Rapids music scene has to offer.

Grand Rapids is passionate about the arts, and nowhere is that more evident than in the live music that flows throughout the city. But while live music is a year-round way of life in Grand Rapids, summer is an especially great time to experience the local music scene.

Nowhere else is the diversity and enthusiasm of Grand Rapids’ music lovers better represented than during the annual Outdoor Summer Concert Series at Frederik Meijer Gardens. Now in its its 11th year, the 2013 line-up features 29 concerts from an impressive line-up of talent, including B.B. King, Sheryl Crow, The Beach Boys and Harry Connick, Jr.

The Outdoor Summer Concert Series offers a unique venue and audience experience in several ways, explains Andrea Wolschleger. Public Relations Manager for Frederik Meijer Gardens.  “We’re a relatively small venue – our seating capacity is 1,900 guests, so audience members enjoy an intimate setting they wouldn’t get at a larger venue.”

Wolschleger also points to the casual atmosphere of the amphitheater. “Visitors are welcome to bring in a picnic dinner or stop and grab a meal on the way, and a variety of beverages are available for purchase on-site.”

As many of the performers are big names, it’s not surprising that tickets to the Outdoor Summer Concert Series sell out fast. “If it’s a band or artist you really want to see, the best chance of getting a ticket is to become a member of the gardens,” suggests Wolschleger, explaining that members are offered a pre-sale opportunity that lasts two weeks before tickets go on sale to the general public. Getting access to the pre-sale is practically a necessity to see certain artists like Harry Connick Jr, whose tickets sold out within the first 20 minutes of the pre-sale.

A newcomer to the Grand Rapids music scene, GRandJazzFest, a free, live jazz festival dedicated to featuring Michigan-area artists, is back for its second year in 2013. “After years of wondering why smaller cities in Michigan were hosting free live jazz festivals and Grand Rapids was not, I approached some other jazz lovers in our community, and GRandJazzFest was created,” says Audrey Sundstrom, the event’s founder.

GRandJazzFest, Sundstrom explains, was built upon the already-rich jazz scene in Grand Rapids, including the WMJS’ jazz concerts, St. Cecilia’s Jazz Series, and the live jazz available in local venues year-round.

In 2013, GRandJazzFest has been expanded to two days: Saturday, August 17 and Sunday, August 18 at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids. Nick Colionne, a nationally-acclaimed contemporary jazz guitarist from Chicago, and Phil Denny, a contemporary jazz saxophonist from Lansing, are headlining the twelve-act lineup.

GRandJazzFest prides itself on being a diverse, family-friendly event, accommodating of children and strollers, and welcoming to people of all backgrounds.

How to best experience GRandJazzFest? It’s simple, says Sundstrom. “Engage, be inspired by and enjoy an original American art form - jazz! Bring a chair and stay a while.”

For even more musical events in Grand Rapids, check out:

  • Blues on the Mall – every Wednesday evening, June 12 – August 21 from 6 PM – 9 PM, enjoy free live music at Rosa Parks Circle.

  • City Lights Music Festival – fans of house music and electronica will flock to Grand Rapids on July 19 & 20 for this event at Calder Plaza, now in its 5th year.

  • Swing Dancing at Rosa Parks Circle – jump, jive and wail at this weekly event, held Tuesday evenings from 7 - 10 PM from April through October.

Will you be visiting Grand Rapids for one of these summer events? Share with us below!

Meagan Francis, a writer and nearly life-long Michigander, lives in St. Joseph with her husband and five kids. You can find her online at