Under the Stars with The Cleveland Orchestra
BLOSSOM MUSIC CENTER was opened in 1968 as the summer home of The Cleveland Orchestra — and has welcomed more than 21 million fans to concerts of all kinds in its first half-century serving Northeast Ohio. Located just north of Akron, Ohio, and about 25 miles south of Cleveland, Blossom is situated on rolling hills surrounded by the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which protects 33,000 acres along the Cuyahoga River between Akron and Cleveland. Blossom lies within the city limits of Cuyahoga Falls, an Ohio community founded over two-hundred years ago.
Blossom was planned and built by The Cleveland Orchestra at a cost of approximately $8 million. The Center’s name honors the Dudley S. Blossom family, major supporters of The Cleveland Orchestra throughout its history. Mr. Blossom was elected to The Cleveland Orchestra’s board of trustees in 1919 and later served as board president 1936-38. Family members have continued their involvement with the Orchestra up to the present day — Dudley Sr.’s wife, Elizabeth, was a trustee 1928-70, their son Dudley Jr. was a trustee 1946-61, and his wife, Emily, also served as a trustee 1968-91. Blossom granddaughter Laurel Blossom continued the tradition as a trustee, 1999-2018, and Robin Blossom was elected to the board in 2018.
George Szell, music director (1946 to 1970) of The Cleveland Orchestra, conducted the opening concert at Blossom on July 19, 1968. The all-Beethoven program consisted of the Consecration of the HouseOverture and the Ninth Symphony, concluding with the grand “Ode to Joy” call for brotherhood and unity among peoples — drawing enthusiastic reviews for the Orchestra and its new summer home from critics across the country and beyond. The Orchestra’s first season at Blossom consisted of six weeks of performances. The schedule expanded in subsequent seasons to feature the Blossom Music Festival of orchestral and related music from the Fourth of July to Labor Day Weekend alongside a summer-long season of concerts devoted to rock, jazz, country, and other popular music presentations. (Live Nation now operates Blossom, and books and promotes each season’s non-orchestral attractions.)
All together, more than 21 million people have attended live musical performances at Blossom in its first half century — with 400,000 enjoying symphonic and rock concerts each summer. In 2002, the facility underwent the first major capital improvements project in the park’s history. The Blossom Redevelopment Project featured a major renovation of the facility and enhancement of patron amenities, and was completed prior to the beginning of the 2003 Festival. Additional upgrading has continued since that time, including major accessibility work within an ongoing Americans with Disabilities Act project generously funded by the State of Ohio. With initial phases completed in 2013, new enhancement projects have continued almost every year, including the construction of new restrooms and walkways, and the introduction of new trams.
THE BLOSSOM GROUNDS
At the heart of Blossom is the Blossom Pavilion, situated at the base of a natural bowl. The design architect for this award-winning structure, widely celebrated for its distinctive architecture and superb acoustical qualities, was Peter van Dijk, who also served as architect for the Blossom Redevelopment Project in 2002-03 and continues to help direct Blossom upgrades and changes. The seating capacity of the Pavilion is now 5,470 — and another 13,500 patrons can be accommodated on the expansive hillside Lawn seating area. (Claimed records of up to 32,000 people attending a single concert are, perhaps, exaggerated, while modern safety and security codes would preclude admission for such large numbers today.)
Surrounding the Pavilion and Lawn seating area, the Blossom grounds encompass a number of other unique facilities. Near the Main Entrance from Steels Corners Road is Porthouse Theatre. Here, a season of outdoor summer musical theater is presented with a cast of professional actors and a college-age student ensemble. The Porthouse Theatre Company is affiliated with Kent State University’s School of Theatre and Dance.
In addition to the Blossom Pavilion, the main grounds include the Blossom Grille (open before and after each Festival concert), and Knight Grove (a party center accommodating groups of 25 to 450).
Three landscaped gardens are also located on the main grounds:
The Frank E. Joseph Garden was named in honor of the board president of The Cleveland Orchestra at the time of Blossom’s construction and opening.
Emily’sGarden was opened in 1992 to commemorate Emily (Mrs. Dudley S. Jr.) Blossom’s many contributions to Blossom Music Center.
The Herbert E. Strawbridge Gardenwas added in 2003, named in memory of Cleveland Orchestra trustee and civic leader Herb Strawbridge.
The Blossom Redevelopment Project redesign of Emily’s Garden, as well as the design of the Herbert E. Strawbridge Garden, are by Michael Van Valkenburgh.
PARTNERING WITH KENT STATE UNIVERSITY
Since the inception of Blossom, The Cleveland Orchestra has partnered with Kent State University to extend Blossom’s role as a center for professional training in the visual and performing arts. Each summer, the Kent Blossom arts festivals bring some 300 young professionals in art, music, and theater together with working professionals to teach, explore, and produce great art. This important relationship between a premier performing ensemble and a public university has also served as a model for other collaborations. Each summer’s offerings emphasize intensive, individualized study with prominent visiting master artists and resident Kent State faculty, including principal members of The Cleveland Orchestra. Public exhibitions and performances are an integral part of each summer’s offerings. A season of Broadway musicals is presented at Porthouse Theatre annually, while the musicians of Kent Blossom Music Festival perform free public concerts and recitals and appear in a special side-by-side concert with The Cleveland Orchestra (this year on July 27).
PARTNERING WITH CUYAHOGA VALLEY NATIONAL PARK AND THE TRUST FOR PUBLIC LAND
Following the construction and opening of Blossom Music Center in 1968, additional ideas for redeveloping the Cuyahoga Valley spurred the creation of Cuyahoga Valley National Park to help preserve the natural beauty of the area chosen as The Cleveland Orchestra’s permanent summer home. Created as a recreational preserve in 1974, the land was designated as a National Park in 2000.
In the past decade, The Cleveland Orchestra worked with the Trust for Public Land to conserve more than 500 acres of Blossom Music Center land into Cuyahoga Valley National Park through a sale funded by the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. This transfer helps protect the park experience for concertgoers at Blossom, conserves the land for preservation, and provided one-time funding for the Orchestra. This sale of Blossom Music Center land now connects over 5,000 acres of forest ecosystems within the park.
Read and learn more about the National Park and nearby attractions by visiting www.nps.gov/cuva.