In downtown Rome, Ga., the Coosa River is formed by the joining of the Etowah and Oostanaula rivers. This mighty confluence may have a magical effect on the area, for few Georgia cities are home to such a wide variety of musical expression as Rome.
City leaders long ago made a major decision to invest in the historic Broad Street that forms Rome’s central thoroughfare. The restaurants and bars that now line Broad Street provide comfortable venues for great music making.
At the center of Broad, Schroeder’s New Deli Courtyard, a pleasing venue in the back of a storied pizza parlor, has hosted some of Georgia’s outstanding acts including Glenn Phillips (of Supreme Court), The Swimming Pool Q’s, and John Schroeder’s (the owner’s) own band, Scattered, Smothered and Covered. S.S.&C., featuring bluesy originals and fresh takes on more traditional material, has opened for Three Dog Night, The Charlie Daniels Band, and regularly headlines such regional venues as Rome’s First Friday Series.
Across Broad, The 400 Block Bar, affiliated with La Scala Restaurant, hosts acoustic acts on the weekend, drawing a loyal audience from local college crowds.
Just down the street, The Moon Roof is an open-air club that provides acoustic acts with a welcoming home. On Wednesday nights, former lead singer of The Dirt Dobbers, David Bell, brings his encyclopedic collection of Americana to the eager crowd who sit in the al fresco bar. Downstairs at The Harvest Moon Cafe, more traditional bluegrass and folk music dominates, usually led by Russell McClanahan and Roger Dees on assorted vintage instruments. Little Country Giants, now a major player on the acoustic scene, are a frequent visitor to the Harvest Moon.
Anyone for Opera?
Nationally and internationally recognized vocalists have made their first mature sounds in Rome. The music departments at Berry College and Shorter College have long produced competition-winning singers who have gone on to great acclaim. Tenor Michael Hendrick, a native of LaGrange, Ga., and Berry grad, recently made his debut at New York City’s famed Metropolitan Opera, and made two appearances with the London Philharmonic this year. His tenor voice has been heard literally from the jungles of the Amazon to the great concert halls of Europe, and his star is only just beginning to rise.
Shorter graduate Indra Thomas got an early boost in her career with a solo vocal appearance in the Hollywood film Driving Miss Daisy. Thomas’ dramatic soprano voice has graced many of the world’s great operatic stages, and she is in demand as a soloist with the great orchestras of the world including The New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra and many, many more.
Soprano Theresa Hamm-Smith, also a Shorter grad, has sung at The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, and many of the nation’s finest symphonies. Berry grad Robert Taylor, a bass-baritone, has been burning up the West Coast with performances with the San Diego Opera and more.
The great choral groups of Shorter and Berry colleges have sung to acclaim throughout America and Europe. The Shorter Chorale tours Italy in summer 2008, and the Berry Choir performs Handel’s Messiah in England during December 2008.
Lovers of instrumental jazz music are happy to make northwest Georgia their home. Rome High School’s legendary jazz program continues to produce concerts that rival their college elders in production, precision and panache. Over at Berry College, Georgia trumpet phenom Adam Hayes leads the Berry Jazz bands in concerts featuring traditional repertory and new compositions. Hayes adds, “Our sold-out audiences get to enjoy bright young jazz musicians whose infectious playing really turns on the crowd.”
Tom Smith, music professor at Shorter College, received one of six International Jazz Ambassador awards in January during the 35th annual convention of the International Association of Jazz Educators. New to Georgia, Smith promises to bring his considerable work as a jazz musician in Europe to bear on the northwest Georgia music scene.
Rome’s professional jazz ensemble, Applescraps, performs scores of concerts annually. Led by pianist Stan Pethel and bassist Sam Baltzer, Applescraps plays a huge jazz repertory with a large number of guest soloists, both instrumental and vocal.
There is literally something for everyone, musically speaking, in Rome and historic northwest Georgia. From rock and folk to classical and jazz, audiences do not have to look far to find musical excellence in the verdant hills of northwest Georgia.