Music: Going Strong in Carmel

Carmel, Indiana is a prosperous, growing suburb of Indiana state capital Indianapolis, an increasingly arts oriented little town that’s making a name for itself in the Central Indiana tourist area. The Circle City is a huge hub for local music in the area; Indianapolis music has a huge variety of music venues, cutting edge bands like The Elms and Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, and Indianapolis media outlets like NUVO Newsweekly routinely support and cover Indianapolis events that are centered around music. So it’s no surprise that Indianapolis’ little brother, Carmel, has a burgeoning music scene of its own. Carmel music, though not as prolific as Indianapolis music, has a lot going for it.

Any good music oriented town needs a host of places for bands to play. There are classic Indianapolis music venues like the Emerson Theater, The Vogue, and the Murat Centre for Carmel residents to go to, but the suburb also has its fair share of music venues. Most of the places to play at in Carmel are Carmel bars, perfect for any type of music. There’s Muldoon’s Irish Pub, which mostly supports Celtic music acts like Mother Grove, Bar Louie, a hip, upscale club, and Old Town Tavern, the “best dive bar” in all of Carmel. These Carmel bars provide casual atmosphere, good crowds, and talented sound staff for Indianapolis bands that’d like to come in and play.

Carmel has shown an increasing focus on Carmel arts in the past few years. The Carmel Arts and Design District, a recently created sector of downtown Carmel, is chock full of Carmel businesses, bars for musicians to play at, and several music stores. The city supports its music community just as much as its artistic community; there are many Carmel events geared specifically to Carmel music. Probably the largest of these is Rock the District, an annual music festival that completely consumes the Arts and Design District. The 2009 incarnation included three different stages (one of them hosted by Ivy Tech Community College), tons of vendors, and over eight solid hours of music. Past performers at Rock the District have included Jon McLaughlin, Aimee Allen, Jeremy Vogt, and others.

Video: Indianapolis superstar Jon McLaughlin performs live at Rock the District in Carmel, Indiana

In addition, Carmel is home to the Carmel Summer Concert Series, a nice, relaxing event that takes place during the summer months in Carmel. Many different types of bands come to play the Summer Concert Series, among them U.S.O. style groups, jazz outfits, and others. It’s a good opportunity to pull up a blanket, lawn chair, or cooler, sit back, and enjoy the sunny summer climate in Carmel.

There are also a couple musical organizations in Carmel that bring up young musicians and show off the more experienced ones. Carmel schools, specifically Carmel High School, offer music classes for all age ranges and instruments. The high school has a couple competitive bands that win awards all over Indiana. Part of the Indiana State School Music Association (ISSMA), Carmel High School has four concert bands, an orchestra, and four jazz bands, each of them filled with talented students. The highest band, Wind Symphony I, has performed at the Bands of America National Concert Band Festival at Lucas Oil Stadium, and the jazz band performs at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis every year.

Video of the Carmel High School marching band performing in Louisville

Carmel is also home to the Carmel Symphony Orchestra, a professional musical organization that’s a smaller incarnation of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Founded in 1976 as a volunteer musical organization, today the Carmel Symphony Orchestra sports over 70 musicians. The Carmel Symphony Orchestra plays around the region at Indiana high schools, Indianapolis theaters, music venues around Carmel, and events like CarmelFest and the Penrod Art Fair. The group will also benefit from the new Carmel City Center, which will house the improved Carmel Performing Arts Center. The Carmel Symphony Orchestra is an important part of the Carmel music scene.

Video of Yihan Chen performing with the Carmel Symphony Orchestra in Carmel, Indiana

Carmel, Indiana is a town that’s on the move, a town with a strong artistic center and a growing music community. Though it may not be up to the vast standards of Indianapolis society, music in Carmel is a growing, changing thing. Carmel bars like Muldoon’s Irish Pub and Bar Louie routinely feature live music from around the region, while Carmel events like Rock the District and the Carmel Summer Concert Series elevate Carmel music to the state of a public spectacle. Even the city itself gets in on the act, with the Carmel Symphony Orchestra and the several top notch high school bands that come out of Carmel High School. Carmel music is just beginning to blossom, and someday it will make a strong compliment to the myriad bars, bands, and concerts in Indianapolis.