History of Blossom Music Center
Blossom was planned and built between 1966 and 1968 by the Musical Arts Association, the non-profit parent organization of The Cleveland Orchestra, at a total cost of approximately $8 million. The Center’s name honors the Blossom family for their support of The Cleveland Orchestra throughout its history and their important contributions to the Blossom Music Center. Mr. Dudley S. Blossom served as president of the Musical Arts Association from 1936-38, and his son, Dudley Jr., served as a trustee from 1946-61.
The land selected for Blossom was an 800 acre area of rolling hills surrounded by the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. This naturally scenic setting near the Cuyahoga River was only a short drive from the cities of Cleveland and Akron, and offered a bucolic but convenient location for summer performances that would allow the Orchestra to expand into a year-round schedule of local concerts. The proximity to Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the historically important Ohio & Erie Canal also offered a welcome combination of outdoor recreation, cultural interest, and artistic experiences.
Cleveland architect Peter van Dijk was selected to design the concert venue that would become known as the Blossom Pavilion. This award-winning structure, widely celebrated for its distinctive architecture and superb acoustical qualities, featured a massive but elegant fan-shaped roof that left the sides and rear of the Pavilion open so that those patrons seated inside could enjoy the outdoor scenery and those on the surrounding lawn could see the musicians on the stage. The acoustician was Heinrich Keilholz, with preliminary acoustical design by Christopher Jaffe and studio engineering by Vladimir Maleckar. The Pavilion, which is nestled into a natural bowl in the land, was originally designed to seat 5,281 beneath its roof, while another 13,500 patrons could be accommodated on the expansive hillside lawn seating.
George Szell, music director of The Cleveland Orchestra from 1946 to 1970, conducted the opening concert at Blossom on July 19, 1968. The all-Beethoven program, which consisted of the “Consecration of the House” Overture and the Ninth Symphony, drew enthusiastic reviews for the Orchestra and its new venue from critics throughout the country. Concert-goers were encouraged to bring picnic dinners and enjoy the bucolic setting and Blossom quickly became a beloved fixture.
The first Blossom season consisted of six weeks of performances by The Cleveland Orchestra. This schedule soon expanded into what is now the ten-week Blossom Festival of orchestral and band music that begins in late June and continues until Labor Day Weekend. Additional concerts devoted to rock, jazz, country, and other presentations draw a diverse array of concert-goers to Blossom, and more than 400,000 people visit the Center each summer. Live Nation now operates Blossom for the Musical Arts Association, and presents each season’s non-orchestral attractions.
Despite Blossom’s popularity, the Pavilion and the rest of the Center were not immune to the ravages of time or weather and, beginning in 2001, Blossom Music Center underwent the first major capital improvements project in its history. Architect Peter van Dijk, the original architect for the Blossom Pavilion, was engaged to serve as architect for the Blossom Redevelopment Project, which featured a large-scale renovation of the Pavilion itself, including the addition of 419 seats and a new slate roof to replace the aging shingles. The project also redesigned the main entrance plaza, upgraded the parking, landscaping and concessions, added restrooms and improved accessibility throughout the grounds. Subsequent upgrades have included major accessibility improvements within a comprehensive Americans with Disabilities Act project funded by the State of Ohio.
In preparation for the renovations needed at the Blossom Pavilion and facilities, the multi-year Blossom Redevelopment Campaign raised $17 million for capital improvements. Construction began in the fall of 2001 and was completed in time for the 2003 Blossom Festival.
Blossom Facts and Timeline
Musical Arts Association, Cleveland, Ohio
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Peter van Dijk, Cleveland, Ohio
Richard Gensert and Miklos Peller
Heinrich Keilholz, with preliminary acoustical design by Christopher Jaffe and studio engineering by Vladimir Maleckar
July 2, 1967
July 19, 1968
Architects: van Dijk Westlake Reed Leskosky, Cleveland, Ohio
Landscape Architects: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Cambridge, Mass., and New York, N.Y.
Graphic Consultants: Two Twelve Associates, New York, N.Y.
Major project components:
• Installation of a new slate Pavilion roof
• Increased seating in the Pavilion
• Upgraded lighting in the Pavilion
• New sound system to deliver higher quality sound to lawn patrons
• New lobbies and concession plazas at either side of the Pavilion, each with complete Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility
• New Kulas Plaza with VIP terrace and restrooms
• Two new restroom buildings and additional ADA restrooms
• New Pavilion tram stop
• Expanded picnic areas, including new Woods Picnic Area near parking lots
• New special events plaza
• Repaved parking lots and repaired and redesigned roadways
• Cut down curbs for better accessibility
• Improved directional signage
• Extensive landscaping
• New Herbert E. Strawbridge Garden
Redevelopment Project Started
Redevelopment Project Completion
Redevelopment Project Cost