The Los Angeles Music Center is Southern California's preeminent performing arts complex, located in the heart of the Los Angeles Civic Center. The main campus includes three original venues designed by Welton Becket in 1964:
- The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion - home of the Los Angeles Opera
- The Ahmanson Theatre, the musical stage of the Center Theatre Group
- Mark Taper Forum, primarily the dramatic stage for the Center Theatre Group
The addition of Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall created four new indoor and outdoor performance spaces across 1st Street in 2003.
- The main auditorium in this metallic ship-like structure sailing down Grand Avenue is the winter home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
- The Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theatre (REDCAT) is operated and programmed by the California Institute of the Arts. REDCAT has its own entrance off 2nd Street.
- There are also two outdoor performance spaces used for summer family programs and other special events.
- View the Disney Concert Hall Photo Gallery.
In addition to performances by the resident companies in each venue, there is a wide variety of family and community programming including free concerts and family festivals on the Music Center Plaza. During the summer months, Dance Downtown is a series of dance lessons of all styles offered to the public on Friday nights on the Plaza.
Dining at the Music Center
The Music Center has three restaurants and two outdoor cafes.
On the Main Music Center Campus, you'll find Pinot Grill on the Plaza and Kendall's Brasserie and Bar at street level on Grand Avenue. You can also grab something quick before a show at the Spotlight Café or Pinot Grill to Go, both on the Plaza.
At Disney Concert Hall, you can choose between fine dining at Patina, or casual dining at the Concert Hall Café.
The Music Center restaurants don't stay open more than an hour after the end of performances, so check my list of Where to Go After the Show for other nearby options.
Music Center Tours
Symphonian Music Center Campus Tours
Free 60-75 minute guided tours of the four music venues offered Tuesday through Friday, 10 am - 1:30 pm and Saturday 10 am - noon. Tour start times vary.
Disney Concert Hall Tours
Free 45-minute self-guided audio tour excludes the auditorium due to constant rehearsal and performance schedule. Available 10 am - 2 pm except matinee and special event days.
Complimentary guided tours are available on certain days at noon and usually every 30 minutes on matinee days.
Urban Garden Tours
A 45 minute guided tour of the Disney Concert Hall gardens.
Check the Tour Schedule for all tours.
Take my Walt Disney Concert Hall Photo Tour.
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, designed by architect Welton Becket, is the largest performance venue at the Los Angeles Music Center, and one of the largest stages in the country. With 3200 seats, it is over a third larger than the Gershwin Theatre in New York, which is Broadway's largest at 1900 seats. It is located on the south side of the Music Center Plaza with its back to 1st Street.
The Chandler Pavilion is the home of the Los Angeles Opera and Dance at the Music Center, which includes performances by the American Ballet Theatre, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, David Michalek's Slow Dancing, Mark Morris Dance Group and Teatro alla Scala Ballet Company.
There are four tiers of seats. Because of the larger theatre size, even though there are more balcony levels, the upper balcony seats are actually a little better in this theatre than in the Ahmanson across the Plaza. You're farther away, but you see the stage from a little bit better angle. You'd better bring your opera glasses though for any of the balcony seats. The stage is way far away.
The Ahmanson Theatre
The Ahmanson Theatre is part of the Los Angeles Music Center. It is located at the north end of the Plaza, behind the Mark Taper Forum with its back to Temple Street. It has a large proscenium stage and seats 1600 to 2000 depending on the configuration. It is used for large musicals and dramas presented by the Center Theatre Group.
The Ahmanson is configured with three levels, the Orchestra, Mezzanine and Upper Balcony. The levels are very steep, and from the Upper Balcony, you really look down onto the top of the actors' heads. Try to avoid Upper Balcony seats if at all possible.
There are also a couple levels of box seats at each side of the auditorium, which give a very "Old Europe" feel, but don't offer the best vantage point for enjoying a performance.
The Mark Taper Forum
The Mark Taper Forum is the round building on the north side of the Music Center Plaza in front of the Ahmanson Theatre. It faces the Plaza cafes and fountain and is opposite the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
The Taper is a great venue to see a play. The 750 seats are arranged on three sides of a "thrust" stage on just one level. There's not a bad seat in the house.
The Mark Taper Forum re-opened in September 2008 after being closed for renovations. View the renovation update.
The changes are mostly subtle, but the new restrooms are definitely a hit.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
The Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry to resemble a ship's hull, was added to the Los Angeles Music Center in 2003, taking up the entire block between 1st and 2nd Streets. It looks a bit like a stainless steel ship with sails unfurled cruising through the downtown civic center.
This 2,265-seat theatre has some of the most sophisticated acoustics ever created. It is the winter home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. It is a very steep theatre design with seating surrounding the stage. You can just about read the music over the musicians' shoulders from some seats.
The south corner of the building houses the Roy and Edna Disney/Cal Arts Theatre (REDCAT), a 250-seat theatre run by the California Institute for the Arts. REDCAT has a separate entrance off 2nd Street.
The William M. Keck Children's Amphitheatre is an outdoor performance space used for family programs. Rings of concrete stair-steps seat up to 300. Cushions are sometimes provided.
Learn more about the architecture and get a preview of the Disney Concert Hall Photo Tour.
Family and Community Programs at the Music Center
The Music Center offers a variety of programs throughout the year to make music and dance accessible to the community.
World City - Free outdoor world music, dance and cultural performances for families one Saturday per month.
Pillow Theatre - Outdoor interactive performances geared toward 3 to 6-year-olds followed art workshops in the garden.
Performing Books - Children's books about performing arts are acted out for children at the LA Central Library.
A Taste of Dance is an annual program in the spring. For one Saturday, back-to-back 20-minute dance lessons on the Music Center Plaza introduce participants to the diversity of world dance styles available in LA. Lessons are usually $1 per 20-minute session.
Dance Downtown brings dancers out to the Plaza on Friday nights from May through September to try out different dance styles. Lessons are usually free.
The "Get Your Chops Back" series invites people who have ever played a particular instrument to dust it off and come out and play for fun. Instruments vary. Check the website for schedule.
Drum Downtown is a public drumming circle on the Plaza on select Saturdays through the summer.
Friday Night Sing-Alongs on select Friday nights over the summer.
Music Center Holiday Sing-Along and Jingle Bell Sing