The Misako Ballet Company performs during the closing ceremonies of Columbia's 50th Birthday Celebration.
The Misako Ballet Company performs during the closing ceremonies of Columbia's 50th Birthday Celebration. (Nicole Munchel / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

One area Howard County can certainly boast about is its vibrant arts scene, with an abundance of choices that include theater, music and dance companies, as well as free outdoor concerts at Lake Kittamaqundi, Centennial Park and Columbia’s village centers. Performances are staged throughout the year at local venues.



The Peter and Elizabeth Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center at Howard Community College houses, among other facilities, Smith Theatre, the John G. Monteabaro Recital Hall and a state-of-the-art black box theater.

443-518-1490, howardcc.edu


Merriweather Post Pavilion, an open-air amphitheater in Columbia’s Symphony Woods, has become a major stopping-off point on the pop music circuit, offering everything from rap to folk, from Peter Frampton to deadmau5. A second amphitheater, the Chrysalis, opened at Symphony Woods last year and can host concerts for up to 7,000 people.

410-715-5550, merriweathermusic.com

Jim Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts at Wilde Lake High School is a 747-seat theater that hosts high school and community events as well as traveling acts.

410-313-8293, rousetheatre.org



Candlelight Concerts is a subscription season at Howard Community College that regularly attracts top talent, including a jazz and children’s concert series and theater productions.

410-997-2324, candlelightconcerts.org

Chalice Concert Series presents the mid-Atlantic region’s finest chamber musicians in the Owen Brown Interfaith Center’s acoustically dynamic sanctuary addition.

410-381-0097, uucolumbia.net

One World Coffeehouse takes place monthly at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, offering an eclectic blend of folk, blues, world music, jazz and rock.

410-381-0097, uucolumbia.net

From the time the readers’ poll launches in August to the issue’s delivery in December, businesses, nonprofits and readers alike are abuzz in anticipation of who might take home the coveted Best of Howard County title.

Second Saturday Cafe hosts the region’s top acts in the jazz, blues and rock genres, performing in the cozy space of Oliver’s Carriage House in Columbia’s Town Center.

410-913-9812, 2ndsaturdaycafe.com

Sundays at Three Chamber Music Series brings professional chamber music to Christ Episcopal Church in Columbia.

Sunset Serenades are weekly concerts in a variety of genres at Centennial Park, running from June through August.


Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts employs actors, directors, writers, musicians and technicians to immerse young people in the art of performing through a variety of programs.

410-381-0700, cctarts.org

Howard County Summer Theatre performs family-oriented musicals at local high schools, using youth casts and all-ages companies.

Toby’s Dinner Theatre specializes in Broadway-style musical fare, presented with a live band, professional costuming and inventive staging in the Columbia location, where it has hosted performances for more than 30 seasons.

410-730-8311, tobysdinnertheatre.com

Red Branch Theatre Company in Columbia produces four to five shows a season, including contemporary and family works.

Rep Stage Company, based at Howard Community College, is the county’s first Actors’ Equity troupe, featuring the area’s premier acting talent in challenging plays.

443-518-1500, repstage.org


Columbia Bands is a nonprofit for nonprofessional musicians that performs in three groups — a concert band, a jazz band and a “flute cocktail” — at free community concerts and other events.

The Columbia Orchestra was founded in 1977. The ensemble, led by Music Director Jason Love, offers concerts with instrumental works ranging from classic to contemporary composers.

410-465-8777, columbiaorchestra.org

Columbia Pro Cantare is a volunteer choir that presents programs ranging from operatic works to spirituals, and the area’s only full orchestral and choral performance of Handel’s “Messiah.”

410-730-8549, procantare.org

Merriweather Post Pavilion, the celebrated Columbia music venue, plans to be ready for its early spring start after its roof collapsed over the weekend, said Audrey Fix Schaefer.

The Columbia Jazz Band now performs under the auspices of the Columbia Orchestra, playing big band, Latin jazz, blues and standards.

410-465-8777, thejazzband.com

Peabody Children’s Chorus trains girls and boys ages 6 to 18 with unchanged voices in music from a variety of genres and time periods in six ensembles on two campuses, one of which is in Howard County.

667-208-6500, peabody.jhu.edu

Voices 21 chamber chorus, led by founding director Dr. Jesse Parker, specializes in a cappella music and performs in churches, retirement communities and other venues.

240-643-6563, voicesxxi.org


African Art Museum of Maryland, founded in 1980, is located in Fulton’s Maple Lawn and offers a rare collection of African artifacts and folk art.

301-490-6070, africanartmuseum.org

Columbia Art Center in the village of Long Reach has provided resources for ceramic artists, photographers, calligraphers, woodworkers and others since 1987. It also houses a rotating gallery of exhibitions and a summer art camp for children

410-730-0075, columbiaartcenter.org

Howard County Center for the Arts, located in a former elementary school, now houses two galleries in addition to a black-box theater in Ellicott City. It is also the seat of the Howard County Arts Council.


410-313-2787, hocoarts.org


Howard County Center of African American Culture houses African-American memorabilia and artifacts, an art gallery and a library with more than 10,000 publications and other artifacts. The center also sponsors a monthly book club

410-715-1921, hccaac.org

Local artists also exhibit at the Artists’ Gallery on Ellicott City’s Main Street, The Rouse Company Foundation Gallery at Howard Community College, The Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House in Wilde Lake, The Meeting House Gallery in Oakland Mills and informal exhibition spaces at the Bain 50 Plus Center and elsewhere. Visual artists and crafts people share a handsome and historic complex at Savage Mill.


Howard County Poetry and Literature Society — often abbreviated “HoCoPoLitSo” — has been bringing imaginative literary events, workshops and distinguished writers to student and adult audiences since 1974. Saul Bellow, Edward Albee, Seamus Heaney and Lucille Clifton have given public readings under the auspices of the community-based not-for-profit.

443-518-4568, hocopolitso.org


Columbia Film Society brings the latest in distinguished foreign films to the Horowitz Center at Howard Community College in an annual subscription series.

CJC Jewish Film Series offers four movies with Jewish themes in English, Hebrew and foreign languages with subtitles. Viewings include refreshments as well as an optional discussion.

410-730-6044, columbiajewish.org

Howard County has two 14-screen movie theaters offering the latest Hollywood releases:

Columbia United Artists Theatres Snowden Square 14

844-462-7342, ext. 570

AMC Columbia Mall 14


A review of Toby's Dinner Theatre's production of "Young Frankenstein" running through March 11.


Local dance troupes present regular showcases, and a variety of commercial dance studios provide training for a new generation:

Arabesque Dance Company

410-381-0017, livetodance.com

Arthur Murray Dance Studio

410-772-7880, dancecolumbia.com

b.Funk Dance Company

410-313-8199, bfunk.com

Backstage Dance Studio

Ballet with Cindee Velle

410-465-7674, cindeevelleballet.com

The Dance Dimension

301-490-0252, thedancedimension.com

Genesis Arts

443-750-1332, genesisarts.net

Howard County Ballet


Kinetics Dance Theatre

kineticsdance.org, 410-480-1686

Misako Ballet Studio

410-884-9690, misakodance.com

Patuxent Youth Ballet

410-992-4084, marylandballet.com

Studio Dans

301-498-3267, studiodans.com

That’s Dancing Ballroom & Dancesport Center

301-776-0085, thatsdancingballroom.com

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