Conductor Jason Love leads the Columbia Symphony Orchestra in a performance of "Carnival Of The Animals" at the Chrysalis in Symphony Woods.
Conductor Jason Love leads the Columbia Symphony Orchestra in a performance of "Carnival Of The Animals" at the Chrysalis in Symphony Woods. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Howard County is known for is its vibrant arts scene offering an abundance of choices, including theater, music and dance companies. Also free outdoor concerts are presented at downtown Columbia’s Lakefront on Lake Kittamaqundi, Centennial Park and Columbia’s village centers. Other performances are staged throughout the year at other local venues.

Large venues

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. All tickets are purchased through the organization presenting the performance. 410-313-8293, rousetheatre.org


Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods’ Chrysalis Amphitheater hosts concerts and theatrical productions for up to 8,000 people through the stand-alone nonprofit Inner Arbor Trust, which also hosts cultural and community events April through December. Three series provide mostly free performances on the amphitheater stage: family and children’s programming using regional theater troupes, a series of cross-genre performances from orchestral to jazz, and cabaret performances that provide intimate shows with noted jazz, rock and Christian performers. merriweathermusic.com

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. 410-715-5550, merriweathermusic.com


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. 443-518-1500, howardcc.edu

Concert series

Candlelight Concerts is a subscription season at Howard Community College that regularly attracts top talent to its chamber music series and includes a children’s concert series. The society also holds free events throughout the community, from lectures to special performances in special needs and senior citizen facilities and schools. 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


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

Sunset Serenades are free concerts in a variety of genres held each Wednesday at Centennial Park from June through August. 410-313-4700, howardcountymd.gov/sunsetserenades


Chesapeake Shakespeare Company In-the-Ruins produces two family-friendly plays each June and July inside the remains of the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park, where it has performed since 2003. The professional company hires actors from the Maryland/D.C. region and also offers a summer camp. 410-244-8570, chesapeakeshakespeare.com

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 features family-oriented musicals using youth casts and all-ages companies. howardcountysummertheatre.org

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. 443-518-1490, repstage.org

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 is celebrating its 40th season this year. 410-730-8311, tobysdinnertheatre.com

Musical groups

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

The Columbia Orchestra was founded in 1977. The ensemble, led by music director Jason Love, offers orchestral, jazz and chamber 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. 410-799-9321, procantare.org

Howard County Concert Orchestra is a professional chamber orchestra that performs classical to contemporary arrangements with six to 45 professional musicians. 888-921-7230, hococo.org

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 five ensembles on two campuses, one of which is in Howard County. peabody.jhu.edu/pcc

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. The organization is based in southern Howard County with rehearsals in College Park. 240-643-6563, voicesxxi.org

Art centers and museums

African Art Museum of Maryland, founded in 1980, is in a new location at Columbia’s Long Reach Village Center. It offers a rare collection of African artifacts and folk art. Staffed entirely by volunteers, including the museum’s founder and director Doris Ligon, the museum offers programs during Women’s History Month and regularly organizes trips to Africa. 410-740-7411, 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 hosts a literary series with local poets and authors and a monthly salon featuring local artists, actors, musicians and others, a rotating gallery of exhibitions and a summer art camp for children. 410-730-0075, columbiaassociation.org/facilities/columbia-art-center/

Howard County Center for the Arts, located in a former elementary school in Ellicott City, houses two galleries in addition to a black-box theater. It is also the seat of the Howard County Arts Council. 410-313-2787, hocoarts.org


Howard County Center of African American Culture at Howard Community College houses African American memorabilia, artifacts and an art gallery at its Columbia location, and a research library with approximately 10,000 publications and records. 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, at shops in historic Ellicott City and elsewhere. Visual artists and crafts people share a historic complex at Savage Mill.

Literary arts

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, Lucille Clifton, Tyehimba Jess and Mary Oliver have given public readings under the auspices of the community-based not-for-profit. 443-518-4568, hocopolitso.org


CJC Jewish Film Series offers 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

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

Howard County has one movie theater offering the latest Hollywood releases:

AMC Columbia Mall 14



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

Arabesque Dance Studio

410-381-0017, livetodance.com

Arthur Murray Dance Centers

410-772-7880, dancecolumbia.com

Backstage Dance Studio

Ballet with Cindee Velle

410-465-7674, cindeevelleballet.com

b.Funk Dance Company

410-313-8199, bfunk.com

Central Maryland Youth Ballet

The Dance Dimension

301-490-0252, thedancedimension.com

Kinetics Dance Theatre

410-480-1686, kineticsdance.org

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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