An informal bluegrass jam draws a crowd (courtesy jfiess on Flickr CC)

An informal bluegrass jam draws a crowd in Delafield, Wisconsin (courtesy jfiess on Flickr CC)

The chilly breeze blew in off the Hudson River and through the Cloisters museum herb garden; even though it was late fall, the plantings were still pretty green and a sunny bench welcomed contemplation. They were mere backdrop, however, for the medieval chant and polyphony – piped in quietly through unobtrusive speakers – that really created a magical moment for me that day.

I’ve never forgotten how that music picked me up and wafted me for a few seconds into the 15th century. Some of my most memorable travel memories have included listening to music somewhere far, far from home, and feeling incredibly lucky to be surrounded – almost protected – by sound in a strange place.

Deep within the piles of books around my house is a travelogue called Music in Every Room: Around the World in a Bad Mood. I never finished it and now heaven knows if I could find it again, but I’ve always absolutely loved the title. Who wouldn’t want music in every room?

How about music in every city?

I don’t mean big concerts – although during a long-ago Chicago visit, that double bill of Tracy Chapman plus Johnny Clegg & Savuka WAS pretty great – but rather small, intimate performances that are often free. Sure, you could blindly stumble upon them, but a little research before you arrive will ensure that you don’t miss experiences like these….

**  Free shows on Monday and Thursday at the Blue Room in Kansas City‘s American Jazz Museum, within the historic 18th & Vine District downtown.

**  A free Cantonese Opera Appreciation Class through the Hong Kong tourism board.

**  Sit under 38 feet of over 30,000 bits of glass – the world’s largest stained-glass Tiffany dome – at the Chicago Cultural Center, during one of their free lunchtime concerts almost every day of the week.

**  Get there early on Saturday morning in Eunice, Louisiana at the Savoy Music Center for the weekly Cajun music jam.

**  Pause for refreshment at one of the free lunchtime concerts at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

**  The atrium of the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas is home to the Bach Cantata Project the last Tuesday of every month (or heck, don’t unpack at all and just hang out to hear live music at the Austin airport Monday-Friday.)

Or sometimes, you show up for some Aunt Sherry’s Chicken Salad at the Coffee N Cream in Micanopy, Florida while these guys are playing “Ashes of Love,” and it feels as though it was arranged just for you….direct link to the video if you can’t see the embed box below)

What are some of your favorite musical experiences during your travels? We’d love to hear about them down in the comments.

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I'm a writer and speaker specializing in tourism, travel and social media. NHRA drag racing fan. Co-founder of Tourism Currents. U.S. Navy veteran. Caffeinated.