Academy of Music Information

The development of the Philadelphia Academy of Music has seen many phases, from renovations to management and performers.

Built between 1855-57 the Academy of Music Philadephia, also known as the “Grand Old Lady of Locust Street,” is the oldest known opera house to have been in use since its opening for its original intended purpose! Described by the New York Times as “magnificently gorgeous, brilliantly lighted, solidly constructed, finely located, beautifully ornamented,” upon its opening ceremony in 1857, it is undeniably one of the grandest buildings in the city.

In its long history, the Academy of Music has been host to a score of world-renowned conductors, composers, and performers, along with many notable operatic and classical premieres, including include Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos”, Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” and Gounod’s “Faust”. Following the move of the Philadelphia Orchestra to the Kimmel Center, the Academy began to be used to house artists outside of the classical genre, including a notable appearance from Noel Gallagher in 2011.

Ownership of the Academy of Music

With roots in opera, ballet, and contemporary music, the venue is now managed by Ensemble Arts Philly. It is also home to the Philadelphia Ballet and Opera Philadelphia, while the Philadelphia Orchestra was headquartered there between 1900 and 2001.

In 1957, the Philadelphia Orchestra Association bought the Academy. Having hosted the Orchestra since 1900, the venue continued to do so until 2001. That year, the Kimmel Center opened, offering a new home for the Orchestra and proceeds for ongoing restorations at the Academy.

In 2024, the Ensemble Arts Philly brand was introduced as a collaboration between the Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Cultural Campus. It represents a range of genres from Broadway to jazz, dance and theater across three key venues:

  1. The Philadelphia Academy of Music
  2. The Miller Theater
  3. The Kimmel Center for Performing Arts.

Renovations to the Academy

A competition to design the Academy was announced in October 1854. Since opening its doors in 1857, it has undergone a series of renovations. Based at 240 S. Broad Street, the venue took two years to build, with key updates to its ballroom and exterior along the way.

It started as a classic brownstone property, built by Gustavus Runge in the Rundbogenstil, or round arch style. Architect Napoleon LeBrun won the competition with Runge and applied his American Civil War Era approach to the building.

The architects chose this modern exterior on purpose so that they could focus on an opulent interior with a horseshoe-shaped auditorium. Key milestones in the Academy’s renovations include:

Today, the venue has 2,509 upgraded seats and a modern interior that still pays homage to its roots. Thanks to advanced scanning, exposure, and modeling techniques, the landmark remains true to its Renaissance style.

At the time it was built, the illustrious ballroom was named the “most beautiful room in all of Philadelphia.” It continues to attract praise throughout its many renovations.

Amenities in the Academy

In its modern-day format, the building houses a 40 ft. x 80 ft ballroom and a 35 ft. central ceiling vault. The famous chandelier lighting is now visible from Broad Street, showcasing the grandeur of the original design in a contemporary style.

The Academy also features restored restrooms, an elevator lobby, and a 2,500-seat auditorium. Its ‘open horseshoe’ design offers parquet seating, balcony, family circle, and amphitheater seating around the main stage. Wheelchair and companion seating are available. Special requests can be catered for by calling 215-893-1999 or filling out a contact form.

Pre-paid parking is available, and there are additional facilities near the Kimmel Center.

Cocktail Bar

Refreshments are available at concessions stands within the Academy. Catering partner Garces offers Broadway-themed cocktails as well as seasonal snacks, candy, and small bites. Visitors can also purchase a reusable cup for $5, which can be taken into the auditorium and qualifies for $1 off all future drinks. Please note that cashless payments are preferred for social distancing purposes. The venue accepts credit and debit cards, as well as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Tap to Pay.