Free Music in Midtown Manhattan

Christina Knight | May 12, 2016

UDPATED Sept 15.

For ten weeks this spring and summer, you can kick back and hear free live music in a little known oasis in busy Midtown Manhattan: Worldwide Plaza, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues and W. 49th and 50th Streets. The public plaza’s annual Summer Concert Series celebrates its Sweet 16 year from May 19 through September 22 on select Thursday afternoons (and two evenings).

Worldwide Plaza
The peaceful respite with a sculpture water fountain and more than 40 shady trees is a perfect spot for an al fresco coffee or bite to eat. There are plenty of public tables and chairs for take-out meals, and Mother Burger or Blockheads on the plaza offer indoor/outdoor service. The setting is a breath of fresh air in the Midtown grid, just under a 10-minute walk and a world apart from Times Square’s busy bus tour and comedy show barkers, costume characters, and TKTS line for Broadway tickets. The subway station 50th Street on the C/E line leaves you a half-block from Worldwide Plaza.

Read on for the concert line-up, nearby spots for lunch and plaza amenities.

Summer Concert Series16 Schedule

All performances are on a Thursday, 12-2pm, except for the August 11 and September 8 performances, which run 6-8pm. Worldwide Plaza is between Eighth and Ninth Avenues and W. 49th and 50th Streets.

May 19: Baby Soda – Classic New Orleans Jazz Band

You can also catch the band Baby Soda at venues in Williamsburg in Brooklyn. On June 19, Baby Soda is booked at the Rainbow Room’s Bar SixtyFive for brunch.

June 2: Ken Peplowski Quartet – Clarinetist Setting the Standard

“Ken Peplowski is arguably the greatest living jazz clarinetist” said Russell Davies, BBC2, in August 2013. Grab this chance to hear clarinetist Ken Peplowski on the plaza. Some of his other summer dates include Sunset Jazz at Newport Beach, CA, and an evening with pianist Bill Charlap at the 92nd Street Y.

June 16: Excelsis – New Percussion

These four female percussionists join the influences of their home countries of Poland, Canada-US, Mexico and Japan to create fiery music on marimbas, drums, cymbals, xylophones, and vibraphones. Excelsis has been hailed as “one of the most innovative and exciting percussion ensembles to emerge in the golden age of chamber music for percussion.”

July 7: NY Music Festival – Summer Highlights

See highlights of music-theater shows that the NY Musical Festival (formerly NY Musical Theater Festival) is producing July 11 through August 7 in venues throughout New York City. Learn more on the festival web site.

July 14: “Back to the Garden” – Music of Women of the 60s and Broadway

Back to the Garden is a seasoned band that goes back in time to 1960s classics of the Woodstock era and you can hear their covers from the album Back to the Garden 1969 on the band’s website. For this concert, think women who reigned in the 60s, like Joan Baez and Janis Joplin. The band will be touring in California this summer.

July 18: Andy Suzuki & The Method – Indie Artist

The band is fronted by songwriting duo of Andy Suzuki, a half-Japanese half-Jewish vocalist/guitarist/pianist from Maryland, and Kozza Babumba, the grandson of Grammy Award-winning Nigerian percussionist, Babatunde Olatunji. Hear tracks from the album Born out of Mischief on Soundcloud.

August 11, 6-8pm: Nanny Assis & Friends – Samba to Celebrate the Rio Olympics

Bahia, Brazil native Nanny Assis is one of the top percussionists from his country. He’ll having you moving to Bossa Nova, Brazilian Jazz, Forro and other Afro-Brazilian sounds to keep you in shape for the Olympic games (August 5-21).

August 25: Shayna Steele – Singer with Soul

Welcome Shayna Steele back from her European tour this past May. She’s now working on her third studio album.

September 8, 6-8pm: Gordon Webster – Swing Band with Dancers

Get ready to dance this evening. Famous on the Lindy Hop dance music scene, Gordon Webster is one of the city’s and the world’s best swing pianists.

September 22: Blues and Soul with Shayna Steele

Update: The talented blues and soul singer Shayna Steele who wowed the Worldwide Plaza audiences on August 25 returns for a second concert. (Originally scheduled for this date was Arias on the Plaza.)


Nearby Take-Out and On-Plaza Restaurants

Blockheads – San Francisco-style Mexican fare. Full bar. On Worldwide Plaza, north side (50th Street), with indoor/outdoor service.

Donna Bells Pastry – Take-out. Southern-inspired baked goods, breakfast biscuits, sandwiches and soups. 49th Street.

Just Salad – Take-out. Local and organic ingredients are among the build-your-own and curated salad options. Also serves wrap sandwiches and soups. 49th Street.

Mother Burger – Burgers, hot dogs, chicken and fries. Full bar. On Worldwide Plaza, south side (49th Street), with indoor/outdoor service.

More About Worldwide Plaza and Amenities

  • Architect of complex – Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Companies located in the taller tower include WNET/Thirteen, the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore, and the Japanese investment bank Nomura.
  • Trees – 2 Japanese Maples, 4 Katsuras, 16 Honey Locusts, 20 Japanese Zelkovas
  • Water Fountain Sculpture – The Four Seasons by Sidney Simon
  • Public Restrooms – Ask Security Staff on plaza to unlock the private restrooms located at east side of plaza, near plaza entrance to One Worldwide Plaza building.