Sam Beam is fast becoming all the rage. Earlier this spring his album as Iron & Wine, The Creek Drank the Cradle, charted at number 81 in the Village Voice's prestigious "Pazz and Jop" poll for the best of 2002, and his subsequent national tour engendered even more praise from fans and critics. Some wondered how a man who writes quiet, reflective country and folk tunes filled with vividly elliptical imagery could come from the land of Girls Gone Wild, but Miamians know he's part of a folk tradition that's unusually strong in these parts. Though Beam doesn't sing in Spanish, he fits right in.

JJ. Andre. Jorge. They've put together a "Latin" sound all their own, a slinky-violined, smoothly percussioned, poply tropical sound that sets them apart from the rest. And though the world knows them through their two outstanding CDs (the last, Caraluna, got them serious airtime) and tours, only Miami can call them "local." And how much more Miami can you get than this sound made by Jorge Villamizar from Colombia, André Lopes from Brazil, and José Javier Freire from Puerto Rico, who hooked up at the University of Miami. The trio is currently red hot, and we call them the best Latin band.

Amazing to think that what began 36 years ago as the Great Artists Series at Miami Beach's Temple Beth Sholom has evolved into one of South Florida's premier purveyors of classical music and dance. Founded and led by impresaria and onetime opera singer Judy Drucker, the Concert Association of Florida packs a two-county punch, filling the seats of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and the Jackie Gleason Theater of the Performing Arts with eager culture vultures by presenting the highest caliber of artists. Among the luminaries who have graced us with their presence just this past season: sopranos Kathleen Battle and Renée Fleming; violinist Itzhak Perlman; pianists Joseph Kalichstein, Evgeny Kissin, and Andre Watts; cellist Mstislav Rostropovich; and conductors Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic and Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra. And that's a just few names in the musical arena. Visiting dance companies have included Arthur Mitchell's Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, and Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. An outreach program wherein master musicians provide classes to local youngsters means that continuity of audience and players is somewhat assured. How to thank Drucker for zipping her aria-singing lips more than a generation ago and devoting herself to the cause of high culture in this town? A simple "Brava!" should suffice.

With the ever-evolving form of rock, it's not a stretch to say a band that combines hard guitar with house beats and rap lyrics falls into this category. This band's not afraid to try that mix of hip-hop and drum and bass and then kick in a few guitar riffs to back it up. The new technology age is here, and this band fits right in. To top it off, the members sing in Miami Spanglish and blend four nationalities, not including their parents'.

Readers Choice: The Voz

One of the cornerstones of Miami's electronic music scene is Greg Chin, a.k.a. Stryke. He is an original among a sea of new jacks and biters. The classically trained pianist pioneered electronic music shows for college radio (at UM and FIU stations) in the early Nineties. He crafted some of the first locally produced techno tracks when most people didn't know a break beat from a 4/4 kick. His first album, Reality Base, introduced the raspy, raw techno scene to tight, crisp, steely compositions like the dance track classic "Acid Musique." His last release, Pages From the Blue Diary, a concept album about lost love, injected deep emotion into a genre of music often accused of being cold and thoughtless. After dealing with label bull for years, he started his own, Substance Recordings, in the late Nineties. Substance as in over style, but it isn't that Stryke doesn't have a mad sense of aesthetic. His live performances captivate all levels of listening. His ability to capture rhythm in a cerebral context is entrancing and his subtle use of various forms of electronica -- trance, techno, house, electro, drum and bass -- ensure he'll stick around no matter what turns the music takes.

Readers Choice: Out of the Anonymous

They aren't from Miami. They hail from Fort Lauderdale. And they may not be innovative, plying a brand of sleazy garage punk (à la the Queers circa Grow Up) that's been bandied about for years. But it doesn't matter. The Heatseekers have that elusive quality, that totally unquantifiable rock and roll thing that moves audiences and propels their songs along like a drunk in a '57 Chevy, careening between the highway guardrails. They go down like bourbon and make you want to fuck or fight or both. Josh Menendez, garage-rock DJ and the driving force behind the mod-themed weekly party Revolver, says the Heatseekers always get the crowd going. "They have a lot of energy and a great stage presence. Definitely one of the best shows in town."

Readers Choice: dear starlet

The recent passing of legendary producer Tom Dowd returned the Hit Factory Criteria to the media spotlight, reminding us all that the North Miami studio was the creative birthing spot for so many seminal albums, from Derek and the Dominos' 1970 Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs to the Bee Gees' 1977 Saturday Night Fever soundtrack to Bob Dylan's 1997 aesthetic return-to-form comeback Time Out of Mind. Yet what often gets overlooked is the appeal of the studio itself. Indeed it wasn't just Dowd's own production techniques that had drawn a musical who's who to work with him here. As important as the sounds being laid down on any session is the equipment being used to capture it -- and this studio's analog-style mixing boards, vintage microphones, and sumptuous wooden acoustics have artists from Christina Aguilera to DMX catching flights into Miami when it comes time to record. Accordingly, studio time at the Hit Factory Criteria is pricey, and a few weeks' worth of work can easily produce a hefty six-figure bill; this isn't the spot to cut your garage band's demo. But if you're on a major-label budget, the dizzyingly infatuated look engineers take on when gabbing about the equipment at hand seems justification enough for running up that tab.

Frank Consola is the hardest-working man in Miami radio. At least nonprofit radio. He's on the air twenty hours a week at community-supported WDNA-FM, Miami's "jazz and rhythm station." Monday through Friday Consola is at the console hosting 88 Jazz Place from 7:00 to 11:00 a.m. He does this as a volunteer -- without pay. How's that for dedication? The Brooklyn-born Consola has been pitching in at the station since the late Eighties. How's that for commitment? The show itself is an eclectic mix of jazz styles, varying from day to day. One highlight is the "Top Ten at 10," a Wednesday feature at 10:00 a.m. in which he counts down the week's top-selling jazz albums.

Unlike many a hip-hop producer, Clemetson, a.k.a. Supersoul, can't be categorized. He can make anything from a murky bass homage to Magic Mike to a dub track reminiscent of Adrian Sherwood's On-U Sound. For him hip-hop is a state of mind, even though he's been laboring under the "downtempo" epithet ever since he first made waves on Moonshine's memorable Trip-Hop Test series in the mid-Nineties. But thanks to the growing notoriety of the "Miami sound" in cutting-edge and experimental-music circles, Clemetson is building a new reputation as founder of his own label, Metatronix, and as one of the most unpredictable and enigmatic beat-makers in town.

January 2002 saw Miami's only full-time classical station, WTMI (93.1 FM), convert to modern dance music. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and for a time the occasional hour of classical programming on public radio was the only place to get a taste of Brahms. In September 2002, however, WKAT switched from Spanish-language radio to 24-hour classical programming, including one hour reserved for playing symphonic works in their entirety without interruptions. "It's ballsy of them to run something without commercials, considering that they're a commercial radio station," says host Matt Gitkin, a University of Miami theater professor who also hosts WKAT's The Open Road, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Gitkin got the gig because he could "pronounce the composers' names and the names of the pieces" and says that for his first few months on the air he had constant phone calls from grateful music fans. "People really missed having something like this on the air -- especially something like Symphony at Seven, where you might get a 36-minute piece with no breaks."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®