For decades, the Ithaca Gun Company tested their shotguns behind the plant on Lake Street; the shot fell into Fall Creek (a tributary of Cayuga Lake) at the base of Ithaca Falls. Lead contaminated the water supply, air and land. A major lead clean-up effort sponsored by the United States Superfund took place from 2002 to 2004, managed through the Environmental Protection Agency. The old Ithaca Gun building has been dismantled. It was scheduled to be replaced by development of an apartment complex on the cleaned land.
The former Morse Chain company factory on South Hill, now owned by Emerson Power Transmission, was the site of extensive groundwater and soil contamination from its industrial operations. Emerson Power Transmission has been working with the state and South Hill residents to determine the extent and danger of the contamination and aid in cleanup.
In 2004, Gayraud Townsend, a 20-year-old senior in Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, was sworn in as alderman of the city council, the first black male to be elected to the council and the youngest African American to be elected to office in the United States. He served his full term and has mentored other student politicians. In 2011 Cornell Class of 2009 graduate Svante Myrick was elected as the youngest mayor of the city of Ithaca.
Ithaca is the home of the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra.
The Cornell Concert Series has been hosting musicians and ensembles of international stature since 1903. For its initial 84 years, the series featured Western classical artists exclusively. In 1987, however, the series broke with tradition to present Ravi Shankar and has since grown to encompass a broader spectrum of the worlds great musics. Now, it balances of a mix of Western classical music, traditions from around the world, jazz, and new musics in these genres. In a single season, Cornell Concert Series presents performers ranging from the Leipzig Tomanerchor and Danish Quartet to Simon Shaheen, Vida Guitar Quartet, and Eighth Blackbird.
The School of Music at Ithaca College was founded in 1892 by William Egbert as a music conservatory on Buffalo Street. Among the degree programs offered are those in Performance, Theory, Music Education, and Composition. Since 1941, the School of Music has been accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music.
Ithaca's Suzuki school, Ithaca Talent Education, provides musical training for children of all ages and also teacher training for undergraduate and graduate-level students. The Community School of Music and Art uses an extensive scholarship system to offer classes and lessons to any student, regardless of age, background, economic status, or artistic ability.
A number of musicians call Ithaca home, most notably Samite of Uganda, The Burns Sisters, The Horse Flies, Johnny Dowd, Mary Lorson, cellist Hank Roberts, reggae band John Brown's Body, Kurt Riley, and X Ambassadors. Old-time music is a staple and folk music is featured weekly on WVBR-FM's Bound for Glory, North America's longest-running live folk concert broadcast. The Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance, hosted by local band Donna the Buffalo, is held annually during the third week in July in the nearby village of Trumansburg, with more than 60 local, national and international acts.