Culture & Entertainment

Calgary's Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre, opens its doors

Studio Bell National Music Centre

The lobby Image by: Brandon Wallis Author: Andrea Karr

Culture & Entertainment

Calgary's Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre, opens its doors

The brand new National Music Centre, which found its home at Studio Bell, is the first place of its kind in Canada.

July is a big month for the music scene in Calgary—and in Canada in general. Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre, has flung open its doors to welcome what will hopefully be 150,000 visitors each year to its east block, a centre meant to showcase the power of music in Canada. 

The architecture

It's a special place, not least for its architecture. The building was designed by Brad Cloepfil and has two major inspiration points: western Canadian landscape (the Rocky Mountains, the hoodoos in the badlands) and musical instruments (the architect dissected a secondhand trombone and used the pieces when creating his model). The 3D modelling for Studio Bell was so advanced that the build may not have been possible even a decade ago.



Gorgeous terracotta tiles/Credit: Brandon Wallis

Another important detail is the 220,000 terracotta tiles that line the interior and exterior of the building. They were manufactured in Germany and custom glazed in Amsterdam and come in two different tones—rust and platinum—and have an iridescent quality that changes as the natural light moves throughout the day.

The exhibits

The five levels of the centre are meant to celebrate music in Canada, not just Canadian music. "That's an important distinction," says Mary Kapusta, senior manager of marketing and communications. "We celebrate a lot of Canadian music icons, but we also have John and Yoko in Montreal, which is an incredible music story that happened in Canada. There's the Rolling Stones and their relationship to Toronto. We have Elton John's piano upstairs. They're a way for us to talk about songwriting and the relationship between lyrics and music, and maybe we can then talk about Joni Mitchell."



An interactive exhibition space/Credit: Leblond Studio

The centre has 22 exhibition galleries that feature everything from instrument interactives (you can learn to play guitar, sing in a vocal booth or mix your own track) to memorabilia and several halls of fame (the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame).

The west block

The other half of the building features three recording studios and will be used for an artist residency program featuring emerging and established artists. "Our collection [of musical artifacts] is the carrot," says Kapusta. "The pieces are super rare and people want the opportunity to play them." Ideally, these artists will perform in the east block's 300-seat performance hall, which can be closed off for private performances or opened up so that the entire east block can enjoy the music. 



The 300-seat performance space/Credit: Brandon Wallis

Why it matters

A physical home for the many Canadian music halls of fame has never existed before and they've never worked together before either. "It's unbelievable the kind of talent that Canada produces," says Kapusta. "We need to celebrate our history and preserve our icons. This space is all about experiencing the power and fun of music."

Watch for Canadian Living's fashion photo shoot at Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre, in the October 2016 issue!

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Culture & Entertainment

Calgary's Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre, opens its doors