The lobby Image by: Brandon Wallis
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.
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
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!