New facility prepares to open new home for music lovers

Calgary’s National Music Centre (NMC) is on the move, literally and figuratively.

The NMC is currently located at First Street and 11th Avenue S.E. but will soon be moving to Studio Bell, its sleek new home at Fifth Street and Ninth Avenue, where it will envelop itself around the former King Edward Hotel, a former blues hot spot in Calgary.

Adam Fox, director of programs at the NMC, said the move was the result of needing a bigger space while also trying to build a home for music in Canada. Being able to preserve aspects of the famous King Edward Hotel was also key for the NMC.

“Everything just kind of fell into place. It just made sense that the King Eddy would anchor a home for a national music centre in Calgary,” said Fox. 

Fox adds that big plans for 2016 and beyond have been made with the new location in mind.NMC and King Eddy supporters can buy reclaimed bricks for $250. These bricks are to be featured on the Cornerstones Wall inside the newly restored, original “Home of the Blues.” Photo by Melissa Kadey“We’ve got some pretty bold aspirations as far as what we hope to create as far as the impact for local, regional, national, and international audiences and artists,” he said. “I think in order to begin to realize those aspirations we need a facility that is world class and that provides 

the space, technology and the staff to deliver on those promises.”

Kerry Clarke, artistic director for the Calgary Folk Festival, believes living up to these promises and self-made expectations might be one of the NMC’s biggest challenges. However, Clarke said the project will likely help change the overarching image of Calgary’s music scene.

“It gives the city a landing pad for music, another important music venue and will complete the Music Mile,” she said, referring to plans to unofficially rename Ninth Avenue S.E., which leads to Inglewood and a number of venues, including Festival Hall, home of the Calgary Folk Fest.

“It’ll make Calgary more of a music destination and likely help change the perception of Calgary from our own citizens, and outsiders as a cultural backwater,” said Clarke.

Kenna Burima, a local musician and songwriter, also thinks there may be some challenges with this $191 million project when it comes to opportunities for local musicians.

“I know we can all get excited about high profile international artists being brought to Calgary for performances and residences, but to me what’s more important is a direct involvement with local musicians. Get them into the space, interacting with the collection, paying them a fair wage [and] promoting their careers,” said Burima. “Calgary has a very diverse music scene and to me it’s going to be a challenge to make sure all the players are being heard and supported.” 

Although the NMC may face some challenges and has set high standards for itself, the completion of this new facility is anxiously awaited.

The new National Music Centre building is to be 160,000 square-feet with daily performances, interactive educational programming, and a collection of over 2,000 rare artifacts and instruments. Photo by Melissa Kadey

“I think all of us in the music scene are excited about the new performance venues…as the NMC promises to house within their beautiful building,” Burima said. “I hope whatever they do, they will keep in mind consideration of how their work at NMC will amplify the work of local musicians.”

 Fox sees a bright future for the NMC and is excited for the public, and artists, to see what is in store. He believes Calgary is ready for a state-of-the-art musical museum and venue.

“I don’t think you have to be in Toronto or Ottawa to have something national. And to be honest, I think there is the desire and appetite to make it happen [in Calgary],” said Fox.

mkadey@cjournal.ca 

The editor responsible for this article is Kate Holowaty, kholowaty@cjournal.ca