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A photo tour of the National Music Centre

By Jason Herring, photos by Jarrett Edmund, April 5 2016 —

The National Music Centre is a marvel. The building opened its doors during the Juno Awards to invite members of the media and the music industry for a sneak peek of the centre. The NMC is housed within the Studio Bell building, located in Calgary’s East Village.


Though the NMC won’t open to the public until July, director of collections Jesse Moffatt says they plan to complete the building by the end of June. Staff are currently focusing on transporting items and constructing exhibits.


The NMC spans five floors and features a design meant to appeal to both aesthetics and acoustics. The design — headed up by architect Brad Cloepfil — has won a number of international architecture awards.

“Five years ago, 10 years ago, this architecture wouldn’t have been possible,” Moffatt says. “It’s only because of advances in 3D modelling that it can exist at all.”

But there’s a hefty price-tag to the building — one in the neighbourhood of $191-million.


There are a number of concert halls inside the NMC, but none are bigger than the 300-seat venue on the second floor of the building. Because of the building’s design, music played in the venue can be heard clearly throughout the entire NMC.

For private functions and concerts, though, there are extendable walls that can close off the venue from the rest of the building.


Like the old NMC, there are a number of rooms throughout the building’s five floors that let visitors use instruments and experiment with sound. Moffatt thinks this emphasis on interaction represents the future of museums.

“We want this to be a 21st century museum,” Moffatt says.

Some exhibits are still displayed traditionally, however, showcasing textiles and collection items behind glass cases.


A large component of the NMC is its wide collection of items significant to the history of music. These range from Elton John’s songwriting piano to the largest synthesizer in the world, which was used by Stevie Wonder on many of his albums.

There are also recording studios in the NMC where musicians can apply for artist-in-residency positions and use items from the collection.

“Our collection spans 450 years of music technology. So an artist might come and use, say, a 16th century harpsichord right up to modern electronics,” Moffatt says. “They can use those musical instruments as forces of a new inspiration.”


The three halls of fame recognizing Canadian music — the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame — are all located within one room of the NMC. The names are placed on plaques in the room, with plenty of blank spaces for future inductees.

Names are scattered throughout the room with little apparent order.

“It’s pretty much random,” Moffatt says.


Each year at the Junos, a new artist is inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. This year Burton Cummings — frontman and lead songwriter of popular ‘70s rock band The Guess Who — was honoured. He was inducted at the NMC on April 1, where he put his name on the plaque himself.

“I share this and dedicate this to my hometown Winnipeg,” Cummings said during his Junos acceptance speech on April 3. “I learned everything in Winnipeg that would equip me for what was going to happen. This really belongs in Winnipeg.”


The National Music Centre is slated for a July 2016 opening. More concrete details are expected in the coming months.

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