Studio Bell is, to say the least, not your average venue. There’s the architectural impact of the building itself, which plays no small role. There’s the range of cool spaces available for rent throughout the entire building, from the ground floor right up to the Skybridge. And as home to the National Music Centre, there are also five floors worth of musical collections and exhibitions, a performance theatre, and recording studios for working musicians.

Hosting your event in this venue for the first time is likely to create feelings of “I can’t believe I get to host my event in this venue” and you can expect that sense of wonder to hang on, even once you’ve been inside Studio Bell multiple times (we’re vouching for that). For a look at how Studio Bell came to be, and why it should be topping your must-see list, here’s a little more on how it all began, and how it all comes together for you.

From one pipe organ to the National Music Centre
Back in the 1980s, Calgary’s Jack Singer Concert Hall purchased and installed a pipe organ known as the Carthy Organ, and this purchase became the catalyst for not only the International Organ Festival and Competition, but for the Concert Hall to begin acquiring a keyboard collection. This collection broadened over time to include all types of musical instruments and eventually evolved into the Cantos Music Museum, where the collection was available to the public. In 2012, Cantos became the National Music Centre, and as the collection and the Centre grew, so did the need for a more accessible and visionary space.

Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre, was opened in Calgary’s East Village on Canada Day 2016. The building was designed by Portland architect Brad Cloepfil, and built around the historic King Eddy Hotel, with a Skybridge that crosses the street between the two halves of the building. You can take a great video tour of the building, filmed by The JUNO Awards just prior to the grand opening, right here. Today you’ll find a large permanent collection – including everything from one of Elton John’s pianos to the Rolling Stones’ mobile recording studio – as well as temporary exhibits, a stunning performance hall, and recording studios where musicians are able to not only record but to actually use instruments from the Centre’s collection.

And as epic as all of this sounds, the best news is that it was all designed with events in mind.

The vision for Studio Bell
If you are lucky enough to speak with Cynthia Klassen, Manager of Visitor Services and Venue Rentals, you’ll witness firsthand the truly genuine, almost unbelievable enthusiasm that she and the rest of the staff have for the Centre and its mission. When developing the Centre’s new home, its leadership had a vision for sustainability and public accessibility that always involved rentals. “Right from the start,” says Cynthia, “we had a plan for events. The building is completely open!

By opening up the building, Studio Bell has been able to host events for up to 2,500 people, and the staff is not only open to but excited about finding the perfect solution for your event – a solution that might not be immediately obvious to you. Cynthia notes that the Performance Hall, one of the most popular rentals, is usable as much more than just a concert hall: “We’ve rented it for receptions and corporate AGMs – we’ve turned it into a dance party!” Likewise, the drop-in area of the Centre faces the corner of the street and has an exceptional amount of natural light, which Cynthia points out makes it an ideal spot for early evening or daytime events like pop-up concerts and receptions.

Rather than send over a list of available rental spaces, Cynthia’s usual process is to talk with you about your event, and use the information to recommend a space or combination of spaces that is going to go way above and beyond what you first imagined. In fact, she notes that most often when someone comes in to tour a potential space, they end up blown away by the rest of the building, which leads to a much longer tour and entirely new ideas. Cynthia and her team will help you imagine what’s possible, will be as flexible as is humanly possible to make your dreams come true, and everyone you encounter will blow you away with their enthusiasm and passion for the Centre itself.

Custom extras that will make your event go next-level
To get you excited – and help you get what we are gushing about here – below are just a few of the custom experiences the Studio Bell team is up for creating:

  • While the exhibitions are most often closed during events, you can arrange to bring in an educator to conduct private tours for your guests. These tours can be customized (that’s probably no surprise to you at this point) to focus on anything from the architecture of the building to the keyboards collection.
  • The Kimble Theatre Organ, on permanent display at the Centre, is a massive pipe organ that occupies an entire room, and regular daily organ demos take place for the public. However, private demos can be arranged during your event.
  • The room that houses the Rolling Stones’ mobile recording studio can be rented for a cocktail reception or used as an activation area for smaller groups – you can spin records that were recorded using this mobile studio for a super meta, super unforgettable moment.
  • They have even closed off the street in order to use the outdoor space and circulate guests between the two sides of the building.

Curiosity piqued yet?

The details: catering, AV, lighting, and loading
Now that your head is firmly in the clouds, some of the basics:

  • Due to the museum aspect of the building, there is not a kitchen on-site, but they have a list of preferred caterers who are experienced and familiar with working in Studio Bell, and know how to make sure this part of your event is as top-shelf as everything else.
  • The Performance Hall has theatre lighting and great in-house sound equipment.
  • If you’re taking advantage of multiple spaces, get some great tips on planning your load-in process in our recent post here.

If you’ve got an event in mind that feels like the perfect chance to get inside Studio Bell, plan some time to tour the space and talk with Cynthia’s team about your event. We’ve been lucky enough to work throughout all five floors of the National Music Centre, and the rooftop at the King Eddy, so if you’re looking for ideas, we’re full of those and excited for another chance to do something unexpected at this unique venue. Get in touch, and let’s dream up the next big thing.

Photo credits:
Leblond Studio
Boom Goes the Drum