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Studio Bell’s National Music Centre Proudly Showcases Homegrown Canadian Music at its Best

People, achievements and milestones should be celebrated.  If anyone in the city of Calgary should be recognized for doing this intentionally, well, and on a grand scale, I think my vote might go to Studio Bell, the proud home of our National Music Centre (NMC).

Since the formal opening of their breathtaking location on the corner of 9th Ave and 4rd St SE in 2016, the NMC have honoured and celebrated innumerable individual artists, bands, genres and instruments of all-things-music.  Their venue in the East Village not only enables them to do this on a grand scale, but it also makes us Calgarians and Canadians proud of the icons that are honoured and remembered here.

Canada has bred an enormous – if not, disproportionate – number of music legends relative to the size of her population.  Our flag can certainly fly proud when one starts reviewing the honours list in some noteworthy categories: singers, song-writers, singer-songwriters, bands, genres.  I’d do a gross injustice to compiling such a list, even if I were to use a good online search engine for this purpose.  However, that’s just one of several great reasons to visit Studio Bell, the experts who present and showcase this so well.

As a new Canadian citizen I have access to visit a wide selection of museums and parks free of charge through the Cultural Access Pass (Canoo) program, available to all new citizens in their first year after taking oath.  I used my pass to pay a whistle-stop visit to the NMC recently, sadly leaving insufficient time to do it justice.  None the less, here is a little insight into three exhibits where I lingered longest.

Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame (CSHF)

This national, bilingual, non-profit organization seeks to honour and celebrate Canadian songwriters, the only Hall of Fame of its type in the country.  Located on the top floor of the building, the write-ups, names and songs on display may keep you occupied for a significant chunk of your visit.

Homegrown Country

This exhibit has been on display since the summer of 2019 when Calgary hosted the Canadian Country Music Awards.  The featured exhibit can be visited until January 6th, 2020, and even offers a fun selection of displays and interactive activities that you can participate in. 

Had I been there with my wife, I’m sure we would have tried our hand at compiling a few lyrics to a country song using the word prompts and themes provided.  Whether we would have performed it somewhere on stage or even in the Centre’s recording sound booths is unlikely. 

Some visitors may want to chance their arm at swinging their partner around the dance floor to the tunes of some fine country music in a make-shift barn setting.

Discover the poetry in some of Country Music’s most-love lyrics
Meet the 2019 inductees to the CCM Hall of Fame

Discover more about this featured exhibition here.

Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Bass Exhibit

I’m afraid that I’m no bass guitar expert.  So, when one happens to come across a bass guitar exhibit like the featured exhibit on display at the NMC until January 2020, be prepared to discover that there’s more to a bass guitar than just a pretty body, a long neck and four heavy duty strings.  It seems that Geddy Lee – lead vocalist, bassist and keyboardist of the Canadian rock group Rush – knows a thing or two about these sweet instruments.  Any bass-lover needs to get themselves to the NMC to check out this exhibit featuring 26 of Geddy Lee’s vast selection of hundreds of vintage bass guitars.

There’s always more to see

This visit to Studio Bell was also my first occasion when I found myself standing alone in the 2nd floor performance hall.  I took a moment to appreciate what a cool venue this must be for an intimate performance!

Discover the live events and concerts that the NMC will be showcasing in the coming weeks here.

While you explore the acoustic wonder of this grand edifice, don’t forget to gaze upwards every now and again to appreciate the detail, and remind yourself of the magnitude of the vast space. 

It’s worthwhile getting in on one of the hour-long daily guided tours (free with your day pass entry fee).  The tour takes you through the four floors and multiple exhibits of Studio Bell, where you will discover more about the architecture, history and the vast NMC collection.

Navigate around Studio Bell using their interactive museum map here.

I AM CALGARY features Studio Bell in some of our self-guided exploratory “tours” of downtown Calgary:

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