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Iconic Venues: Carnegie Hall

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There is an old joke in the music industry: A tourist asks a musician, “how do you get to Carnegie Hall?”. Musician replies, “Practice, Practice, Practice”.

Ask any classical musician and they’ll tell you, Carnegie Hall is the holy grail of performance venues. Only the top top talents in the world performs here, in this historic concert hall commissioned by Andrew Carnegie himself. Concert events are typically booked solid every night of the year across the 3 spaces that make up Carnegie Hall. Between the flagship Stern Auditorium, the smaller Zankel Hall, and the intimate Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall hosts over 800 concerts and events in any given year. Most of these performances are for classical music. The New York Philharmonic was based here for most almost a century before moving to Avery Fischer in the 70s, and contemporary classical musicians like Lang Lang and Yo Yo Ma have all skyrocketed to international acclaim after their performances in these halls.

Interestingly, Carnegie Hall has also played pivotal roles in the history of pop music. It brought jazz to the world at the turn of the 20th Century, booking major performances by the likes of Count Basie and Duke Ellington to sold out audiences. In 1964, Carnegie Hall brought English music to America by booking The Beatles for two shows, and have since then brought up other great rock talents like The Beach Boys and Chicago. Carnegie Hall also played a role in bringing up R&B, with performances of Ike & Tina Turner.

Influential concert venues can do for music what influential art galleries can do to paintings. They can become tastemakers of the industry, and by extension, tastemakers of the world in the subjects of their niche. Since the opening of Carnegie Hall in 1891, the venue has served as the platform of bringing up countless musicians and even entire movements in the evolution of music. The artistic directors who run these venues act as the curators of the music industry. They leverage the power of the venue on its patrons and use that power to elevate emerging musicians and acknowledge that they have made it.

On a broader scale, event venues serve in collective as the infrastructure to the events industry. The concert venues of any given city defines the music scene of that city, just as sport stadiums defines the local athletic scene, convention centers define the local meeting industry, and so on. All events require venues of one form or another. If neither Carnegie Hall nor Lincoln Center existed, then Manhattan would be a very different kind of city to the music world. The venue is the medium that brings together the content and the audience. In the case of music, the contents are the performers and their music, and the audiences are the patrons. Serving as the medium gives the directors of these venues the power to curate and produce experiences, and the influential of these venues like Carnegie Hall, end up defining the world.

See you at the next exploration!

Harry

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