Multisensory Experience on the Program at National Music Centre

The National Music Centre defies categorization.

Part museum, with performance spaces, a broadcast facility, studios and classrooms, Studio Bell is home to approximately 2,000 rare instruments and artifacts, including a fantastical Kimball Theatre Organ and one of Elton John’s pianos. One corner of the ground floor houses the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. Exhibits on five floors showcase Canada’s musical talent, the history of music in Canada and the role of music in the everyday lives of Canadians.


The most regular opportunity to hear how sound travels through the space is during a scheduled Kimball Theatre Organ demonstration (Weds through Sun, subject to musician availability). For other listening opportunities, check what’s on for a current list of upcoming musical and speaking events.


The building itself is music for the eyes – a fantastic juxtaposition and melding of old and new, curves and angles, blues and browns. Curious about the design? Be sure to ask for a copy of the Architectural Overview brochure at the entry desk.

As for the exhibits, bring your sense of fun and adventure – see how well your Wii Rock Band skills transfer IRL to a full drum set; use your entire body to control a light and sound show; apply your maker skills to create an entirely new instrument; or sing your heart out in the sound proof sound booth (I can vouch from personal experience that it has way better acoustics than a shower).


Thanks to @keightyen, members of the Beakerhead photo crew had a couple of hours to explore, experience and photograph public and behind-the-scenes spaces one morning. She was so disciplined about powering down her camera and enjoying everything on offer:

One behind-the-scenes stop was the electronic music studio available to artists-in-residence:

Another special stop was atop the King Edward, a long-time cornerstone of Calgary’s music scene, which was taken down, restored and rebuilt as part of the National Music Centre. This was where the juxtaposition and integration of new and old was most evident.

While it was a real treat to photograph the space when Bell Studio was closed to the public, here’s why I plan a return visit during regular hours when the sun is shining:

  • To hear the Kimball Theatre Organ;
  • To get more hands-on with the interactive exhibits; and
  • To experience Solar Drones when it’s activated by the sunshine.


If you’ve been to the National Music Centre since it opened on Canada Day 2016, what else would you add to my list of things to do at NMC? 

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