New Page for Carnegie Library
Friday, March 31, 2006
After years of planning, organizers of a proposed National Music Center announced yesterday that they are moving to the former Carnegie Library and starting performances, classes and exhibitions this spring.
The center signed a three-year lease with the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., to use most of the landmark building at Massachusetts and New York avenues NW for its programs. The Historical Society restored the building for $24 million and previously shared it with the City Museum, a short-lived attempt to tell Washington's story. The museum opened in 2003 but closed two years later, largely because of low attendance.
"The Gig," as the center's public programs will be known, will test the waters for a more permanent, comprehensive museum of music. Thornell Page, co-chairman of the society's board, said the blend of music events and the history society will give the building "an energy" it needs to revive its public profile. The center will pay the historical society $400,000 to $500,000 a year.
The joint occupancy would be another element in the downtown's rebirth and a chance to showcase the city's musical history, as well as train its future songwriters and players, Mayor Anthony A. Williams said. "I'm proud to play a role in this wonderful new opportunity for two institutions to grow and prosper in this building," he said.
Joining the mayor were officials from the Yamaha Corp. of America and the Los Angeles-based InTune Foundation, which promotes music and arts education in schools. Those partners, along with the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, will provide materials for the programs, said James Weaver, executive director of the center.
David Bergstrom, corporate planning manager for Yamaha, said the company is donating instruments and recording equipment. "I hope this musical gathering place will have an impact on the city," Bergstrom said.
A studio will be built on the second floor for television, radio and Internet broadcasts, to be produced by the InTune Foundation and geared to teenagers. Gene Maillard, InTune Foundation president, said "B InTune TV" will be seen on WTTG-Fox 5 beginning in September, giving local talent a chance for a national audience.
The music center's programs will start in May, Page said.
The city-owned building has a theater, which will be used by the music center and the historical society. The society will maintain its library and gallery.
The center organized a two-day event of music from gospel quartets, mariachi bands and klezmer bands in December at the library that was successful enough for the city to broker the new partnership. The space has also been used for cabarets and special events since the society renovated the building.
"This takes the discussion from idea to reality," said Michael Hodges, chief operating officer for the city's Office of Planning and Economic Development.