Music affects us all. It’s the background to good times (and bad), it creates mood and ambience, and it provides an escape from our everyday realities. Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre, opened in Calgary in 2016 and has been creating a space to celebrate and enjoy all kinds of music ever since.

The Studio Bell building is architecturally lovely and award-winning. The historic King Edward Hotel, along with an adjacent piece of land for a new building, was redeveloped for Studio Bell. Soaring ceilings draw your eye upwards and the walls rise in subtle curves, maximizing light, gravity, and acoustics. The architect claims inspiration for the building from Canada’s iconic landscapes – the rhythm of waves & lakeshores, the living silence of the prairies to the vast Arctic, and the energy of Canada’s urban spaces.

Much like a science centre or museum, the National Music Centre offers a host of interactive activities and fascinating displays, that even the non-musically minded can enjoy. (I am speaking from experience here!) Thankfully, the love of music can be appreciated by anyone.

Studio Bell (Family Fun Calgary)

There’s even a flowchart to help you get that song out of your head!

With 22 000 square feet, the National Music Centre collection and exhibitions include 22 exhibition stages about music in Canada and the power of music. Five floors of Studio Bell tell the story of music and invite visitors to participate. A piano from Elton John? Check it out. Shania Twain’s sparkly Maple Leafs outfit? You bet.

Plan your visit to coincide with the demonstration of the Kimball Theatre Organ. It’s one of the largest artifacts in the National Music Centre and was manufactured in 1924 as an accompaniment to silent films. Every day the centre is open, subject to musician availability, the organ demonstration will hold you enthralled. It’s truly an impressive experience. From Wednesday to Friday, the demonstration takes place at 3 pm and on Saturday and Sunday, there are two demonstrations, one at 12 pm and one at 3 pm.

Studio Bell (Family Fun Calgary)

The magnificent Kimball Theatre Organ! (It really does fill a room.)

Wondering what to do at Studio Bell when you get there?

  • Explore the five floors of exhibitions that tell the story of music in Canada
  • Enjoy the incredible views and breathtaking architecture
  • Test out an instrument—rock the guitar, mix a track, and sing along in a vocal booth
  • See how movement and music enhance one another
  • Decide if a daily tour is for you and don’t miss the famous Kimball Theatre Organ demo
  • See the temporary exhibitions and visit during the special event concert days
  • Check out memorabilia and artifacts from three Canadian Music Halls of Fame
Studio Bell (Family Fun Calgary)

It takes concentration to properly mix a song!

We visited during one of the lovely Calgary snowstorms that come around from time to time, and we had Studio Bell nearly to ourselves. The kids had a fabulous time exploring the exhibits. They practiced mixing songs, admired the organ, and tried the piano, the guitar and the drum kit. But the all-time favourite activity was singing in the vocal booth. It was only with great coercion we moved on to the next floor (and now I have some great videos to bring out in their teenage years!).

The National Music Centre at Studio Bell is an entertaining and engaging way to spend an afternoon. Come sing along with the music of Canada!

The National Music Centre at Studio Bell:

Address: 850 4 Street SE, Calgary, AB
Phone: 403-543-5115

Top Photo Courtesy of Tourism Calgary & Studio Bell