New World Center celebrates one-year anniversary

Scenes from the opening of the New World Symphony building on Miami Beach. Photo: Tomas Loewy

A little more than a year has passed since the New World Symphony hosted its inaugural gala to celebrate its new home at the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center. Since then, the New World Center has established itself as one of the main hubs of Miami’s cultural arts community.

With innovative and experimental programs designed to intrigue current and future classical music lovers, artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony continue to use their space as a laboratory for classical music and to bring new audiences into the fray.

The goal has been clear – get people excited about classical music. Says New World Center Director of Communications Craig Hall, “We try to create an environment where people who might not have experienced classical music before would feel comfortable doing so.” The methods are varied: $2.50 mini concerts; “discovery” shows that are part concert, part lecture about the works being performed; the popular Pulse series, a collaboration between the symphony and electronic music trio Mercury Soul; free WallCasts of performances on the building’s exterior.

It’s a lux venue for an orchestral academy, with acoustics designed by Yasuhisa Toyota, a series of sail-shaped screens hovering over the stage to provide visual enhancement during concerts and a 7,000-square-foot projection wall on the building’s exterior.

But the New World Center has done more in the past year than provide classical music concerts. Family-friendly movies are screened outside on Wednesday nights; the glass-paned wall was used as a dance floor (of sorts) for avant-garde dance troupe Project Bandaloop, whose harnessed dancers twisted and twirled while suspended from the building’s roof in what was perhaps one of Sleepless Night 2011’s most talked-about performances.

Recently, Latin rocker Juanes used the space to tape his MTV Unplugged performance, drawing a different crowd of music lovers to enjoy the acoustics of the intimate 756-seat theater.

The new concert hall has been a boon for the orchestral academy’s profile and also helped launch a stellar year in fundraising. Last year’s kick off gala raised $1.6 million, about four times more than in previous years. 

This year’s gala, taking place on Feb. 24, has already sold out of single tickets at $1,250 a pop, though tables can still be arranged.

The Hollywood-themed event will feature the New World Symphony performing favorites from Alfred Hitchcock movies as guests rub elbows with local luminaries like Honorary Chairs Miami Heat owner and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines Micky Arison and his wife Madeleine. The host committee includes Deco Drive’s Louis Aguirre, prominent architect Chad Oppenheim and his wife Ilona, among others. Dancer and actor Mikhail Baryshnikov, who will be in Miami to open his photography exhibition at the Gary Nader Gallery and to participate in the YoungArts Miami program, will also be in attendance.

Those who attend will get to enjoy every inch of the Center, with the tables distributed throughout the entire building. Says Iva Kosovic, Director of Development, Special Events, “The event is about philanthropy but it’s also about having a great time and experiencing the building in a different way.” The event culminates with the Gala Party Finale, an after party with a swing band and dancing.

Celebration is in order after a year’s worth of incredible contributions to Miami’s cultural landscape. Notes Hall, “A couple of years ago, this space was just a parking lot and now it’s an important part of the community.”


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