OUR STORY

The History of the Tarrytown Music Hall
Tarrytown Music Hall's Executive Director, Björn Olsson with Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Majority Leader of the New York State Senate
Björn Olsson, The Music Hall’s Executive Director, with Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Majority Leader of the New York State Senate in April 2022.

NEWS FLASH

The Music Hall is honored to be the first establishment in our district to be added to the NYS Historic Business Preservation Registry in 2022 by Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins during its inaugural year!

 

 


Willam Wallace
William L Wallace, the chocolate manufacturer and visionary who built the Music Hall in 1885.

OUR STORY

Built in 1885 by chocolate magnate William L Wallace, the Music Hall was designed by distinguished architects Theodore De Lemos and August Cordes who also built New York City’s Grand Central Palace and the Macy’s building at Herald Square. It was opened during Tarrytown’s “Millionaire’s Colony” era when prominent families like the Rockefellers, Goulds, and Vanderbilts resided in the town and gathered at the Music Hall for its lavish balls, flower shows and concerts.

The Music Hall was one of the first theaters to show silent films in 1901 and continued to be a multi-use facility (balls, basket ball games, concerts, films, flower shows, horse shows, rollerskating tournaments) while also being the venue for several national causes including women’s suffrage in 1915. Irving Berlin, Antonin Dvorak, Rafael Jossefy, Theodore Roosevelt, Mae West and Woodrow Wilson are among the first performers and speakers to grace the Music Hall stage.

William Wallace's Chocolate Factory circa 1918
The William Wallace Chocolate Factory circa 1918.

From the 1930’s on, the Music Hall was a successful single screen movie theater operated by local benefactor Robert Goldblatt. His son and daughter-in-law took over the theater after his death in 1964. In 1976, the theater closed largely due to the rise in popularity of multiplexes and television and it was soon thereafter proposed by the Village of Tarrytown that the theater be torn down to make way for a parking lot.

The nonprofit Friends of the Mozartina purchased the theater on Valentine’s Day, 1980. Founding Board Members l to r: Berthold F Ringeisen (Treasurer), Helen Ringeisen (Secretary), Morton Epstein (Vice-President) & Raymond Bowles (President)
The nonprofit Friends of the Mozartina purchased the theater on Valentine’s Day, 1980. Founding Board Members l to r: Berthold F Ringeisen (Treasurer), Helen Ringeisen (Secretary), Morton Epstein (Vice-President) & Raymond Bowles (President). Front row: Jennifer Bowles, Karina E Ringeisen and Jennifer Reyes.

The Friends of the Mozartina Musical Arts Conservatory, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, educational, and cultural organization, purchased the theater on Valentine’s Day, 1980 with the purpose of establishing a center for the performing arts. The theater, located in what people considered to be a depressed area, was not operational with a leaking roof, broken heating pipes, insufficient electrical power and thousands of dollars of back taxes. The purchase of the theater and extensive renovations were made possible by Founding Board Members Berthold and Helen Ringeisen, a language professor and piano teacher respectively, who, convinced the theater was important for the community, secured several loans through local banker Stephen Byelick and placed their home up as collateral. The undertaking was a risky one for had the theater failed, the Ringeisens would have lost everything they owned and this almost came to pass several times.

Volunteers Fiona and Greg Galloway, making a difference by helping to bring films back to the Music Hall in 2004.

As there was no money available for a staff, the theater was completely operated by volunteers for twenty-three years until an Executive Director was hired in 2003.  In 2004, through a  volunteer effort spearheaded by Dean Gallea and Greg and Fiona Galloway, the Music Hall’s silver screen was once again lit aglow. And property essential for the operations of the theater was acquired in 2007.

Volunteer Dean Gallea dismantling the1920’s reel-to-reel film projectors to make room for more modern versions in 2004.

Today, the Music Hall is one of the busiest theaters in the country, offering the best in music, theater, dance, film, comedy, family programming and arts education. With a 7 person full-time staff, 40 freelancers, and 200 volunteers, it is a cultural destination, attracting over 100,000 people including 25,000 children on an annual basis from all over the tristate area, and an economic engine, generating over $6 million to the local economy through visitor-related spending according to the Arts & Economic Prosperity Calculator. 

The Music Hall, a fine example of Queen Anne decorative brickwork, was once crowned by a steeple (circa 1901).

Listed on the National Register for Historic Places, the Music Hall is the oldest theater in Westchester and one of the finest examples of Queen Anne decorative brickwork in the county. Only 6% of existing American theaters were built before 1900 and the Music Hall is one of them. As the only theater in Westchester where shows are operated by solar power and powered by the sun, the goal is for The Music Hall to be a showcase for green energy in a 19th-century building.

RENOWNED ARTISTS

Known for its excellent acoustics, the Music Hall has welcomed notable performers to its stage: Joshua Bell, Tony Bennett, Lewis Black, Jon Bon Jovi, Chris Botti, Dave Brubeck, David Byrne, Judy Collins, Tommy Emmanuel, Melissa Etheridge, Nanci Griffith, Buddy Guy, Emmy Lou Harris, Levon Helm, Jason Isbell, Kevin James, Norah Jones, Sharon Jones, BB King, Kris Kristofferson, Gordon Lightfoot, Lyle Lovett, Nick Lowe, Loretta Lynn, Howie Mandel, Wynton Marsalis, Idina Menzel, Natalie Merchant, Keb’ Mo’, Randy Newman, John Oliver, Mandy Patinkin, Paula Poundstone, Bonnie Raitt, Brian Regan, Chita Rivera, Lea Salonga, Pete Seeger, Jake Shimabukuro, Mavis Staples, Jeff Tweedy, Gwen Verdon, Rufus Wainwright, The Indigo Girls, and The Mavericks to name very few. In 1985, actress Ginger Rogers directed the musical Babes In Arms starring Randy Skinner and Karen Ziemba.

Kris Kristofferson with Steve Lurie of Music Without Borders, Executive Director Bjorn Olsson and Karina E Ringeisen
Kris Kristofferson with Steve Lurie of Music Without Borders, Executive Director Bjorn Olsson and Karina E Ringeisen

WORLD PERFORMERS & FAMILY EVENTS

The Music Hall has also presented many performers from other countries and cultures like the Afro-Cuban Allstars (Cuba), Gonzolo Rubalcaba (Cuba), Arrival (Sweden), Bebel Gilberto (Brazil), Gaelic Storm (Ireland), Ladysmith Black Mambazo (South Africa), Lunasa (Ireland), Red Hot Chili Pipers (Scotland), Peking Acrobats (China), Sabicas (Spain), Vienna Boys Choir (Austria) and Whindersson Nunes (Brazil) among others as well as numerous family oriented events such as The Berenstain Bears, Jungle Jack Hanna, The Nutcracker Ballet, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar

EMERGING ARTISTS

Emerging artists are given the opportunity of exposure by opening for high-profile performers and participating in annual Singer/Songwriter events, concerts on the Music Hall sponsored stage at The Tarrytown & Sleepy Hollow Farmers Market (TASH), the annual Rock The Hall Contest, livestreams and student performances.

EDUCATION

The Academy is the Music Hall’s arts-in-education arm and in collaboration with KJK Productions, offers free school residencies for 3rd-5th graders, theater workshops for 3rd-8th graders and Mainstage productions for 9th-12th graders. Additionally, the Academy offers bilingual and Circus Arts workshops as well as free and discounted private music lessons for students in need. Every year, thousands of schoolchildren from multiple school districts all over the tristate area are bussed to the Music Hall to experience live performances.

Tarrytown Music Hall Academy
The Music Hall Academy

COMMUNITY

The theater donates free/discounted space to local nonprofit organizations such as River Arts, The Rivertown Dance Academy, The Sleepy Hollow Performing Arts Boosters, Westchester Symphonic Winds, Chamber Theatre, Hispanic Flamenco Ballet, The Paper Bag Players and TheatreworksUSA. It annually donates $4000 towardsThe Sleepy Hollow High School Performing Arts Award which recognizes talented seniors in band, chorus, orchestra and theater, and presents free Family Fun Days, free Movie Days, Holiday Craft Markets and Visual Arts Exhibits.

FILMS

Several films, television series and commercials have been shot at the Music Hall including The Preacher’s Wife and The Good Shepherd. Actors who have shot at the Music Hall include Jessica Alba, Steve Buscemi, James Caan, Matt Damon, Robert De Niro, Kirsten Dunst, Vera Farmiga, Whitney Houston, Michael Keaton, Ewan McGregor, Julianne Moore, Keanu Reeves, Julia Roberts, James Spader, Marisa Tomei, Stanley Tucci and Denzel Washington among others. The Music Hall shows films on its large screen several times a year.

RESTORATION

Former US Representative Nita Lowey with Bjorn Olsson
Former US Representative Nita Lowey with Bjorn Olsson

The Music Hall is the only major live theater in Westchester that is both owned and operated by a nonprofit organization – it must not only program events, but is also responsible for the maintenance and restoration of an historic building. In 2014, the theater underwent a $1.5 million exterior restoration made possible by a maximum grant of $400,000 from the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, a prestigious “Save America’s Treasures” matching grant through the support of former Congresswoman Nita Lowey, state grants through NYS Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and late Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and the support of generous members and donors.

Architects and Music Hall staff are presently working on the next phase of the theater’s restoration.


Ticket sales alone do not cover the costs of programming and maintaining and restoring this unique 19th century building. Fundraising and restoration efforts are ongoing. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution today!