in 2022, The Music Hall was honored to be the first establishment in our district to be added to the NYS Historic Business Preservation Registry by Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins during its inaugural year! Learn more…
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 first event at the Music Hall was a new Gilbert & Sullivan opera called The Mikado on December 12, 1885.
The Music Hall, a multi-use facility for balls, basketball games, concerts, films, flower shows, horse shows and roller-skating tournaments, was one of the first theaters to show silent films in 1901 and was a 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.
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 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.
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.
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 9 person full-time staff, 40 freelancers, and 200 volunteers, it is a cultural destination, attracting over 100,000 people on an annual basis from all over the tristate area, and an economic engine, generating over $6.8 million to the local economy through visitor-related spending according to the Arts & Economic Prosperity Calculator.
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 first theater in Westchester to operate its shows by solar power, the goal is for The Music Hall to be a showcase for green energy in a 19th-century building.
Known for its excellent acoustics, the Music Hall has welcomed notable performers to its stage: Joshua Bell, Tony Bennett, 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, Norah Jones, Sharon Jones, BB King, Kris Kristofferson, Gordon Lightfoot, Lyle Lovett, Nick Lowe, Loretta Lynn, Wynton Marsalis, Idina Menzel, Natalie Merchant, Keb’ Mo’, Randy Newman, Jessye Norman, Sinead O’Connor, Mandy Patinkin, Bonnie Raitt, Chita Rivera, Lea Salonga, Pete Seeger, Jake Shimabukuro, Mavis Staples, Jeff Tweedy, Gwen Verdon, Rufus Wainwright, Dionne Warwick, The Indigo Girls, and The Mavericks to name very few. A popular venue for comedy, comedians have included Lewis Black, Hannah Brener, Vic DiBitetto, Kevin James, Trey Kennedy, Richard Lewis, Howie Mandel, Trevor Noah, John Oliver, Paula Poundstone, Brian Regan, Joan Rivers, Amy Schumer, Lily Tomlin and many more. In 1985, actress Ginger Rogers directed the musical Babes In Arms starring Randy Skinner and Karen Ziemba.
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 are given the opportunity of exposure by opening for high-profile performers and participating in annual Singer/Songwriter events, annual Rock The Hall contests, Music Hall Studio concerts and student performances.
The Music Hall Academy, under the direction of Kevin J Kearins, offers year-round educational experiences in music, theater and circus for children in grades K-college. In addition to providing free theater residencies to the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns, the Academy offers youth theater productions, vacation camps, master classes with Broadway performers, classes, private music lessons and student assistant programs. Scholarships and our Pay-What-You-Can policy allow children to participate, regardless of financial limitations. Every year, thousands of schoolchildren from multiple school districts all over the tristate area are bussed to the Music Hall to experience live performances.
The theater donates free/discounted space to local nonprofit organizations such as River Arts, The Rivertown Dance Academy, Westchester Symphonic Winds, Hispanic Flamenco Ballet, The Paper Bag Players and TheatreworksUSA. It annually donates $4000 towards The 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.
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.
The Music Hall is the only historic 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 landmark 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.
The Music Hall and a team of architects just completed a Master Plan that will act as a roadmap for the next phase of restoration.