Carnegie Music Hall reopens after eight month renovation

Andrew Carnegie’s “greatest gift to Pittsburgh,” the Carnegie Music Hall of Oakland, is just steps away from Pitt’s campus and has recently reopened after renovations to replace seats, add air conditioning and to make the space compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“If Carnegie Music Hall was a gift to the Pittsburgh community almost 130 years ago, our purpose in renovating it has been to increase the value of that gift by making it a space accessible to all while preserving the splendor of its original design,” Steven Knapp, President and CEO of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, said.

Knapp emphasized how the renovations completely changed the opportunities available to the Hall.

“We look forward to welcoming the community back to this iconic hall, which is such a revered part of Pittsburgh’s cultural history,” Knapp said. “We’re especially happy to now be able to welcome guests during the summer months, thanks to its first-ever air-conditioning system.”

On March 22, about 100 community members and local figures attended the reopening of Carnegie Music Hall. The day began with a ribbon cutting followed by speeches from local political figures in the new space.

Carnegie Music Hall opened on Nov. 5, 1895, and was a gift from Andrew Carnegie to the people of Pittsburgh with the goal of creating a musical and cultural center in Pittsburgh. It is closed for renovations in August of 2023.

State Sen. Jay Costa, who is also the chair of the Arts and Cultural caucus within the Pennsylvania state senate, said that Carnegie Music Hall is one of many “regional jewels” in Pittsburgh.

“I’m glad to see that everybody now has a new seat to be able to sit in,” Costa said. “I can tell you, the leg space is pretty roomy, and that’s really important. Being able to move through these upgrades have been outstanding, and being able to be part of that conversation from the state level, participate and help make investments.”

A statement from the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh shared some details and numerical totals of the project. The workers used 60 tons of scaffolding, 400 sheets of plywood and 3,000 square yards of carpet. In order to protect the historic facade, conservators at the Carnegie Museum of Art used cotton swabs and vinegar to clean all the decorative panels throughout the hall. The conservators also stenciled and repainted 1,179 fleurs-de-lis on the walls.

Project manager Melissa Simonetti said this renovation had a focus on accessibility by widening the aisles and replacing the steps with a slope while preserving as much of the history as possible. The renovation also included rewiring all of the lights and a brand-new sound system.

“We’re dealing with something that’s over 100 years old, so it brings about all sorts of challenges that you might not have with a modern project,” Simonetti said. “But what makes this renovation important is, we’re making it more usable to more people.”

The project was largely funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Charles M. Morris Charitable Trust and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Music Hall also introduced the Take Your Seat! campaign to garner public support for the historic hall’s renovations and allow people to honor someone with a seat in the newly renovated space. Seat dedications in the upper balcony start at $600 and increase in price closer to the stage.

Costa looks forward to seeing what the Pittsburgh community thinks about the space.

“We’re excited about what we have today, what you think of the lighting, the style and the ADA compliance,” Costa said. “Those are all the things that are important to do and make it a nice experience for the folks who want to come here.”

State Rep. Dan Frankel thanked the many collaborators involved in the renovation.

“It’s been a collaborative effort,” Frankel said. “I’m glad that at the state level, Senator Costa and my colleagues who are here today, and at the county level and at the city level have been part of this and did this together. That’s what we do in Pittsburgh, we come together to make important and big things happen.”

The first event to take place in the newly renovated Carnegie Music Hall was the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert on Sunday, March 24. The next events at Carnegie Hall were the final four shows of the Ten Evenings Series hosted by Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures, which starts on Monday.

Stephen Knapp, president and CEO of the Carnegie Museums, cuts a ribbon alongside elected officials during the reopening of Carnegie Music Hall on Friday morning. (Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor)