The Naumburg Bandshell: A New York Icon

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Naumburg Bandshell The Naumburg Bandshell (peterjr1961/flickr)

Have you ever been to a free concert at The Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park? If you haven’t, you should plan to go before the summer is over. It’s one of most unique experiences New York has to offer.

As it so happens - classical music lovers -- there is one concert left in The Naumburg Orchestral Concerts series.  It will take place on Tuesday, August 3 at 7:30pm and feature the amazing group of young musicians known as The Knights. They’ll play music by Rossini, Beethoven, Shostakovich, Debussy and Haydn.  My colleague Bill McGlaughlin of Exploring Music and St. Paul Sunday fame will be there to welcome you. So, why not plan to be there and check things out for yourself?

The Naumburg Bandshell is one of New York City’s great cultural icons.  It has entertained generations of New Yorkers with an incredible variety of performances. Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin and The Grateful Dead have all performed on the stage. Martin Luther King once stood there and John Lennon was eulogized from that very spot.

The bandshell was donated by philanthropist--and classical music lover extraordinaire!--Elkan Naumburg. In 1905, Mr. Naumburg had begun a series of free, classical concerts in Central Park known as the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts. When it was completed in 1923, the bandshell became the series’ new home. Thanks to the generosity, dedication and hard work of Elkan Naumburg’s descendants, all of whom have also been unbelievably committed to classical music, the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts series is celebrating its 105th anniversary this year. And, yes, the performances take place in the bandshell. Though the bandshell continues to feature other kinds of performances, the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts are the centerpiece of the season.  

As has been the case with many of New York’s iconic structures--Carnegie Hall and Grand Central Station to name two--there was a time when the bandshell was facing the wrecking ball. Fortunately, the tide turned and the bandshell was saved. But, concern continues about its future.

I recently spoke with one of Elkan Naumburg’s great-grandsons, Christopher London. Christopher is the President of the volunteer board of trustees which manages the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts.   

He shared some of the details of his family history and talked about his hopes for the preservation of the bandshell. Listen to our conversation.

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Comments [6]

MountainDan from Vienna, Austria

I never knew The Dead played there. thanks for the info!

Aug. 04 2010 09:34 AM
Philip Foster from New York City

If anyone is interested in an early oil painting showing a concert at the Naumberg Bandshell please email me at Thank you.

Jul. 21 2010 10:03 AM
David Liskov from New York

Also of note, The Columbia Summer Winds, successfully performed (despite the threat of storms) what is believed to be the first concert band concert in the years since the Goldman Band regularly performed, at the band-shell last night. The acoustics inside and out were stellar.

Jul. 20 2010 02:54 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

Classical composers and performers have NEEDED such a venue because COMMERCIAL interests have cut classical performers in high silhouetted events such as parades, sport events, the GRAMMYS, even special holiday events at Christmas, Easter. 4th of July, etc. Non-classical performers and composers have an exclusive hold on TV and radio and in the record industry. Much of this problem is directly due to the fact that the primary schools don't teach art, music, geography or history. They do not, they say , want to offend anyone. The schools want to be "politically correct" !! Classical music deserves, merits larger audiences for their elegant, ethereal, majestic, exciting or, simply, transcendental music that uplifts by its beauty.

Jul. 20 2010 10:17 AM
David Mallard

I've attended many classical music concerts there. I hope to be there on the 20th.

Bravo! and thank you Naumburg Concert Series.

Jul. 20 2010 12:56 AM
James Turner

I represent The KBA BAND SOUL REVIEW > I am seeking to book my group at this wounderful venue. Can you provide me information for the 2010 /2011 season.

Jul. 19 2010 11:45 AM

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