Historic Columbia Studio A Reopens as Educational Space for Belmont Students

Linda Curb, Mike Curb, Harold Bradley and Charlie McCoy celebrate the Columbia Studio A grand re-opening.
Linda Curb, Mike Curb, Harold Bradley and Charlie McCoy celebrate the Columbia Studio A grand re-opening.

Mike Curb, Curb Family Foundation in kind gift equivalent of $10 million

Preserving Music City history while shaping the music of the future, Belmont University and the Curb Family Foundation announced today the completed renovation of Columbia Studio A at 34 Music Square East as a classroom and hands-on learning lab for students in Belmont’s Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business. Through his Curb Family Foundation, Curb Records’ founder and CEO Mike Curb is giving the University a 40-year lease on the 34 Music Square East property (including office spaces, Columbia Studio A and the Quonset Hut) as an in kind contribution, an estimated donation value topping $10 million.

A-Team session musician Charlie McCoy greets Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher.
A-Team session musician Charlie McCoy greets Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher.

From its opening in the mid-1950s as part of Bradley Studios to the building’s purchase by Columbia Records in 1962 to its transition to office space in 1982, Columbia Studio A and the Quonset Hut provided the sonic landscape for many of that generation’s biggest hits and greatest artists, including Bob Dylan, who recorded his legendary 1969 Nashville Skyline album in the most recently renovated space. “A-Team” session musician Charlie McCoy, who played on Nashville Skyline, noted that thanks to Dylan recording in town at Columbia Studio A, “Nashville was certified as a recording center in music to artists who might never have come here otherwise.”

Other artists who’ve graced the building include Dusty Springfield, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Buddy Holly, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Charlie Rich, The Byrds, Patti Page, Elvis Costello, Simon & Garfunkel, and many more. Today’s event was opened by rising I.R.S. Nashville band Striking Matches, a duo who first met when paired together in a Belmont guitar class.

Striking Matches' Sarah Zimmerman and Justin Davis meet legendary artist Brenda Lee.
Striking Matches’ Sarah Zimmerman and Justin Davis meet legendary artist Brenda Lee.

“If these walls could talk,” said Brenda Lee, who spoke at today’s announcement, “they could recount a virtual ‘who’s who’ of great artists and hit songs that first found life here… Thanks to the vision of today’s industry leadership—to men such as Dr. Bob Fisher, president of Belmont University, and Mike Curb, whose namesake Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business is unparalleled as a music industry learning resource—thanks to them, these walls can and will ‘talk’ to a new generation of young creativity that will come here to experience and learn where it all began. And for that, we can all be grateful.”

Dr. Fisher added, “When it comes to honoring Nashville’s music roots, we all need to thank Mike Curb for both his generous contributions and visionary commitment to keep that history alive in this town for future generations to recognize and enjoy. But Mike’s vision extends beyond our history to our future, as he has and continues to be a tremendous resource for tomorrow’s legendary artists through his support of Belmont’s Curb College. We’re truly grateful for his contributions to all of our programs.”

While many media outlets—from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal to TIME magazine and Southern Living—are heralding Nashville as “Nowville” and honoring its current cultural preeminence, no one can deny Music City’s long-established artistic history. Columbia Studio A played a significant role in establishing the roots of that rich legacy and now serves as both sacred city landmark and promising “learning lab” to the rising artists, songwriters and audio engineers who are now honing their crafts before launching their careers.

Mike Curb said, “We are thrilled that students at the Belmont Curb College are going to be able to study their music business courses, including engineering and songwriting, at the historic Quonset Hut and Columbia A Studios. These studios, in addition to what has been provided by RCA Studio B and Oceanway, allow students to learn all aspects of the music business and at the same time attend classes in the historic recording studios where Music Row had its beginning. The Belmont Curb College is now the largest stand-alone music business college in America, and we are excited about the partnership between Belmont and the Curb Foundation in preserving these historic sites.”

Believing that no education occurs solely in the classroom, Belmont—in partnership with the Curb Family Foundation—has invested in the restoration of numerous historic spaces in Nashville’s Music Row. The newest space, Columbia Studio A, celebrated its grand opening today but has already been in use during the final weeks of Belmont’s spring semester serving students in Belmont’s music production, audio engineering and songwriting programs. The building at 34 Music Square East has also served as home to Belmont’s innovative songwriting major for several years, and the Quonset Hut (also known as Columbia Studio B) celebrated its grand re-opening in 2011.

Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business Dean Dr. Wesley Bulla added, “The facility is a unique recording studio that will allow students to ‘step back in time’ into a classic 1970s-era recording facility and gain hands-on experience by working with refurbished vintage equipment on class work, weekly labs and recording individual projects. Belmont will utilize the facility as a ‘living-learning museum’ by maintaining historically appropriate equipment in peak functional order—a recording studio time machine where students explore music-recording techniques that produced some of the greatest hit recordings in the history of music.”

Click here to view more photos from the reopening.