Newark Symphony Hall names Young CEO, celebrates restoration milestone (slideshow)

Jessica Perry//August 2, 2023//

Newark Symphony Hall names Young CEO, celebrates restoration milestone (slideshow)

Jessica Perry//August 2, 2023//

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Talia Young stepped into the interim leadership role at Newark Symphony Hall last fall. Now, she officially takes the helm at the historic Brick City venue.

In announcing Young’s appointment as permanent CEO Aug. 1, NSH also revealed the completion of the first phase of its $75 million restoration effort.

Over the past three years, the state’s largest Black-led arts and entertainment venue has received $15 million in total funding from the state toward the project, including efforts by Young to secure $4 million in New Jersey’s current fiscal year spending plan. Renovations are still on track for completion by 2025, when NSH will celebrate its 100th anniversary.

“We are grateful to everyone who is supporting Newark Symphony Hall throughout this journey, including the state of New Jersey, Prudential Financial and the Mellon Foundation,” Young said. “Thanks to the generosity and dedication of our donors, Newark Symphony Hall is on its way to being restored to its former glory, and we are excited to continue welcoming the community here as we remain open during the renovations.”

Efforts to restore the beloved community hub launched in 2021 under Young’s predecessor, Taneshia Nash Laird.

Following her appointment as interim CEO, Young set and initiated a four-phase restoration plan to position the venue as a community development corporation, for-profit venue and nonprofit arts institution. That work incorporates three pivotal principles, NSH said: Art is Now, Art is Impact and Art is Service.

Having a ball

Trenton’s Clarke Caton Hintz serves as lead design and architect team for Newark Symphony Hall’s restoration project.

Phase One tackled the Terrace Ballroom — a 15,000-square-foot space featuring a sunken dance floor, an elevated stage and two terraces on each side. The design for the space — which at one time hosted legends including Otis Redding, Johnny Cash, B.B. King and Celia Cruz — is inspired by the 1920s jazz era featuring modern touches, including new hardwood floors and geometric carpeting, color-changing LED lighting, and a vinyl tiled and gold-accented bar.

Talia Young, president and CEO, Newark Symphony Hall.
Talia Young was previously named interim leader for Newark Symphony Hall in October 2022. – NEWARK SYMPHONY HALL

More work is expected to be completed at NSH this year, including the rehabilitation of the Arts & Education Lab on the fourth floor and the restoration of the venue’s two theaters, which will be led by Clarke Caton Hintz. Upgrades are also set for the building’s roof, boiler, HVAC and pluming systems, NSH said.

At the head of NSH, Young — a former board member for the institution — is also bringing popular events back to the space. That’s including a premiere screening of “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” in partnership with Hulu (the series filmed at various locations across New Jersey, including NSH); book signings for Bill Bellamy and Cedric the Entertainer; and the state’s first Black Creative Economy Summit, which took place earlier this summer.

The Terrace Ballroom hosts monthly signature programs, including Soul Line Dancing and Latin Night, which are free, in addition to comedy shows and open mic nights.

Ras Baraka, mayor, City of Newark

“For nearly a century, Newark Symphony Hall has been one of our city’s most glorious cultural institutions,” Mayor Ras Baraka said in a statement. “The roster of performers who have graced its stage defines the range of music, from opera stars like Roberta Peters and Robert Merrill to singing titans like Judy Garland, Count Basie, Patti LaBelle, The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. It is truly appropriate that we provide present and future generations of music stars and audiences with the finest theater in the nation.”

NSH said that Young has supported the re-establishment of the Lincoln Park Alliance, an economic development initiative from Baraka with the Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District, Newark Arts Council and the City of Newark.

“The restoration of Newark Symphony Hall will keep our city moving forward, and I congratulate Talia Young on her appointment as the hall’s CEO and commend the entire team on their efforts,” Baraka said.

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