Cultivating Huntsville’s Music Scene

By Matt Mandrella
City of Huntsville Music Officer

It’s an exciting time for music in Huntsville.

Music tourism is already a large draw for the city and the economic impact it generates will continue to grow significantly. The highly anticipated opening of The Orion Amphitheater combined with the caliber of talent being booked at Mars Music Hall, The Von Braun Center and other venues throughout the Huntsville area are steadily positioning us closer towards our goal of becoming one of the world’s most premier music destinations.

The city is taking music very seriously. Music is a primary pillar of Mayor Tommy Battle’s workforce development strategy, commitment to quality of life, and his desire to provide more inclusive cultural and creative offerings for current and future residents. Cultivating a successful music ecosystem plays a significant role in Huntsville’s long-term strategy for smart growth.

Music ecosystems are the conditions that make it possible for music to thrive within a community, and we are the first city in America to embark on a comprehensive, data-driven journey to strategically amplify its music ecosystem. This visionary understanding of music’s role in supporting a vibrant economy, sustaining a healthy community, and building a well-rounded city has led to our plan being called “the most innovative music strategy in the United States.” My role as Huntsville Music Officer was created to serve as the primary advocate for our music scene; helps oversee music-related strategic planning initiatives and economic opportunities for the city, and to ensure that our thriving music ecosystem reaches its full potential.

The foundations for a successful music ecosystem are already in place here. Huntsville has a unique, diverse, vibrant, awesome, and inviting music scene that significantly contributes to our local economy and employs people throughout the region. We also have world-class venues and a supportive local community packed full of phenomenal musicians and enthusiastic music fans. Now it’s time to put more of the building blocks in place needed to help establish Huntsville’s music identity apart from other music cities and grow our creative economy.

Our goal is to cultivate Huntsville’s music scene in a way to where it’s recognized on an international scale with other US music hubs. We don’t want to be the same as Austin, Nashville, Chicago and Memphis, but we do want to be in the same conversation. We want tourists and large groups coming to Huntsville to be well aware that NASA is here, but that we also offer a world class music scene unlike anywhere else.

Music Education is also a significant piece of our ecosystem, so it’s important for us to identify and develop more engaging music programs across all age levels within our schools and colleges. We need enhanced music programs that not only help develop better performers, but that also provide great training for any and all work involved behind-the-scenes.

Another step we can take towards our music city ambitions is to establish more entertainment districts and music-friendly policies that create new jobs and opportunities for those currently in the music sector to earn more income. Developing “best practices” in regard to permitting and sound ordinances that allow for safe and more frequent neighborhood and community events will also help our existing music community continue to flourish.

There are a lot of good people in both the music industry as well as other economic sectors who may want to be part of what Huntsville has to offer. Building excitement around all aspects of our music culture will make more of them want to move here.

It’s a very exciting time for music in Huntsville, and I look forward to working with our community to help make our music scene as awesome as possible.

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