The great American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, once wrote that, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” But since I’m writing from our offices in New York City, I’d like to also quote the great American singer/song-writer and New York native, Billy Joel:
I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.
In 2015, The Battery Conservancy introduced into the dynamic cultural landscape something that the world had never seen before: SeaGlass Carousel – an homage to NYC’s ever-beating heart of diversity especially with its close proximity to historical landmarks: Ellis Island, Lady Liberty, and the New York Aquarium (which inspired the design of the Carousel).
SeaGlass Carousel at The Battery was created to be, like the beacon of hope that the Statue of Liberty has come to embody, a literal source of illumination. In the 1990’s, much of The Battery was dark and deserted after sunset. The Battery Conservancy (a non-profit established in 1994 to rebuild The Battery) endeavored to restore the park’s once popular reputation for being a destination for New Yorkers and tourists.
In partnership with wxy architecture and the talented artist and production designer, George Tsypin, The Conservancy led the multi-million-dollar project that would provide people of all ages with a virtual underwater experience that would soon become a beloved attraction and international icon. Yet despite its growing popularity (having been featured most recently on hit TV shows like Younger, starring Sutton Foster and Hilary Duff, and Showtime’s Billions) the SeaGlass we, until recently, had known it to be was missing a critical component to its genius: its original musical score.
Within six months after SeaGlass’ grand opening in August 2015, SeaGlass had unfortunately lost the music that was originally composed for the Carousel and has since then maintained a short playlist of classic and classical music. While well-received by the local community and visitors over the years, the music did not accurately portray the Carousel’s unique choreography or project its vibrant artistry. And thus began a five-month partnership (from December 2018 to May 2019) between Ride Entertainment Parks & Attractions (REPA) and The Battery Conservancy in restoring SeaGlass to its original majesty while updating its social, cultural image.
I knew I needed a pop-star.
A good friend of mine, well-connected in the music industry, introduced me to his friend, Phoebe Ryan. Phoebe is a rising pop-singer and song-writer, having written for big names like Brittney Spears, Bea Miller, and The Chainsmokers. She’ll be going on tour this year with a personal favorite, Carly Rae Jepsen.
With a bubbly (pun-intended) pop-star added to SeaGlass’ new music collection, I wanted to round out the music with artists who represented various NYC audiences. I brought on Broadway music composer, Derek Gregor, and classical music composer, Ben Wallace (who enjoys writing video game music as well!). The Conservancy added to the mix, Autre Ne Veut (Arthur Ashin) – an Alternative R&B artist and close friend of George Tsypin who – we were all pleased to learn – felt reinvigorated by the wave of change that this new music project would undoubtedly bring to his own artistry. As a celebration of innovation, George was formally honored for his work at the annual summer gala event hosted by the Conservancy earlier this month. In addition, the other music artists were openly recognized for their valuable contribution, as well as REPA for our leadership in this special project.
Since introducing and permanently implementing the new music at SeaGlass, the reception from our Guests have been hugely positive and wonderful! Regular and first-time riders can be seen applauding and dancing, even riding the Carousel multiple times when they learn that we’ve added a whole new playlist.
Working as closely as I did with the artists, from concept to creation, was one of the best experiences. Below are some of the greatest comments and feedback we’ve received from our artists and audiences:
“I am speechless!” –Phoebe Ryan
“I can’t stop dancing or singing along!” -SeaGlass guest
“I’ve never worked with a group so closely before who cared so much about every detail.” –Ben Wallace
“This waltz matches perfectly with the movement of the fish. It’s like they’re dancing!” -SeaGlass guest
“This was such a pleasure to be a part of.” –Derek Gregor
“I feel like I’m being lifted out of my seat. The music is THAT inspiring.” -Samson Kelly, SeaGlass Site Manager
Personally, this was one of the most fun projects I’ve ever worked on. I was able to see, through the lens of a handful of talented story-tellers, the various narratives in which SeaGlass is told and re-told by those who are moved by them. And, the incredible power that music has in being cultural ambassadors and bridges of communication between us and NYC’s thriving diversity.
Quick Facts about NYC Tourism:
- In 2018, 14.6 million tourists visited Lower Manhattan in 2018, increasing 7% over 2017. (Downtown Alliance)
- In 2018, 51% of tourists to NYC were first time visitors. (Downtown Alliance)
- The Statue of Liberty, walking distance from the Carousel and a popular stop before or after touring the Statue, has approximately 3.5 million visitors a year.