Music from the National Symphony Orchestra has echoed through the halls of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts since it opened in 1971. Built as a national cultural center and a living memorial to the nation's 35th president, the Kennedy Center's history begins in 1958, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the creation of a national cultural center.
After Kennedy's assassination in 1963, the proposed building was dedicated to his memory, and funds approved to build it on 17 acres of land along the banks of the Potomac River. Construction on the $70 million building began in December 1965, and the it opened to the public on Sept. 8, 1971. Today, the Kennedy Center presents more than 2,000 performances annually and attracts nearly 2 million visitors per year [source: Kennedy Center].
Inside the building is a 2,442-seat concert hall, a 2,300-seat opera house and theaters for family.The Kennedy Center hosts both small-and large-scale performances, in addition to a theater lab, a jazz cafe, a restaurant and bar, and the grand foyer, one of the largest rooms in the world [source: Kennedy Center]. The Kennedy Center receives federal funding to pay for the building's upkeep, but ticket sales and gifts pay for most of the artistic and educational programs that take place inside it.
The orchestra has performed a concert series from the Kennedy Center every year since it opened, and in 1986 it became an artistic affiliate of the center. In 1997, the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall was renovated, improving the sound quality of the orchestra's performance space significantly [source: Washington Post]. In addition, the Kennedy Center is home to regular theater, ballet, jazz, contemporary dance, opera and chamber music performances.
The center also offers permanent performing arts educational programs, as well as performances for young audiences, and workshops for career development and arts management. And even if you don't live in Washington, D.C., you can still catch something from the building. Each year, 20 million people attend one of the Kennedy Center's touring productions or tune in to one of its nationally broadcast performances [source: Kennedy Center].
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