Creating a kingdom of culture
Arts impresario/salesman supreme/master marketer/passionate promoter/accomplished musician Myron Martin is a force for the advancement of culture in Las Vegas. With a twinkle in his eye and the arts in his heart, the transplanted native Texan is so culturally connected that he’s even a voting member for Broadway’s Tony Awards. And in 2017, The Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz venue was renamed Myron’s Cabaret Jazz in his honor. Oh, and here’s a bit of Myron trivia: He is a former organist for the Texas Rangers. In his honor, we declare: Da-da-da-daaa-da-daaaaa, C-H-A-A-A-RGE!
When I moved to Las Vegas over 20 years ago from New York City, I accidentally said publicly that I had moved to a cultural wasteland.
Don’t get me wrong. I truly loved Las Vegas as a visitor and had traveled here often since childhood. For me, Las Vegas had earned the title of Entertainment Capital of the World, and I knew firsthand that it was a top tourist destination. I enjoyed the hotels, the food and the entertainment. As a kid, I saw Diana Ross, The Jackson 5, Cher, Liberace and Lola Falana on the main stages, plus legends including Lou Rawls, Sam Butera, and the Treniers in the lounges (yes, back then my dad, who loved the shows, was able to take me into the lounges without any question).
After moving to Las Vegas, I continued to enjoy the Strip. But as a resident, I wanted more. I missed the cultural aspects of New York City. I longed for performances that not only entertained, but also inspired and enlightened. I wanted to experience things that might touch my soul.
Then, I was introduced to a group of community leaders who wanted to change the cultural landscape of this great city. Before you know it, I was given the opportunity to lead the charge toward building a world-class performing arts center and changing the perception of this city as not only a great place to visit, but also a wonderful place to live.
We created The Smith Center for the Performing Arts with the help of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and its chairman, Fred W. Smith. Today, this amazing place has been called one of the top 10 theaters in the world by Pollstar Magazine, and hailed as “a cultural jackpot” by the Los Angeles Times. They say that a rising tide lifts all boats, and I am proud that the center has been credited with raising the tide in Las Vegas.
This project created 2,600 high-paying construction jobs at a time when the national economy was struggling. Today, more than two million people have been entertained, enlightened and inspired by the more than 400 shows we present each year. Local restaurants, bars, hotels and other businesses benefit from the energy created by touring artists and shows that come to our theaters.
The Smith Center provides a home in Las Vegas for the best of music, theater and dance from around the world, including smash Broadway hits such as “Hamilton” and “Wicked,” concerts by music legends including Ringo Starr and Jackson Browne, and performances by top groups like the Royal Philharmonic and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The Smith Center also offers a stage for our two resident companies, Nevada Ballet Theatre and the Las Vegas Philharmonic.
Our Cabaret Jazz venue celebrates the American art form of jazz and the Great American Songbook, and our Troesh Studio Theater provides a venue for smaller productions, workshops and master classes. The center is also home to weddings, corporate events, commencement exercises and other community gatherings.
The Smith Center is said to have created the impetus for downtown development and for proving that anything is possible in this wonderful town. Look at Las Vegas today. We have the Stanley Cup finalist Vegas Golden Knights, the headquarters for Zappos.com in our downtown, and the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health helping more patients than ever thought possible. The new Raiders stadium is under construction, and countless other projects are underway that will help Las Vegas maintain its appeal for tourists and residents alike.
With The Smith Center, locals now have a place they enjoy and support with a great sense of pride, and they are quick to show it off to their friends who visit Southern Nevada. Tourists also find The Smith Center as a place to see something different or to host a special, convention-related event.
On The Smith Center’s opening night in 2012, broadcast by PBS, Neil Patrick Harris joked to the TV audience that he just learned that people actually live here, and that we have grocery stores and dry cleaners, too. Locals also like the joke where you tell a stranger on a plane that you live in Las Vegas, to which the person replies, “Oh, really? Which hotel?” While we have some of the greatest hotels in the world, most of us don’t actually live in them.
It’s no longer a secret that Las Vegas is not only an amazing place to visit, but also a great place to live, work, and raise a family. The Smith Center is proud to play a part in this. We are Vegas Strong, Vegas Proud, and Vegas Committed.
Voices of Vegas features guest columnists from all walks of public life in Las Vegas. With columns touching on local cultural, historical, social, civic, educational and humanitarian topics, among others, they weave a tapestry of perspectives that emphasize the dynamism, depth and benefits of the Southern Nevada tourism industry.