Cohoes Music Hall is the kind of beautiful, historic theater any small upstate city would love to have — and many did until they were lost to decay or development. Cohoes has been able to hang on to this gem through good times and bad, through a variety of owners and occupants, and now things have never looked better for it. That’s not just good for the Music Hall, but for downtown and the entire city.
In 1874, when the hall was built, Cohoes was still a prosperous textile center (in fact, one of its original owners was a textile manufacturer), and the magnificent interior shows it. In the early years it hosted many concerts and vaudeville performances featuring some of the leading performers of the day.
But by the mid-20th century, as the city declined along with the textile business, it had fallen into disuse and disrepair and was in danger of being demolished. The hall was saved when the city bought it in 1969 for $1 from the National Bank of Cohoes and, with the help of grants, fully renovated it. It reopened on its centennary in 1974 and has been in use as a theater pretty much ever since.
Since 2002, the city has had a lease arrangement with C-R Productions, a non-profit organization that runs quality theater productions and educational programs for kids. But the venue is only being used about 50 days a year.
Now the city has taken the wise step of hiring someone to expand the hall’s offerings. And the right someone, it seems. Sal Prizio is a former resident of New York City resident and current resident of Cohoes, who has years of experience in the recording business, running his own cafe with live music, and, since September 2010, as program manager for the Massry Center at The College of Saint Rose.
He wants to add to C-R’s theater and musical theater such offerings as dance, music, comedy and a lecture series — to turn the hall into a community performing arts center with more things going on more nights a week.
Prizio says he hopes to do for Cohoes’ downtown what Philip Morris has done with Proctors for Schenectady’s: revitalize it through the arts. He has chosen a good model.