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The Back Story: Ham Concert Hall

Ham Concert Hall boosted the city's cultural offerings and paved the way for arts groups to thrive.
UNLV History  |  Mar 6, 2013  |  By Brian Sodoma

Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall. (Geri Kodey / UNLV Photo Services)

Las Vegas has taken its lumps for a presumed lack of cultural offerings. But it's difficult to argue Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall's role as a cultural linchpin in Sin City.

Located at the northeast corner of campus, it is part of UNLV's Performing Arts Center, along with Judy Bayley Theatre. The concert hall is named in honor of Las Vegas attorney Art Ham Sr. His son, Art Ham Jr., donated $1 million of the $4.2 million needed to build the facility.

The elder Ham was an original owner of the Frontier Club, a city attorney, and president of the Las Vegas Bar Association. He also served as president of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and helped establish the local Elks Lodge. The family also pledged $20,000 for the building of the Judy Bayley Theatre, completed in 1972.

Ham Concert Hall's 1976 opening was highly publicized, marking the space as a cultural jewel in the desert. A Valley Times article covering the opening night Tokyo Symphony concert noted: "It would well be worth a Sunday afternoon's drive just to go there, stroll around on the plaza between the two buildings (Judy Bayley Theatre and Ham Concert Hall), and realize what has taken place to transform our desert into a place dedicated to the enlightenment of its citizens."

With seating for 1,832 people and a deep stage with a hydraulic lift that extends to accommodate a full symphony orchestra, Ham Hall sold out its first "Master Series" concerts. That series has seen the Tokyo and Melbourne symphonies, Polish National Radio Orchestra, the Prague Orchestra, among other international guests. The hall later became home to other local arts groups.

Acoustical consultants on the project, Beranek and Newman Inc. of Los Angeles, issued a report after the first Master Series shows indicating "there may be no hall in the country of equal quality per dollar."

The concert hall continues to host international symphony orchestras and other more recent musical greats like violinist Joshua Bell, Tony Award-winning Broadway star Lea Salonga, the American Ballet Theatre, UNLV's classical guitar series, and many more performances.

See what's coming up: Find listings of events in all campus venues in the UNLV Calendar.

Built by:

Sletton Construction


Moffitt and McDaniel


$4.2 million


50,000 square feet; seats 1,832 people


Sept. 11, 1976

First performance:

Tokyo Symphony Orchestra (Oct. 18, 1976)