“A space for a universe of musical possibilities”
Opened in 2004, World Cafe Live was designed to change the landscape for artists and audiences of all ages and become a new model of what an independent music venue in Philadelphia can and should be–a welcoming space for the community with exceptional hospitality.
We began with a vision that our house of music should be a place that attracts and inspires musicians. As a dedicated concert-goer, our founder Hal Real had become increasingly disenchanted over the years with the smoky rooms, tinny acoustics, and inadequate seating that had become the standard live music experience.
At the same time, WXPN, the radio station owned and operated by the University of Pennsylvania and known for its nationally syndicated program World Cafe, had outgrown its studios and was seeking a new home. So we joined forces to create a new clubhouse for the Philadelphia music community, licensing the radio program’s name to become World Cafe Live. Our unique partnership with WXPN creates both physical and virtual platforms for artists to be heard. Over the years, we have been an incubator for emerging artists and a home for amazing local, national, and international talent.
When we built our two stages, we optimized everything from sound to sightlines so that artists could play their best for audiences who come to really listen. Add in friendly service, comfortable seating, and outstanding food and drink, and you get the unparalleled World Cafe Live experience.
In 2008, Real, together with David Bradley, Lori Landew, and Tamar Lelkes Oded, founded the nonprofit LiveConnections, seeking to leverage the capacity of World Cafe Live to boost music education opportunities for Philadelphia public schools.
LiveConnections launched its signature interactive Bridge Session performances for schools in May 2008, and began adapting sessions to serve individuals with disabilities in 2009. Over the next 10 years, while in residence at WCL, LiveConnections grew to serve 50,000 participants with free music education, along the way partnering with leading arts organizations including Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, Art-Reach, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, HIAS Pennsylvania, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and WXPN.
LiveConnections’ programming expanded to include a boundary-crossing series of concerts for adventurous music lovers, which resulted in twelve world premiere commissions from artists such as David Ludwig, Jay Fluellen, Kristin Lee, Arturo Stable, and Kinan Abou-Afach. In-depth partnerships with Philadelphia public schools have included after-school percussion ensembles and collaborations on 5 albums of original student music.
In December 2019, World Cafe Live and LiveConnections merged to become a unified nonprofit. Together, we’re working to grow a vibrant ecosystem of live music and education in Philadelphia.