King of the Queen
Bill Taylor resurrected music in the most musical of cities, New Orleans, post flood. Now he’s resurrecting Wilmington’s most famous theater—and starting something much bigger.
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In 2008 a major announcement was made, one that would shake up the local arts and culture community: World Café Live, a venue for new music on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, committed to opening another World Café Live in the Queen, along with restaurants, stores and classrooms for arts education.
On a trip to Delaware last year, Chris Buccini and Hal Real, creator of World Café Live, invited Taylor to tour the Queen. They were looking for someone to head the new Light Up The Queen Foundation, a non-profit formed to restore the theater and draw diverse populations through quality programs in music, education, workforce development and mentoring. They wanted someone with music industry experience. They wanted a person who could raise money, and they wanted a person who had roots in Wilmington.
Real knew Taylor through the music industry. Buccini and Taylor went back to kindergarten, when they played for the Westover Wildcats pee-wee baseball team. They later attended prep school together in New Hampshire, then Princeton.
“It was a cosmic confluence of events when we decided to convert the Queen into a modern-day live music venue and a clubhouse for the community,” Buccini says. “I had been reading in the New York Times about what Bill was doing in New Orleans. I thought of calling him, but found out that Hal had already been in touch with Bill.”
Says Real, “The Queen Foundation was put together by well-intentioned people, but there was no one who was going to get up every morning and say, ‘How can I help get the Queen lit?’ We were looking for someone who was going to live and breathe it. We all felt Bill was the right guy at the right time.”
Taylor stood on the stage and looked around. The purple cloth of the balcony seats had worn to a sooty gray. Birds flew in the rafters. Cats scampered through, and the walls showed 50 years of water damage. Early construction work had left five enormous holes in the orchestra floor.
“I didn’t know I wanted to leave New Orleans until I stood on that stage,” Taylor says. “I just remember thinking, ‘I can’t turn this down.’”
Taylor left New Orleans in October.
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