Play It Loud

Play It Loud

Photo of Pete Townshend of The Who leaps in the air while performing live on stage

Pete Townshend of The Who leaps in the air while performing live on stage, London, February 1981; his guitars are featured in Play it Loud.

Curator Craig Inciardi ’86 exhibits the greatest instruments in rock history at the Met and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Many items came from musicians who needed them back because they still use them in performances.

— Craig Inciardi ’86

Most people who have met Ringo Starr — or for that matter, any Beatle — would consider that to be one of the highlights of their life. For Craig Inciardi ’86, it was just another day at the office — not that he wasn’t excited about it, mind you.

Inciardi’s office is, of course, not like yours or mine. He is director of acquisitions and a curator at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and he met Ringo while interviewing him about his first Ludwig drum kit — the one he famously unveiled on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964, during the TV appearance that launched the “British Invasion” and changed the course of history.

Inciardi had convinced the now 79-year-old Beatle to loan this iconic kit to the rock museum for its blockbuster Play It Loud exhibition, a collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, which opened in April 2019 in New York, moved to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this past fall, and currently runs through September 2020 at the Hall of Fame’s home in Cleveland, Ohio.

“He was so happy to be able to purchase that set of Ludwigs, to replace the sub-par equipment available before then in the UK,” said Inciardi. “Ringo told me that one of the Beatles’ roadies was going to paint over the Ludwig logo and he told him, ‘No! That’s why I got the drums, so people could see the Ludwig!’.”

Such are the encounters that Inciardi has had since he was recruited out of the Collectibles Department at Sotheby’s in 1991 to work for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame exhibit.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame exhibit.

Play It Loud was not the first exhibition on which Inciardi collaborated with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1999, he helped pull together Rock Style, which ran through March 2000 at The Met, spotlighting the influence that rock ’n’ roll has had on fashion from the 1950s to the present and focusing on performers like Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger, the Beatles, David Bowie, and Madonna.

But Rock Style was nowhere near the blockbuster that the current Play It Loud collaboration has been. The new exhibition has also spawned a popular exhibition catalog, co-authored by Inciardi and Met curator Jayson Dobney, and published by Yale University Press.

Ibanez  Iceman electric guitar, commissioned and played by Paul Stanley of Kiss.

Singer-songwriter St. Vincent playing a custom designed Ernie Ball Music Man during the 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival.

Play It Loud was hugely successful for the Met, with 600,000 visitors,” said Inciardi. “It broke a lot of records for first-time visitors to the Met, which was exciting. The hope is that those firsttimers checked out other exhibitions while they were there and then became return visitors.”

The stated focus of Play It Loud is: “Instruments as objects and tools of the trade.”

“We were interested in the different designs and artistry of the hardware,” explained Inciardi. “We included equipment used by Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix, but also the unsung heroes were represented, like Hank Marvin and James Jamerson and Carol Kaye.”

Despite his globetrotting for rock ’n’ roll artifacts and arcana, Inciardi has not wandered far from his boyhood roots. A Brooklyn native, he attended Xaverian High School there.

“After graduating from Xaverian, I really wanted to go to a Jesuit college and Fairfield University was on my radar,” said Inciardi, who still lives in Brooklyn. “Several Fairfield professors had profound impacts on my career. I also met my wife there, Joan Hauerstein, also Class of ’86. Fairfield had the same impact on her, pointing her in the direction of her career as a curator, archivist, and art consultant.”

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Making the Magis Happen in the Alaskan Wilderness

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Alumni Profile: Christopher Pilkerton ’95

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Growing Faith

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Spike in the Right Direction

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Sparks of Hope

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Letter from the President

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