The University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music will complete George Eastman’s original vision of an integrated facility “for the enrichment of community life” with a new building for teaching and performance spaces on the site included in the original facility plans. Extending the existing Eastman Theatre, the new wing will complete Eastman’s original dream for the school and the Eastman Theatre.
A new, $5 million grant from New York State secured under the leadership of Assemblyman Joseph Morelle and Assemblyman David Gantt, supplemented by an $8 million commitment from New York State announced in March and with the expectation of significant private support, will make it possible for the University to make further enhancements beyond those announced last spring. The new building will include a 200-seat recital hall that will provide additional performance space for the more than 700 concerts presented by the Eastman School each year. The estimated total cost for the enhanced project will be approximately $35 million.
“The University and the Eastman School are thankful for New York State’s continued and generous support for the Eastman Theatre renovation,” said Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester. “We are especially grateful to our representatives Assemblyman Joseph Morelle and Assemblyman David Gantt, who have been unwavering in their commitment to advance this project. Their efforts, along with the support of Assemblyman David Koon and Assemblywoman Susan John, have inspired the community to step up with support for the project. Under the leadership of Douglas Lowry, the new dean of the Eastman school, we will make important improvements that not only benefit Eastman students, but, as written over the entrance to Eastman Theatre, are for ‘the enrichment of community life.’ The new integrated facility will be yet another opportunity for the Eastman School, under Dean Lowry, to continue to move forward and build on its reputation as the nation’s premier music school.”
“The Eastman Theatre is a landmark that embodies both the rich cultural history of the Rochester area as well as its potential for similar artistic prominence in the future,” Morelle said. “It is an honor to be a part of the effort to preserve such an extraordinary venue for this generation and for many generations to come. I’m particularly grateful to President Seligman and the University of Rochester for their excellent stewardship of this great institution.”
The additions were part of a broader renovation proposal that had also been under consideration by the Eastman School of Music Board of Managers and the University of Rochester Board of Trustees. The new grant from New York State, combined with the prospect of additional and critical private support, has given the boards impetus to proceed assertively with the expanded plan.
“This package of renovations is the right project at the right time for the Eastman School of Music,” said Lowry. “It addresses critical needs for students and faculty, reaffirms our commitment to enlivening the urban core as a center for arts and culture, and bolsters significantly our ability to sustain and enhance world-class teaching and performance at the School.”
The elegant Eastman Theatre, an 85-year-old Rochester landmark built by Eastman Kodak founder George Eastman, is owned by the University of Rochester and is the home of the Eastman School of Music and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. Originally designed as a “movie house” for silent films with live musical accompaniment, it is also used by a variety of community organizations for concerts and special events such as high school graduations.
In March, the University announced an $8 million New York State grant for renovations to the theater. Highlights included a plan to reduce the number of seats to 2,250, which will allow the addition of box seats inside the theater. The removal of some 800 seats at the orchestra level under the mezzanine will improve acoustics and allow for an expansion of the lobby. The project also will provide additional rehearsal rooms, additional faculty teaching studios, and a new recording studio for Eastman School faculty and students.
The new, expanded plans call for a recital hall to be built at East Main and Swan streets. In 1920, when ground was broken for the original building, the hope had been to include the space in the original building; however, the site was unavailable. It is currently a parking lot owned by the University. The facade of Eastman Theatre will be extended along East Main Street to include the new building, creating a continuous building front that encompasses the Eastman School on Gibbs Street, the Eastman Theatre, and the new facility. A new entrance on East Main Street will draw patrons into a soaring atrium lobby; the existing entrance doors to the theater will remain. The atrium lobby will be connected to the current Eastman Theatre lobby, creating an entry space common to both venues with a new box office, restrooms, and gift shop.
The new building also will include faculty teaching studios, the new rehearsal room, and the new recording studio on the upper floors. “Back-of-house” facilities will provide support space for productions in both the recital hall and the Eastman Theatre.
As with the earlier proposals, designs for the expanded project were developed by Chaintreuil, Jensen, Stark Architects of Rochester. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2008.
The Eastman School is one of the world’s leading music institutions, consistently placing at the top ranks in a range of surveys and evaluations. Most recently, Eastman was named “Hottest Music School” in the 2008 Kaplan/Newsweek college guide. The school is dedicated to providing students with an intensive professional education and entrepreneurial opportunities in their musical disciplines as well as opportunities for a broader liberal arts education within the context of a university.
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