After months of intensive construction, Eastman Theatre, the 1920s theatre that industrialist George Eastman built to teach the love of good music, reopens this fall as a 21st century concert hall.
When audiences enter Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre for the first time this week, they will be met with a visual and acoustical transformation designed to enhance their concert experience.
Officials from the University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Eastman Kodak Company, and the New York State Assembly revealed the renovation to invited guests in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, Oct. 7.
The renovation of the performance hall is part of a $46.9 million project at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music that also includes a new building, currently under construction, for teaching, rehearsal, and performing spaces. The University has received $13 million from New York State and $10 million from Eastman Kodak Company in support of the project.
“The University and the Eastman School are deeply grateful for the commitments on the part of Kodak, New York State, and our many generous donors toward the renovation and expansion of Eastman Theatre, where hundreds of musical events delight audiences and enrich our community each year,” said University of Rochester President Joel Seligman. “Thanks to the vision and generosity of Kodak and its chairman, Antonio Perez, the visionary leadership of Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assemblymembers David Gantt, Joseph Morelle, Susan John, and David Koon, Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre has been enhanced and refurbished to serve the people of Rochester and Western New York with a beautiful, state-of-the art concert hall.”
In addition to support from New York State and Eastman Kodak, the Eastman Theatre and School Renovation project also has received major support from the Davenport-Hatch Foundation, Eastman alumna Betty Strasenburgh ’52, the Wegman Family Charitable Foundation, Catherine B. Carlson, and Mary Hamlin and George Hamlin.
“The proud new Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre magnifies George Eastman’s original vision, preserving the Theatre’s beauty yet embellishing its historical essence,” said Eastman School of Music Dean Douglas Lowry. “It remains a vital focal point for the performing arts, transforming the experience for Eastman students, faculty, audiences, and visiting artists.”
While retaining its grand Italian Renaissance style, Kodak Hall will feature a new sound system as well as new patron amenities. The addition of orchestra- and mezzanine-level boxes and a new back wall on the orchestra level will return more sound energy to support both the performers and the patrons seated in the orchestra level. Approximately 800 seats have been removed on the orchestra level and the walls carefully reshaped for concertgoers to feel more enveloped in the sound. The removal of back rows of seats not only creates a greater intimacy on the orchestra level, but also allows for the expansion of the hall’s inner lobby and the creation of five lounges, providing more comfortable gathering spaces. Kodak Hall also has new carpeting, a new heating and air conditioning system, and enhanced house and exit lighting.
“I want to acknowledge the critical role that Jamal Rossi, executive associate dean of the Eastman School, has played in this project,” said Lowry. “He has been deeply involved from the early planning stages and has worked passionately to make Kodak Hall a truly magnificent 21st-century concert venue.”
Kodak Hall is home to performances by the Eastman School’s large ensembles. It is also home to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, which will present its inaugural performance in the hall on Thursday evening, Oct. 8. The sold-out gala features the premiere of Geo, a composition written by Dean Lowry in honor of George Eastman, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. The opening weekend continues with a concert by the Eastman School’s Philharmonia orchestra on Friday, Oct. 9, with repeat performances of the Oct. 8 RPO program on Saturday, Oct. 10, and Sunday, Oct. 11.
“Every aspect of the remarkable transformation of Kodak Hall has been designed with our patrons in mind,” said Charles Owens, president and CEO of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. “The more than 100,000 young people and adults who hear the RPO every year in our beloved concert home will experience a more intimate environment, acoustical enhancement and a state-of-the-art sound system, new and more comfortable seating with improved sightlines, a more spacious and inviting inner lobby, and stunning new box seating areas. Together, these enhancements enable us to offer our Rochester audiences not only world-class concerts, but also a world-class patron experience.”
George Eastman’s love for music spurred him to build the Eastman School of Music and the Eastman Theatre. He saw music as a productive use of leisure time and felt that silent films with musical accompaniment would develop appreciative audiences who would be drawn to good concerts.
Renovations to the Eastman Theatre began earlier this decade with a $5 million investment in 2004 to replace the stage shell, install a new computerized rigging system, and upgrade stage lighting and stage electrical service. The second phase of renovations, which includes the renovation of Kodak Hall and the construction of a new building, began in 2008. The new addition will include the 222-seat Hatch Recital Hall, a soaring atrium, a large rehearsal hall, teaching studios for Eastman faculty, and a media control room.
Information, images, and background about the Eastman School and Theatre Renovation and Expansion project can be found online at www.NewEastman.com .
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