Funding Last Hurdle for Pioneering Music Hall

    Since 1989, the UCSD music department’s classes have been strewn across campus, crammed into acoustically disastrous spaces like the Mandeville Center. For years, the campus has been planning to build a new, state-of-the-art music hall, where the music department can unify and perform. Now, just as that dream is about to become a reality, UCSD has found itself face-to-face with an old demon: fundraising.

    Courtesy of UCSD University Communications
    An artist’s rendering depicts UCSD’s proposed new music hall. If adequate funding is secured, the new hall will replace Mandeville Center and open its doors in 2008.

    A few years ago, the UC Office of the President allocated $42 million for the building of the new hall. Since then, however, the cost has risen to $55 million due to inflation. The campus has committed another $6.5 million of reserve money to the project, and individual donors have collectively donated $1.35 million more, which leaves approximately $5 million to be raised.

    Typically, according to Arts and Humanities Dean Michael Bernstein, raising $5 million for a project would not be any trouble. However, the construction company’s $55-million bid will expire on Oct. 23, giving the university two weeks to find the funds.

    “This is a big hill we have to climb in just a short couple of weeks,” Bernstein said. “You just don’t bump into someone in the locker room and say, ‘Hey, you want to give me 5 million bucks?’ We don’t have time to lose on this.”

    Bernstein, however, is optimistic about the ability to raise the necessary funds.

    “I think we have a real shot at this,” he said. “The stakes are very high and it will be a tremendous disappointment to lose [the building] at this point.”

    Music department Chair Rand Steiger agreed, stressing the importance of the new building over the currently used Mandeville Center.

    “Mandeville has no acoustic design; it is a plain concrete bunker with no acoustical treatment, noisy [heating and cooling] systems and no soundproofing,” Steiger said.

    Assuming the money will be raised, the new building will be “one of the most sophisticatedly designed music buildings in California, especially south of L.A.,” Bernstein said.

    The building’s main recital hall was designed by architect Mark Reddington of Seattle-based LMN Architects, and world-renowned acoustician Cyril Harris, who designed halls for the New York Opera House and the Kennedy Center. It follows mainstream, modern lines, while maintaining the decorative irregularities necessary for proper sound quality, Harris said.

    “This is the only hall that I know of that has a geometrically nonsymmetrical shape,” he said. “It’s like a large auditorium with lots of irregular surfaces, which helps to scatter the sound and makes the concert experience the same for everyone, whether he is sitting in the front row, or on the side, or in the back.”

    The venue will be controlled by the music department, and will be open to performances by quartets and orchestras.

    “It’s going to be high-brow, sophisticated music produced by state-of-the-art musicians,” Bernstein said. “At the same time, though, it’s not all going to be suit-and-tie type shows either, because that’s just not what our department is about.”

    In addition to the shows, Steiger and Bernstein both stressed that the new building will unify the music department in a single on-campus location, leaving Mandeville open for other departments.

    The new building will be built on the corner of Rupertus Drive and Russel Lane. If the funding comes through, construction will begin in late fall, and occupancy should occur in 2008, according to Bernstein.

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