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Adams Center for Musical Arts opens

The new Adams Center for Musical Arts opened today, as students, faculty, and staff returned to the Yale School of Music and Yale College to begin the spring semester. Twenty-four months after ground was broken, the complex is in use by the School of Music and by Yale College students who participate in the University’s undergraduate ensembles.

“The Adams Center for Musical Arts is a welcoming space and place for Yale’s musical community,” Yale School of Music Dean Robert Blocker said. “It was designed to enhance and enrich the creative, artistic, and intellectual process of making music together. Each space — from the smallest practice room to the beautiful ensemble halls and the student commons — was designed with the intent of supporting and sustaining the cherished musical culture that Yale has enjoyed for more than three centuries.”

Named for Stephen ’59BA and Denise Adams in recognition of their continued generosity and support of the Yale School of Music, the $57.1 million Adams Center for Musical Arts was made possible primarily through gifts from Yale alumni. The complex connects a newly renovated Hendrie Hall to the previously renovated Leigh Hall by way of a new structure that is anchored by a dedicated orchestra rehearsal room and an atrium in which students from the School of Music and Yale College can gather.

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Combining the space in Leigh Hall (23,523 gross square feet), the pre-existing space in Hendrie Hall (34,805 gross square feet), and the space in the new structure (30,276 gross square feet), the Adams Center totals 88,604 gross square feet. “From floor plan and square footage to ceiling height and volume, every space reflects a plethora of detailed, local restrictions that had to meet the criteria of the finished performance of the rooms,” YSM Chief of Staff Stefanie Parkyn, a co-chair of the Adams Center building committee, said. “The language of music and exchange of ideas will permeate all of these spaces.”

The orchestra rehearsal room, a stunning, three-story soundstage-like space, is the first home that the Yale Philharmonia and Yale Symphony Orchestra have had at Yale. Reflecting a commitment to serving the needs of today’s musicians, the space is equipped with a full, digital recording studio and advanced audio and visual technology that will allow students and faculty to connect with peers and audiences around the world. It is a facility that in large part dictated the scope of the broader project.

“The need for an orchestra rehearsal room transcended the space that was available in Hendrie Hall, and an expansion was necessary,” KPMB Architects principal Chris Couse said. “The orchestra rehearsal space needs to be at least as big as the stage that they play on [in Woolsey Hall] and there were no existing spaces in Hendrie Hall that corresponded with that kind of size.” The Yale Philharmonia and the Yale Symphony Orchestra are among the most respected professional-school and college ensembles in the country. The new orchestra rehearsal room provides students and conductors alike a dedicated space in which to make music.

Peter Oundjian, the principal conductor of YSM's Philharmonia, said, “It will be a tremendous joy working together in this new space as we embark on a new chapter in our history.” He believes that the Adams Center will “enhance the remarkable music-making that is currently taking place at the School of Music.”

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“It had some distinctive challenges,” said Joseph Myers, president of Kirkegaard Associates, the firm that designed the Adams Center's acoustics. “We want a space that a very large group can go into and be very comfortable playing in and producing a really nice quality of sound. And the larger the group that you’re putting in it, the greater that challenge is.” Myers said the orchestra rehearsal room “has a really pleasant, smooth, clean sound that I think will help rehearsals to be effective and still pleasurable.” In addition to carefully engineered acoustics incorporated throughout the complex, the Adams Center is equipped with $1.2 million in advanced audio- and video-recording systems and distance-learning technology.

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“The rooms in the new portions of the complex will have technology to allow 21st century musicians to record — either on their own or professionally — to use distance learning, to create interactive performances, and to play back audio and video in every room,” YSM Associate Dean Michael Yaffe, a co-chair of the Adams Center building committee, said. “The rooms have been created with strong digital infrastructure so that the school can keep up with new technologies to enhance learning and performance.” While the Adams Center for Musical Arts features entirely new facilities, it also boasts magnificently reimagined spaces in Hendrie Hall, including those that are home to Yale’s undergraduate ensembles — the Yale Glee Club and Yale Bands — and, from YSM, the Yale Opera and Yale Percussion Group. The large ensemble rooms will also be utilized for classes and various rehearsals.

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“The building is a triumph of form and function,” Professor of Music and Director of University Bands Thomas Duffy said. “The building has a resonance of the respectable academy of the last two hundred years but provides the utility of the most modern facility. The musicians in the band can now rehearse in the sound-secure band room without the counterpoint of passing trucks and ambulances. We have a space that will allow us to focus on conquering the challenges of music and creativity, not the challenges of the environment.” Renovating Hendrie Hall as part of the larger Adams Center project necessarily meant retrofitting the building for its current use. “Hendrie Hall started life as a building for the Yale Law School [in 1895] and was never constructed for use as a School of Music building,” Couse said. “To renovate Hendrie Hall, the building was stripped back to its structure, removing all but the most significant heritage finishes.”

Adams Center, main staircase

The mosaic tile and stone in Hendrie Hall’s Elm Street entranceway remain, as does the cast-iron staircase that was incorporated as a signature feature in the building’s original design. Just as Hendrie Hall's rich history has been honored, a major renovation of Leigh Hall preserved important architectural features, including the exterior carvings that identify the building's original use. Constructed in 1930 as the Yale health center, Leigh Hall was thoughtfully renovated in 2005, at which point it was named for Mitch '51BM '52MM and Abby Leigh. Home to most of YSM's faculty studios, Leigh Hall has long been the heart of the Yale School of Music.

Perhaps the most quietly symbolic element of the new Adams Center for Musical Arts is the atrium (student commons), one of whose walls was previously the north-facing exterior of Hendrie Hall. It is in this space that School of Music and Yale College musicians can gather and interact.

“The opening of the Adams Center is a defining moment for the Yale School of Music, the Yale College ensembles that have resided for decades in Hendrie Hall, and the University’s entire, extraordinary music community,” Blocker said. “From the traditional spaces to the newest digital frontiers located in the Adams Center for Musical Arts, the rich legacy of music at Yale will be sustained and shared throughout the world.”

Photos by Matthew Fried.