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Construction Kickoff Event Offers First Listen Inside New Concert Hall

Renovations now underway for classical concert venue to open May 2012

Carolyn McAfee speaks at the 'Concert Hall Construction Kickoff' Aug. 1, 2011.

In a special “Construction Kickoff” celebration held today, Belmont University welcomed the campus community and special guests to a tour of the renovations currently underway in the Belmont Heights Baptist Church sanctuary. The university-owned building is in the midst of a $7 million construction project that will ultimately provide the campus a new, large concert venue suitable for acoustic performances. The McAfee family, which has supported Belmont University for years, provided the lead gift last fall for the project, and the actual construction began this summer with an expected completion date of May 2012.

Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said, “It’s exciting to see this space begin its transformation into an exceptional venue for large scale choral and instrumental concerts. Next summer this beautifully designed Concert Hall will become home to Belmont’s talented faculty and student musicians while also adding another outstanding performance site to Music City.”

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean joined Dr. Fisher for today’s event, along with campus guests who were all treated to the first musical performance in the space by Belmont Professor of Music Dr. Bob Marler. A Belmont faculty member since 1979, Dr. Marler teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in applied piano, piano literature and piano seminar. He has performed as soloist with the Nashville Symphony, Chattanooga Symphony/Opera and the ballet theatres of Nashville, Louisville and Columbus, Ohio.

Lead donor Carolyn McAfee has served on Belmont’s Board of Trustees since 2006, and her late husband Jim, president and CEO of Hallmark Systems, Inc., served on the Board from 2002 until his untimely death in 2004. In addition to their time on the Board, the McAfees also support Belmont through an endowed scholarship in their name for School of Music students with a major in organ or classical music.

“My family and I are pleased to be able to support Belmont University and its School of Music in the development of a new concert hall,” said Carolyn McAfee. “We have attended many events at Belmont and know well the quality of music performance on this campus. These exceptional music performances deserve a venue that matches their level of excellence. We are excited to be a part of providing that outstanding performance space and believe it will enrich the lives of countless students in the future.”

The design concept for the new Concert Hall was developed in consultation with the architects and acousticians involved with the construction of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Acousticians have conducted extensive, carefully documented scientific studies and developed a plan for the building that eliminates ambient noise, expands the volume of space to optimal acoustic proportions for a large orchestra and chorus and creates optimal sound diffusion.

The new Concert Hall, which houses a 55-rank Aeolian Skinner organ, will host performances of the University’s classical choral and instrumental ensembles, including the symphony orchestra, wind ensemble, Chorale and 200-voice Oratorio Chorus. In addition, the Nashville Children’s Choir and other community groups will be able to use the space.

Dr. Cynthia Curtis, dean of Belmont’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, added, “Over the last decades the School of Music has achieved national recognition for innovative curricula and excellence in performance. With enrollment of music students at an all time high, one missing link is the presence of an outstanding concert hall on campus. The construction of this new hall is yet another expression of Belmont’s commitment to develop the extraordinary musicians of tomorrow.”