Weill Hall, Sonoma State University: Opens September 2012.
Weill Hall, Sonoma State University: Opens September 2012.

Located on the picturesque Sonoma State University campus in theheart of California’s Sonoma wine region, Weill Hall officially opens Saturday, September 29 with an Opening Night concert featuring Lang Lang followed on Sunday with a Choral Sunrise Concert, a concert with Bruno Ferrandis and the Santa Rosa Symphony, and a special evening performance with Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas.

Designed to be a focal point for music in the region, the inaugural season in Weill Hall features an array of internationally acclaimed performers including vocalists Stephanie Blythe, Elīna Garanča, Joyce DiDonato and Barbara Cook; celebrated classical soloists Yo-Yo Ma, Vadim Repin, Wynton Marsalis and Anne-Sophie Mutter; acclaimed early music ensembles Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale, Tallis Scholars and Il Complesso Barocco; and Latin jazz greats Chucho Valdés and Buika. The Santa Rosa Symphony, Resident Orchestra, offers a full season of programming at the Green Music Center and the San Francisco Symphony will perform four concerts.

Beginning in June 2013, Sonoma State University and New York’s Carnegie Hall will launch a new partnership to include a year-long residency at SSU by young professional musicians, all alumni of The Academy, the prestigious program created by Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School and the Weill Music Institute in partnership with the New York City Department of Education. As Visiting Artists in Residence, a small number of specially-selected Academy alumni will reside on the SSU campus for a year, fully engaging musically with the SSU community: presenting performances, offering lessons, chamber music coachings, and workshops; participating in community outreach to K-12 schools and other community partners; mentoring students; and coordinating audience development and concert preparation activities in residence halls for on-campus performances, among many other duties. This marks the first time that Academy alumni will create such an extended residency, working in a university setting.

Complementing this new Visiting Artists in Residence program, a partnership with the Santa Rosa Symphony will bring Carnegie Hall’s Link Up National program for grade school students to Sonoma County. Link Up will join other educational programs currently offered by the Symphony – Music For Our Schools and Training Young Musicians – as the orchestra creates an El Sistema based program for local students. The Symphony’s five-year pilot program, Simply Strings, will provide daily after-school instruction on violin or viola to first through fifth grade students, culminating each spring in a live performance in Weill Hall with the Santa Rosa Symphony. Students will also have the opportunity to learn pieces of music on the recorder, enabling them to take part in a joint performance – children and the Symphony – at the Green Music Center.

Created by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, Link Up National is an interactive and engaging music education program that currently connects more than 30 orchestras across the country with schools in their local communities. As part of the partnership, Carnegie Hall will provide free music education curriculum materials for use in Sonoma County schools as well as complimentary resources to support the culminating concert for students in Spring 2013.

The initial concept for the Green Music Center began in the 1990s with University President Ruben Armiñana, his wife Marne Olson, and local philanthropists Donald & Maureen Green – all of whom shared a vision of creating a choral recital hall on campus. Over the next few years, an inspiring visit to Tanglewood Music Center’s renowned Ozawa Hall led the four to expand their initial vision into a world-class arts center. They realized that the University, nestled in the beautiful Wine Country of Northern California, was an ideal home for a music venue unmatched by any on the West Coast and beyond.

Impressed by the acoustic excellence of Ozawa Hall, and intrigued by its indoor/outdoor design, the founders of the Green Music Center engaged William Rawn and Larry Kirkegaard, the architect and acoustician principally responsible for the design of Ozawa Hall, and San Francisco-based Theatre Consultant Len Auerbach. Their task was to create a new concert hall for the campus that would recall the spirit and quality of Ozawa Hall, while drawing on the special physical and cultural environments of the Sonoma County setting.

After a strong start and more than a decade of planning and construction, in late 2006 the economy began to be challenging and fundraising slowed dramatically until the beginning of 2011. This is when Joan and Sanford I. Weill – newcomers to Sonoma County – gave Sonoma State its largest ever cash gift. Their generous $12 million contribution enabled the completion of the concert hall and adjacent lawn and paved the way for the September 29 opening.

The elegant stone Trione courtyard lined with 125-year-old olive trees welcomes guests to Weill Hall, a traditional shoebox shaped 1,400 seat hall made with beautiful warm woods including European steamed beech, white maple and Douglas fir. Weill Hall boasts extraordinary views of the rolling Sonoma Mountains from large windows lining the north and east walls and seating areas include a main orchestra floor, two side galleries which connect to a chorus balcony at the rear of the stage and an upper balcony at the rear of the hall. In a nod to the inspiration of Ozawa Hall in Tanglewood, a “barn door” at the back of Weill Hall opens onto terraced patio levels and lawn seating, giving audiences outside a magical chance to connect with performers onstage.

Joan & Sanford I. Weill Hall

Total square footage: 38,500

Height (orchestra to ceiling): 53’

Balcony to Balcony (width): 53’

Front Face of Rear Balcony to Front of Stage: 75’

Modular rear door: 20’H x 54’W; runs the entire length of the south wall of Weill Hall. When opened, it extends the reach of the concert hall to an additional 5,000 patrons on the adjacent Weill Lawn.

Stage: 2,880 square feet (48’ deep x 60’ wide); made of white maple and featuring adjustable lifts and risers to accommodate a full orchestra when needed and to fine-tune ensemble communications and sound on the main floor.

Seats: Each is comprised of European steamed beech wood, an open back, and a burgundy cushion. Custom-made by Fancher Chair Co., the acoustically neutral seats are a rare combination of traditional wood mortise and tenon joinery with a unique tip-up seat.

Total: 1,417 seats (orchestra floor – 784, 1st balcony – 312 Seats, 2nd balcony – 321)
Use of woods: Plaster and European steamed beech for the walls; European steamed beech for the balcony railings, trim and seats; Tongue and Groove Douglas Fir for the balcony undersides; White Maple on the stage floor; and Vertical Grain Douglas Fir for the orchestra and balcony floors.

Backstage: Multiple dressing rooms, a green room, assembly and support spaces, specialized instrument storage rooms, general storage, and a full loading dock.
Instruments: 9-foot Steinway Concert Grand piano (Model D) and 9-foot Fazioli Concert Grand piano (F278).

Audio and Video Recording Facilities: Comprehensive, state of the art technical equipment and interconnectivity throughout complex.

Acoustically, the hall has been designed to support a broad range of programming from full symphony orchestra with chorus to vocalists, smaller instrumental ensembles, solo recitals, jazz and world music. To tune the hall’s acoustics ideally for all of these possibilities, there is a system of motorized sound-absorbing banners that can be progressively deployed to provide increasing control over the fullness and reverberation of the hall, therefore enabling the hall to support amplified performances as well as lectures. Theatre consultants assimilated the theatrical and performance functions into the architectural design of Weill Hall, including the seamless application of elements of variable acoustics and performance technology.

Just to the east of Weill Hall is the site of the future outdoor performance pavilion, which will accommodate a full range of performances, including symphonic music and dance in addition to amplified genres such as pop and rock. The pavilion is expected to seat approximately 10,000 guests, with a combination of fixed seats and lawn spaces – reminiscent of other venues that combine both fixed and lawn seating such as Ravinia and the Hollywood Bowl.

In addition to the performance venues of the Green Music Center, the complex houses a Music Education Wing with large classrooms and ensemble rooms, practice studios and rehearsal spaces; a Hospitality Center featuring the upscale Prelude Restaurant and Privé conference spaces; in addition to an elegant dining patio and lawn. Schroeder Recital Hall, an intimate 250-seat venue inspired by the soaring spaces of European churches and graced on one wall by a rare Brombaugh Tracker Organ, awaits final funding and completion.

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