Saratoga County

Music center to be college asset

The Filene Music Building opened in 1968, soon after Skidmore College moved to its “new” campus on N

The Filene Music Building opened in 1968, soon after Skidmore College moved to its “new” campus on North Broadway from the old downtown campus.

At that time, there were just five faculty members in Skidmore’s music department. Student enrollment was about 1,000.

Today, the music department has nearly 40 full- and part-time faculty members. More than 2,400 students are enrolled at the private liberal arts college.

Filene has a small, 235-seat concert hall and practice rooms that are often overbooked. The 40-year-old building is bursting at its seams, according to college officials.

All this is changing with the construction of the 55,000-square-foot Arthur Zankel Music Center on land not far from Filene near the college’s main entrance on North Broadway.

“It’s a major project,” said Michael Casey, Skidmore’s vice president for advancement. “It’s the gateway project, the gateway to the campus. It will be an asset for the entire upstate, Capital Region.”

Skidmore has been limited by the size of its performance spaces when inviting nationally known musicians and performers to campus.

The Zankel Center, expected to be substantially complete by the end of 2009, will seat 700 in its main concert hall, which will feature computer-adjustable acoustics for a variety of musical and theatrical performances.

‘naming gift’

The music center will also have recital and practice spaces, offices and classrooms for the college’s ever-growing music department.

Casey and his staff have been responsible for raising the $32.5 million in construction money for the center. Another $12 million is being raised for an endowment fund to keep the building maintained and running smoothly, for a total of $44.5 million.

The $15 million “naming gift” for the music center came from the estate of the late college trustee Arthur Zankel, a New York City financier who died in 2005. He had also given major gifts to Carnegie Hall and Columbia University. Zankel’s two sons graduated from Skidmore.

The total Zankel bequest to the college is $42 million, the largest gift in Skidmore’s history. Just $15 million of this money is being used for the music center.

Casey said more than $23 million has been raised for the construction of the Zankel building.

The money for the center is raised by donations from alumni, friends, parents of students and foundations.

“We should be close to $32 million by the end of spring,” he said. Another $3 million has been raised toward the $12 million endowment goal.

The fundraising is part of the Skidmore’s Creative Thought, Bold Moves campaign that started in 2004 and is expected to raise $200 million by 2010.

‘amazing building’

“It’s an amazing building,” said Michael West, the college’s vice president for finance and administration.

Before a shovel went into the ground, the building’s architect, EwingCole of Cleveland, Ohio, had won an “unbuilt design” award for the structure.

West said the building will be heated by geothermal energy, just as the college’s dining hall and new Northwoods Village student apartments are heated.

Geothermal wells are drilled 400 feet into the earth. Some 40 of these wells are used in a heat transfer system that helps heat the building in winter and cool the building in the summer.

“We will save 30 to 40 percent in fuel as opposed to conventional [heating and air conditioning systems]. The performance wall is all glass,” West said about the back of the stage area of the concert hall. When looking at the stage, the audience will see the woods behind the building through this glass wall.

“It will be an acoustically tuned building,” West said. The acoustic panels on the ceiling will be able to be “tuned” by computer depending on what type of performance is being presented in the hall.

local subcontractors

The site work has been done under the direction of construction manager MLB Construction Services LLC of Malta. More than a dozen local subcontractors are working on the project, West said.

A new Loop Road, new parking lot, controlled blasting and rock removal, and building excavation have all been completed, West said.

Contractors are currently putting in foundations. That work will be done in early April, and the steel structure for the building will start going up in early May.

The exterior of the building is expected to be finished by early 2009. Interior work is scheduled to start in February of 2009 with substantial project completion scheduled for the end of 2009.

Students, faculty and staff will move into the new music center in January of 2010, West said.

A DVD produced by the college on the project says the new music center will underscore the excellence of Skidmore’s liberal arts program and comprehensive offerings in music and the performing arts.

Skidmore’s music course offerings include electronic and computer-based musical composition, explorations of a range of non-Western musical forms and traditions, jazz, pop music, rock music, classical music as well as African drumming. The music department also features instruction in a large variety of musical instruments and vocal genres.

West said the stage in the Zankel music center will be one of the largest in the Northeast.

A portion of the stage will be on elevators so that it can be converted into seating for 100 people when not needed for production purposes.

orchestra pit added

“It will be a multipurpose facility,” West said. He said the stage will be suitable for classical music, jazz, and a variety of other musical performances.

Since the building was first designed, an orchestra pit was added to the plans along with the elevators for the stage.

College officials hope Skidmore can work in collaboration with other music and performance venues in the Capital Region.

West said, for example, the college and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in the Saratoga Spa State Park could have a partnership.

The musical artists performing at SPAC in the evening might be “enticed” to come to the air-conditioned Zankel Center during the afternoon to teach their art.

West said many artists may welcome being part of the educational aspect of the Zankel Music Center.

“The Arthur Zankel Music Center will provide a first-rate showcase for the world’s great artists,” said Charles M. Joseph, a music professor at Skidmore.

“This stunning facility will provide a new gateway not only for the campus, but also for a new era in the college’s already rich musical tradition,” Joseph said in a prepared statement. “The center opens up wonderful possibilities for a college that is poised to take a gigantic step into a bold and promising future.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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