The Department of Music, Emory’s oldest and largest arts program and the one long considered to have the least amount of adequate space, stands to gain the most from the Schwartz Center. The building’s showpiece is the Emerson Concert Hall, an 825-seat auditorium designed by architect Michael Dennis and Associates with acoustics by Kirkegaard and Associates.

The two hundred-member University Concert Choir and other choral ensembles will now rehearse there on a regular basis. A large orchestra rehearsal room and a number of smaller practice rooms are also available, as well as ample storage for instruments.

All this space is a welcome change for the eighteen hundred Emory students who participate in the music program each year. The department supports three primary choral ensembles and thirteen instrumental ensembles, including the Emory Symphony Orchestra, involving about eight hundred students. About the same number of students are enrolled in a wide range of academic music courses, while two hundred take private lessons from faculty or some forty artist affiliates, many of whom are professional musicians with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Until now, for group rehearsals, the department has relied almost solely on Glenn Auditorium, a church building not appropriate for many kinds of music. A smaller performing arts studio in the Burlington Road Building provides supplemental space.

“Music is something that exists in time and space, and the kind of building and room you’re running rehearsals and performances in will drastically affect the quality of the learning experience,” says Steven Everett, chair of the music department. “It’s like a chemistry professor with no labs, having to teach chemistry in regular classrooms.”

Already, the Schwartz Center has altered the culture of Emory arts programs, says William Ransom, Mary Emerson Professor of Piano. “Just by the fact that they see they are being taken more seriously, the students’ playing is already rising to a new level,” Ransom says. “When they’re rehearsing on stage in Emerson Hall, the new setting raises everyone’s hopes and expectations to a new level of quality.”

“It has really inspired me to practice more,” says senior Tina Lu, a music and creative writing major. “The room I use now has a big, open window and is just a nicer environment. It’s easier to concentrate.”

Samit Shah, a senior from Houston majoring in music and Asian studies, says he came to Emory mainly because it had the rigorous science track he was initially looking for but also offered a strong music program. Shah plays the bassoon for four different Emory ensembles and says he has benefited most from the wide variety of music courses offered, from Asian and Middle Eastern music to jazz, composition to music theory, and conducting to wind literature.

“The music program is kind of like Emory’s best kept secret, because it’s always been in the corner,” Shah says, pointing out that most of the department offices are in the Burlington Road Building, literally on the far corner of the campus and removed from any central buildings. “But now that we will be more in the center, hopefully more people will be interested.”

Shah also has high hopes that the concert hall will bring Emory performers together in fresh, unimagined ways. “The interaction between theater, dance, and music could mean we could put together a full musical theater production,” he says. “I don’t think that’s really happened much at Emory because we haven’t had a space. But a lot of students have asked about it. More people might become interested in Emory if that’s important to them.”

Shah’s enthusiasm is echoed by many who look forward to the artistic collaboration that is sure to result when the performing arts share one roof. For instance, while the Schwartz Center was designed with only a black box-style directors’ lab for the theater program, Theater Emory director Vincent Murphy says, “The most important thing for us about the Schwartz Center is the opportunity for interdisciplinary work with the other arts on campus. We are the most collaborative of the arts. There are all kinds of collaborative projects I would like to do, but until now there has been no real meeting place. If we did something with people from both dance and music, I had to go running all over campus.”

“I love collaborations,” says Lauren Gunderson, a junior majoring in creative writing and theater, who performed in the opening night event “Inter-Play,” “so being involved with musicians and dancers really epitomized why the Schwartz Center is so urgently needed and appreciated: artists need other artists. We need each other to inspire and be inspired. I was definitely inspired that night.”

The Schwartz Center boasts the first studio and performance space in Atlanta designed expressly for dance. > > >



© 2003 Emory University