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State-of-the art music hall opens Oct. 3 in Ellensburg

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Central Washington University's new music education building will open on the Ellensburg campus Sunday, Oct. 3. The $29 million facility measures approximately 70,000 square feet and features a 600-seat concert hall, 150-seat recital hall, and practice rooms, as well as studios, and classrooms.

ELLENSBURG - Launching a new era of music education and music performance, Central Washington University in Ellensburg will open the doors to its new, state-of-the-art music education building on Sunday, Oct. 3.

"This magnificent structure has been in the planning stages for many years," says CWU President Jerilyn S. McIntyre. "Now, it is a dream come true for all of us and a fitting home for our outstanding music program."

The $29-million facility measures approximately 70,000 square feet and features a 600-seat concert hall, 150-seat recital hall, 30 practice rooms, four rehearsal rooms and several classrooms and faculty studios.

Among its most impressive features are a main entry with high ceilings and tall windows for natural light, and a main performance hall with VIP boxes. In addition, walls and ceilings of rehearsal rooms are tailored to particular music groups. For instance, the choir room is shaped and outfitted differently than the orchestra room.

"This building means a tremendous step for the department of music and the community," Dr. Chris Aspaas, CWU director of choral activity, explains. "Guest artists will now be lured to the region in part due to the quality of performing spaces. For an institution of higher learning, this kind of facility is almost unheard of."

Design of the two-phase facility began in 1999. Studio Meng Strazzara served as the project architect-engineer. With Lydig Construction filling the role of project contractor, construction of Phase 1, including the concert and recital halls, started in October 2002. Phase 2, involving the classrooms, practice facilities and faculty studios, began the following year.

"We thank our legislative delegation and other friends of Central in the state Senate and House, who worked long and hard to provide the funding we needed to achieve our goal for all the people of the state," McIntyre added.

Hertz Hall, constructed in 1963 for a music department of 150 students, has been the most recent home for the music department, which now comprises 260 music majors. It's projected to grow to 326 majors by 2010.

"On a scale of one to 10, Hertz Hall was about a four and the new music building is a nine," Larry Gookin, CWU director of bands, claims. "That's how big a difference the new building will make in music education and performance."

The first performance in the new building, featuring students and faculty, will take place Sunday, Oct. 3, at 3 p.m. On Wednesday, Oct. 13, the Seattle Symphony will also perform there as part of a year-long series of "Inaugural Season Showcase Performances."

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