Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Founding Partner
On February 5, 2005, the Music Center at Strathmore, a 1,976-seat concert hall and multi-disciplinary education center opened its doors. Offering world-class performing arts in a state-of-the-art facility, the opening marked a defining moment for arts and culture in the Washington D.C. region. Anchored by the Strathmore Presents series and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Music Center at Strathmore hosts a diverse range of performing groups, including Washington Performing Arts Society, CityDance Ensemble, Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras and the Levine School of Music, among others. The venue presents more than 200 performances a year and more than 75 educational opportunities each week.
With the opening of the Music Center at Strathmore, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra became the only major American orchestra to have permanent, year-round homes in two metropolitan areas. As the centerpiece of Strathmore, the emergence of the Music Center has redefined the organization, an established presenter since 1983. The new addition has allowed Strathmore to expand programming to reach wider and more diverse audiences.
Originally a turn-of-the-century historic home featuring small chamber performances and art exhibitions Strathmore began its plans for the Music Center more than 20 years ago when its Board of Directors and President and CEO Eliot Pfanstiehl began discussions about Montgomery County’s need for a larger educational and performance space. Approximately 11 years later, in 1996, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, under the leadership of former president John Gidwitz, declared interest in creating a second home in Montgomery County, joining Strathmore as a founding partner in a dream for the Music Center at Strathmore. Plans for the suburban arts center were strongly supported and led by Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and Maryland Governor Parris N. Glendening.
The vision quickly became a reality when in 1998 the Montgomery County Council and the Maryland State Legislature approved matching capital support ($48 million each) for the Music Center at Strathmore. Numerous corporate and individual philanthropists contributed funding to make the construction of the Music Center at Strathmore possible. In 2001, the design team of architect William Rawn and acoustician Lawrence Kirkegaard were selected, and work began under the direction of the county.
Among the most significant buildings constructed in Montgomery County in many years, The Music Center at Strathmore redefined the character of the local arts community. Funding for the construction of the building was made possible through the support of the public, and its elected leaders at the State and County levels, with the Strathmore Hall Foundation responsible for day-to-day management of the facility. Additionally, hundreds of generous private and corporate donors stepped forward to help build, equip and sustain the operation of the Music Center, including $1 million donors: Comcast, Discovery Communications, Inc., The Gazette / The Washington Post / Post Newsweek Tech Media / Philip L. Graham Fund, J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation and Lockheed Martin.
DESIGN & ACOUSTICS
While creating an aesthetically breathtaking design, the acoustics of the hall were always kept in mind. Designed by William Rawn Associates Architects, Inc. of Boston, acousticians Kirkegaard Associates of Chicago, and theatre consultant Theatre Projects Consultants of South Norwalk, Connecticut, the result was a critically acclaimed venue.
The Music Center at Strathmore features a softly undulating roof that outlines the sloping form of the concert hall within. Inspired by the rolling hills of the Strathmore grounds, the building is nestled into the park-like setting. The warm-colored German limestone façade is punctuated by large glass walls, which bathe the building in brilliant light. A six-story, 64-foot high glass wall in the North Lobby, featuring 402 panes of glass, opens to an outdoor terrace that overlooks the 11-acre Strathmore site.
The intimate concert hall, designed in the traditional “shoebox” form of many distinguished international concert halls, incorporates soft curvaceous lines to enhance the warmth and intimacy of the space. The flowing curved ceiling of the hall follows the form of the rising and falling exterior roof, and the high ceiling at the rear of the hall slopes down to a lower ceiling above the stage.
Interior finishes of the concert hall include 24,000 square feet of maple wood floors, and 19,000 square feet of custom white birch wall paneling, with red birch details. Custom design details include 700 bronze mesh wall panels, 250 alabaster art glass light fixtures, and maple wood and aubergine velour seats. A sophisticated riser system optimizes stage conditions for the orchestra or chorus, and can be easily removed to accommodate many forms of other music or dance performance.
The ceiling of the concert hall slopes up from the stage to its highest point over the audience, enhancing the acoustical quality of the space. Acoustical adjustments can be made to accommodate a wide range of programming—from a solo recital to full symphony orchestra to amplified music. Tunable sound-absorbing curtains behind the bronze grilling and banners in the ceiling can be deployed out of sight to dampen or enliven the sound. A mechanized canopy of 43 individually controlled acoustical reflector panels over the stage can be reconfigured to fine-tune clarity and reverberance.