On Sept. 5 and 6, the newly renovated Sprague Hall was christened with performances by jazz legends The Heath Brothers and Grammy Award-winning classical guitarist Sharon Isbin MUS ’79.
After undergoing extensive renovations for two years, Sprague Hall reopened its doors this weekend. New features in the hall include a new heating and cooling system, a new lighting system and supertitles above the stage for opera performances. School of Music Dean Robert Blocker said he thinks the construction was a success.
“We’re delighted with how it has turned out,” Blocker said. “We tested the hall in August with a virtual audience and we were confident, but you can’t be certain until you get a real full audience in there. We couldn’t be more elated.”
The Heath Brothers, a legendary jazz trio that has been active in the jazz world for more than 40 years, gave the first concert. The concert also featured pianist Jeb Haynes Patton, who has been with the group since1998.
“We’re lucky enough that all of us are still here,” group member Jimmy Heath said. “Among us, we’ve got more than 150 years of experience and more than 900 recordings. We’ve all played with jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, J.J. Johnson, Miles Davis, and the Modern Jazz Quartet, and we’re the elders of the surviving families of this music. So if you’ve been meaning to hear the Heath Brothers again or for the first time, well, it’s now or never.”
After the concert, on the morning of Sept. 6, the Heath Brothers offered a free master class that featured young jazz performers from the local community.
“I’ve waited 30 years to assemble all three Heath Brothers on this stage,” said Willie Ruff, director of the Duke Ellington Fellowship. “I wanted them to join the category of artists who have appeared before and instructed more than 200,000 young people in this community.”
Heath said he was pleased to have been chosen to perform the opening concert at Sprague.
“In spite of all the things that are going on on campus, we are honored to be here opening the newly renovated Sprague Hall,” Heath said.
On Sept. 6, Sprague Hall presented a concert by classical guitarist Isbin. In 1989, Isbin founded Juilliard’s classical guitar department, and she has been nominated for three Grammy Awards. In 2001 she won the Grammy for “Best Instrumental Soloist without Orchestra.”
She is also the winner of Guitar Player magazine’s “best classical guitarist” award, the Madrid Queen Sofia and Toronto competitions, and she was the first guitarist ever to win the Munich Competition.
These two concerts are the first in a yearlong series at Sprague Hall. Blocker said these two concerts were chosen to start the season to show a number of different styles. Sprague Hall usually presents over 200 concerts a year.