The community for Yale musicians becomes more tangible today, when the Adams Center for Musical Arts opens.
The Adams Center for Musical Arts, comprising Hendrie Hall, Leigh Hall and a new structure connecting the two, contains 26 new practice rooms. The Adams Center, which has been under construction for two years, also houses a recently built three-story orchestra rehearsal space and an atrium intended to facilitate interactions between undergraduate and graduate school musicians. Yale School of Music Dean Robert Blocker said that he hopes the Adams Center will give Yale musicians a space to collaborate and convey the “extraordinary musical culture” at Yale.
“Until now, there hasn’t been a space really where this community could gather, have a cup of coffee and say, ‘I heard your performance. It was absolutely fabulous,’ or ‘I heard you practice. How did you do that?’” Blocker said. “[The Adams Center] is a place where people collide. It’s something that we think that will enhance the entire artistic and cultural outlook of the University.”
According to David Brensilver, communications director at the School of Music, over a million dollars of the $57.1 million budget for the project were allocated to “state-of-the-art digital technology.” The orchestra room, as well as other spaces in the Adams Center, is equipped with advanced audio and video technology that will allow students to connect live with other musicians from across the world.
Although construction officially began in 2015, planning for the project took place 20 years earlier. When Blocker arrived at the Yale School of Music in 1995, he and then-Provost Alison Richard and Deputy Provost for the Arts Diana Kleiner engaged in extensive discussions about the expansion of music facilities for a wide range of programs. Blocker said that some of the practical reasons that drove the project included security concerns when using two buildings, inconveniences in transporting large instruments through stairways and the need to prevent expensive instruments from constantly moving in and out of Leigh and Hendrie halls and into occasionally harsh weather.
But besides expansion, other issues were also on the forefront of the project’s development.
“Even back in 1995, when we first began to talk about [the construction], I felt that we should maintain the historical integrity of all of the spaces that we used,” Blocker said. “History is very important but also how we repurpose buildings. We join our colleagues across the University, and other places across the country, that really think we should be good stewards of our environmental resources and our physical spaces in a way that allows us to repurpose and sustain them.”
Evidence of the preservation and historical significance of the buildings are clear from the onset. Leigh Hall, the first student health center, is lined with medical carvings that date back to the 1930s. In Hendrie Hall, which opened in 1895 as the original Yale Law School, the iron cast stairwell was entirely preserved in this project as well as original mosaic tiles in the hall’s Elm Street entryway.
KPMB Architects spearheaded the construction. Principal architect Chris Couse said that the team was attempting to create an “uplifting” space. He added that areas which fit this vision in the original Hendrie Hall were structurally inadequate and the architects had planned to repurpose and revalue its historical heritage through contemporary architecture.
“Buildings for music require exceptional acoustics to support critical listening,” Couse said. “This was a factor in almost every design decision about the project from the selection of materials and systems to the shaping of rooms and the segregation of various program elements in the building to avoid acoustic conflicts. Working within the existing structure of Hendrie Hall made the acoustic separation of rooms especially difficult because of the relatively light structural systems originally employed.”
Throughout the construction, music groups such as the Yale Glee Club and Yale Concert Band used alternative spaces for rehearsals. Emma Hathaway ’17, president of the Glee Club, said that she was able to rehearse in Hendrie Hall her freshman year but the group had to move to Connecticut Hall the following term. Though Hathaway said the space was fairly convenient, it posed a challenge in terms of size and acoustics as the over 80-member ensemble often had trouble configuring chairs and hearing one another.
“Hendrie Hall has been home to the Glee Club since 1937, so it’s very exciting to be heading back. For the past three years we’ve been spread out — with offices on Elm Street, rehearsals in Connecticut Hall, sectionals in Battell Chapel,” Hathaway said. “Now, everything will be back in one central location, decked out with lots of old Glee Club pictures and paraphernalia from years past, which I think will only serve to make members feel a lot closer to the Glee Club and its long history.”
The renovation was made possible through a donation from Stephen ’59 and Denise Adams. Donna Yoo MUS ’09, director of communications and alumni affairs at the Yale School of Music, said that as an alumna of the school she is especially proud and excited about the opening of the Adams Center.
The Adams also contributed a gift in 2005, making Yale School of Music a tuition-free professional institution.
Correction, Jan. 17: A previous version of this article misquoted Chris Couse as saying that buildings required exceptional acoustics to support critical learning. In fact, he said they were required to support critical listening.