Wheaton College celebrates future performing arts center
Wheaton College's Armerding Hall is being transformed into a performing arts center and next year will become the home of the school's Conservatory of Music.
The building also will have a new name: the Armerding Center for Music and the Arts.
School officials announced the name change Thursday during a celebration of the performing arts center project.
A large crowd, including campus leaders, student musicians and others involved with the project, attended the outdoor event.
"This day is a very significant day, and it's been so long in coming," said Kirk Farney, the college's vice president for advancement, vocation and alumni engagement. "For more years than most of us care to count, we've dreamed about a new home for the conservatory."
The project will provide state-of-the-art facilities for students and faculty who now use multiple buildings that are inadequate for their needs.
"Their highest calling is the making of music with ... our students," said David Gieser, chairman of the college's board of trustees. "But our faculty have not had adequate facilities to carry out that task."
Anjali Chudasama, a sophomore music education major, described how students must use practice rooms with no airflow and "far too much sound flow, especially when next to a trumpet or a soprano."
The interior of the hall at 520 E. Kenilworth Ave. has been gutted. Renovation is slated to begin in December. The plan is to move music programs into the building in fall 2017.
Michael Wilder -- the Christian college's dean of the conservatory, arts and communication -- said the performing arts center will include a digital keyboard lab, two recording studios attached to music performance spaces, practice rooms, a music learning lab, chamber music rooms, teaching studios, a choral rehearsal hall and a 110-seat recital hall.
"And all of it, by the way, will be air-conditioned with proper sound isolation," Wilder said as the crowd cheered and clapped.
He said the building will help career musicians achieve "higher levels of excellence and preparedness in performance, teaching, composing, ministry, service."
"The building will better support the continued flourishing of our music faculty," Wilder said. "At the same time, this building will invite everyone to musical engagement."
In addition to the renovation work, Breyer Hall at 603 Irving Ave. is slated to be demolished to make way for a 550-seat concert hall that will be built during a second phase of work.
Breyer is next to Armerding.
Donors have contributed more than $30 million for the project. But before the concert hall can be built, additional money must to be raised.
"The resources for that part of the project have not yet been provided," Wheaton College President Philip Ryken said. "So that's part of our ongoing prayer."