Concert goers to the MSU College of Music will soon be able to experience top-of-the-line twenty-first-century amenities and acoustics.
The college’s decades old Music Auditorium will undergo a technological renewal to become Cook Recital Hall, bearing the name of lead donors Dee and Byron Cook. In addition, Fairchild Theatre in MSU’s Auditorium Building will be upgraded to become a prime venue for music performances.
These are exciting plans for MSU’s music program, which has seen a spurt of student growth since 1997. Elevated from a school to a college five years ago, it has emerged as a national leader for graduate student placement in tenure track academic positions and can also point to alumni performing in major music venues the world over. The college now hosts more than 300 performances a year.
Upgrading the performance spaces helps maintain this momentum, notes Dean James Forger, who credits the generosity of donors in The Campaign for MSU who helped create the music facilities fund. Joining Dee and Byron Cook as significant contributors were President Lou Anna K. and Dr. Roy J. Simon, Catherine Herrick Cobb, Jack and Dottie Withrow, Selma and Stanley Hollander, Dr. Milton E. Muelder, Merritt and Candy Lutz, John and Audrey Leslie, Tom Cobb, and Glenn and Marlene Gardner.
“We are tremendously grateful for the vision of our donors and are thrilled that the recital hall will be named for Dee and Byron Cook,” says Forger. “Their passion for music, MSU and excellence will enrich others’ lives for generations.”
On any given day, the current auditorium is booked solid from 7 a.m. to midnight, serving the myriad roles needed in a music school from classroom to practice facility, audition area, recording studio and concert hall.
“I’m excited for the performance opportunities these renovations will make possible,” says Ann Marie Theis, a junior majoring in vocal performance. “With the improved acoustics, Cook Recital Hall will also be a great place for students to make recordings for competitions and grad school auditions.”
Although designed in the 1940s, the music auditorium does have its charms—including historic architectural detail and an intimate proximity between audience and performers. Both will be retained in the renovation. Gone will be the occasional vroom of an accelerating motorcycle on Circle Drive.
Under Dean Forger’s leadership, a team of architects and acousticians were brought in to evaluate the Music Auditorium. Notably, the sound experts found that the size and contours of the auditorium were perfectly suited to an audience of 180, a far cry from the 360 it currently packs in. It was clear from the beginning that moving this project forward would require a concurrent improvement to Fairchild Theatre to make it the college’s go-to venue for larger audiences.
By the next academic year, the Music Auditorium will have undergone a complete metamorphosis. Audiences will be enveloped by the acoustical treatments as well as warm wood finishes, new seating, state-of-the-art audio/visual capabilities, updated lighting, and greatly enhanced environmental controls that include air conditioning—all in all, a first rate listening experience.
By fall of 2013, a similar transformation will take place with the 600-seat Fairchild Theatre. Originally intended as a multi-purpose events facility, Fairchild will become uniquely suited for music performance—a welcome new home for the choral music program. A greatly improved pit orchestra area will allow for rehearsals and performances of opera and large-scale choral works.
The Cooks well knew the needs of the Music Auditorium and the vocal music program. As an MSU student, Dee sang in Big Bands. Byron played trombone in the Spartan Marching Band. She went on to perform on radio and TV. He went on to law school at the University Of Michigan before pursuing a career in the oil and gas exploration and production industry. Together they became longtime, loyal patrons of the College of Music—the kind that never miss certain annual concerts and have made continuous contributions through service, advocacy and sponsorships. Both are founding members of the college’s National Leadership Council. Dee, who also served for 16 years on the MSU Board of Trustees, felt MSU’s music facilities were the place where their shared love of music and MSU could make an impact. Byron agreed.
“We are overwhelmed and thrilled to be a part of the growth of this wonderful program,” he says. Dee adds, “Through their extraordinary performances, the students and faculty of the College of Music provide a window to the quality of the whole university. Neither Byron nor I ever dreamed as students that we would have the opportunity to be as connected to MSU as this recital hall makes us.”