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No second fiddle, SSU to debut Schroeder Hall this weekend


When it debuts this weekend, Sonoma State University’s new Schroeder Hall, a short walk from the Green Music Center’s renowned concert venue, is set to offer the campus and community something different.

The 250-seat recital hall, across the lawn seating area behind the 1,400-seat Weill Hall, will provide a more intimate space for live music by both local and guest artists as well as a place for students to learn, rehearse and perform.

Where Weill Hall, which debuted in 2012, has earned national and international acclaim for highly-billed orchestral concerts and celebrity performances, Schroeder will serve as classroom and lecture space on weekdays, presenting faculty and student recitals. On weekends, it will host performances by community groups and visiting artists, including authors and poets.

“This hall is going be a workhorse for the music department,” said Brian S. Wilson, chairman of the university’s faculty.

The hall is attached to the music department building but also will be used by other departments on campus, Wilson said.

The completion of the 3,420-square-foot Schroeder Hall puts in place another key part of the $145 million, 600,000-square-foot Green Music Center. With Weill Hall as the centerpiece, future plans call for construction of a 10,000-seat outdoor amphitheater with fixed and lawn seating.

University officials offered several dozen journalists an early preview Monday of the $9.5 million Schroeder Hall, with a tour of the space and a demonstration of its pipe organ, designed to play the music of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

“The acoustics are perfect,” said organist James David Christie of Oberlin Conservatory of Music, after playing one of his own compositions on the 1,248-pipe organ. “This is one of the finest recital and performance halls for organ music that I have ever experienced.”

Speaking from the organ loft high above the stage, Christie was easily heard without amplification, underscoring the facility’s dual purpose as a lecture hall and classroom.

The Green Music Center project began 17 years ago, when founding donors Don and Maureen Green dreamed of a small recital hall for concerts by local groups like the Sonoma County Bach Choir, to which the Greens belonged. The choir is one of the groups slated to perform at Schroeder Hall during the coming season.

Over time, the Green Music Center grew into a much more ambitious undertaking, with the larger Weill Hall, named for major donors Joan and Sandy Weill, in the forefront.

“Weill Hall is very important us, but Schroeder Hall is just as important, as it relates to the entire community,” Laurence Furukawa-Schlereth, co-executive director of the Green Music Center, said.

The new hall is named for the little boy in the “Peanuts” comic strip who played Beethoven on a toy piano. Local philanthropist and Green Music Center contributor Jean Schulz suggested the idea, in honor of her late husband, cartoonist and “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz.

“She asked if we’d consider naming it Schroeder Hall, and it was universally warmly received on campus,” Furukawa-Schlereth said. “Everyone loved the idea.”

An eager public already has snapped up advance tickets for several of the 10 free concerts in the new hall scheduled for this weekend’s two-day opening celebration.

Online tickets are already gone for all of the concerts, including pianist David Benoit’s “Tribute to Charlie Brown” on Saturday and a brass, vocal and pipe organ recital Sunday, but some 50-100 additional tickets will be available for all of the shows at Schroeder Hall starting at 10 a.m. Saturday.