When the doors open to the Sauder Concert Hall at Goshen College, the outside world can fade away.
The flow of a musical melody is captured by the acoustics inside the hall and captivates the audience with the surrounding sounds.
Marcia Yost, director of the Music Center that houses the Sauder Concert Hall, has seen and heard many performers since the center was built in 2002.
“There’s something that happens to a person when they stand on the stage to perform,” Yost said. “Every time I walk in here I am struck by the wealth of music that has graced this hall. Everything from the artistry of Bobby McFerrin or the St. Petersburg Philharmonic to the wonderful Goshen College ensembles and on to the young children in the Community School of the Arts, this place is magical to me. I wonder who will get to experience this hall in the years to come.”
Other high-profile musicians have performed at the concert hall, including Emmylou Harris, Seraphic Fire and Birdland Big Band.
“We’re providing first-class performers and we are training young hearts to appreciate and know music,” Yost said. “That’s the gift.”
The gift comes in the form of providing outreach opportunities for children in Elkhart County to participate in the Community School of the Arts (CSA) inside the Music Center.
When the center was built, a wing was dedicated for community teaching, said Deb Kauffman, CSA director.
“We service more than 1,000 children in the county in art outreach with youth orchestras and choirs, private lessons and the ‘Music Together’ program,” Kauffman said. “It’s a fun thing for county student musicians to get to know other young musicians in the county.”
The Music Together program provides affordable education and fun with music for families with babies, toddlers and preschoolers. There are about 125 families participating in the program and about 340 students in Headstart classrooms, Kauffman said.
“The program is modeled a little bit after the Suzuki method of learning communication skills and parenting skills,” Yost said. “It grooms young minds to be ready to learn. It’s a tool for outreach and all CSA lessons have need-based scholarships. All the youth involved in the music programs can come to many of the department concerts for free with their families, but not the general concerts. It becomes a perk of their tuition and promotes community participation.”
Yost added that with the variety of programs available at different times, community members could see quality entertainment at least every three nights if they wanted.
Having an impact
The GC music department makes an impact with the college students gaining experience in teaching and coaching the young musicians in the different programs, said Beverly Lapp, music department chairwoman.
And having the music department in one building — rather than dispersed across the campus as it was a decade earlier — has made a difference for everyone, Lapp said.
“We have access to this wonderful space to teach and perform in the department,” Lapp said. “We are playing to our strengths. We share the space with other programs and they can experience sharing with other people. The music department is its own entity. It was critical to the funding of this building to know it would be an outreach to the community.”
Yost added that several of the high-profile performers share with the younger musicians when they are performing at the Music Center.
“Seraphic Fire opened up their rehearsal to our kids and others. ... presented educational programs,” Yost said. “We can create programs to fit the marvelous facility that we have.”
‘Sense of intimacy’
A groundbreaking ceremony for the Music Center took place June 2, 2000, and featured special presentations symbolizing the college’s music foundations. The $22 million facility opened in 2002 with Sauder Concert Hall and Rieth Recital Hall, 20 practice rooms and faculty teaching studios providing a setting for individual and small group rehearsals. The 68,000-square-foot facility includes music classrooms, administrative offices, an art gallery and a music library.
The Sauder Concert Hall has seating for 900 concert-goers. For smaller concerts or programs, the Rieth Recital Hall provides seating for 250 audience members. It also has the Rieth Recital Hall organ, which features more than 1,600 pipes and was a $500,000 gift to Goshen College, Yost added.
“There’s a sense of intimacy in the smaller recital hall,” Yost said, pointing toward the chairs set up facing the stage. “The chairs can be rearranged to face the opposite end for organ recitals.”
Kauffman mentioned the “feather in their cap” with performers being able to record their music in the halls.
“Tokyo String Quartet (an international string quartet) filmed inside our facility,” Kauffman said. “It’s an affirmation from other performers to the acoustics in this place. This is Goshen’s community music center as well. People continue to support this facility year after year. It’s a facility for all of us — it’s not just a college space.”