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The Scheidt Family Music Center

Building on a Legacy of Arts Access

Article by Jeannie Tabor

Photography by Sarah Bell, Sélavie Photography

Originally published in River City Lifestyle

If you have driven down Central Avenue lately near the University of Memphis you have surely noticed the amazing new Scheidt Family Music Center. This 82,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility is not only enabling the U of M to create a comprehensive arts community, it is expanding access to the arts across Memphis.  

The Scheidt building houses the largest recording room in Memphis, allowing movies to be scored and songs for video games to be produced, as well as a 900 seat concert hall. A “masterclass” rehearsal room is wired for distance learning and streaming broadcasting. Like a gigantic zoom set-up, an instructor in Spain can be teaching students about playing the viola through the use of microphones, cameras and projectors.

The building was designed in a collaborative effort between Fleming Architects and archimania, and is being built by Montgomery Martin Contractors. Matt Seltzer, lead archimaniac (real title) on the project, explained that Fleming has a lot of experience with the U of M and archimania has a lot of experience working with the arts, so the team combined to bring the absolute best to the university community.

All technical aspects of the building and stage are being managed to meet the exact needs of the opera, symphony, musical theater and even rock concerts. Matt mentions that other large cities, such as Dallas, have a separate opera house, theater and concert hall. He says, “the Scheidt building is bringing the broadest array of music options to the school and to our city, all while making it sound just as good as it does in those great spaces.”

How is this happening? By extreme attention to detail at every turn, starting with acoustics. The whole building is actually two buildings seamlessly fused together to ensure that no sound from practice rooms, studios, music labs or classrooms enters the stage and vice-versa. The height of the stage is dictated by the amount of echo necessary for the music to travel after the last note is played, making sure that the reverb mimics the very best concert halls in the world. 

Even though every architectural decision has been made to ensure perfection, Matt says that, “The goal is for patrons to be enraptured by the magic that is happening on stage, blissfully unaware of all the details that went into its creation.” The intent is to attract a wide variety of audiences, including the dedicated music student as well as the engineering student who has never been to a concert but wants to know what is happening in this cool, new building.

In addition to grooming patrons, this building is a game changer in terms of attracting and retaining students and faculty. The building raises the visibility of the University of Memphis as a whole, according to Kevin Sanders, director of the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music. “This building is going to enable us to amplify all of the millions of success stories regarding students and faculty. It’s going to be a hub for every performing arts operation in town and will enable us to host national and international conferences, something we have been wanting to do for decades.”

“The exterior of the new building is a hybrid blend–taking what’s awesome about the U of M and adding layers of materials unique to the music center,” Matt says. Specifically, the foundation of the building is red brick at its base, which mirrors the familiar university buildings across the street. The next layer is composed of modern, lightweight metal panels, which serve to visually engage students and reflect the activity going on inside. Large glass windows throughout show light and movement, creating something similar to a store front, beckoning arts lovers and the curious passersby to explore.

Much of the interior is multi-use. Several open areas with living room style furniture allow patrons to relax before or after a performance or for students gathering between classes. Students will be able to sit along the bleacher-style stairs connecting the two floors and study or mix music on laptops using individual power sources. A terrace on the west side acts like a front porch, a community living room, and a visual tie-in to the rest of the arts buildings across the street. 

Matt explains how the placement of the new building is crucial to creating a seamless, comprehensive arts campus. “The foundations of all of the arts buildings are on the same grade, so students can look across Central and see other students, highlighting how theater, music and art are all working together.”

Please consider making a gift to the Strike a Chord: Scheidt School of Music Drive for Excellence. The primary focus of the drive is to provide student musicians with instruments for rehearsals and performances, give students who can’t afford instruments the ability to borrow one and enhance the Scheidt Family Music Center with world-class technology and recording equipment. To learn more visit memphis.edu/musiccenter or contact Laura Hall at laura.m.hall@memphis.edu.

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