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Concert hall, unlike any other in North America, nears completion

Construction crews are finalizing work on a massive fine arts concert hall within Liberty University’s 141,000-square-foot Center for Music and the Worship Arts, home of the School of Music.

From the outside, one does not hear a thing, although the pounding and buzzing of construction echoes across the expanse of the concert hall — which goes up three stories with a basement and subbasement below. Vernon Whaley, dean of Liberty’s School of Music, explained that this is because the concert hall, like many teaching studios in the center, is a room within a room.

“Outside the concert hall is a second wall,” Whaley said, pointing out that the gap is filled with about eight inches of insulation. “That allows us to isolate the room so that it is not interfered with by the sound of rain or planes or trains or any other outside force.”

The concert hall has just under 1,600 seats, as well as a retractable, telescoping choir loft that doubles the stage seating from 150 to 300. The stage features an orchestra pit that can be raised and lowered at three different levels. The pit can be raised to serve as an extension of the stage, or, for more intimate shows, the pit can sit level with the audience. It can also be lowered to house a full orchestra beneath the seating area.

High above the seats is a large sound wave — a foreboding wooden structure that helps provide flexibility with the production of natural sound. The room is also equipped with the Meyer Sound Constellation Acoustic System. This system allows the concert hall to be multi-purpose, proving natural-sounding acoustics appropriate to a wide variety of performance needs. The state-of-the-art Constellation Acoustic System integrates rigorous design, calibration, and certification methodologies with flexible hardware and a software package so that the room can be adjusted for natural acoustic, non-amplified events or for electronic acoustic, amplified events.

“With the electronic miracles of the Constellation Acoustic System we can literally sample the acoustic in any concert setting anywhere in the world and duplicate it in this building,” Whaley said.

Whaley said that this flexibility allows for a variety of presentations, from classical orchestras to praise and worship, jazz and pop music shows, musical theatre, opera, and more.

“This will be the only building like this anywhere in North America in a college or university that will have this capability and this flexibility of doing both acoustic or electronic presentations in the same room,” he said.

The concert hall will open this fall and host a handful of events, such as College For A Weekend presentations — student-led worship, as well as a showcase of diverse musical styles — and a joint orchestra concert with the Liberty University and Lynchburg Symphony Orchestras. Christmas on the Boulevard, an annual School of Music tradition, will be significantly expanded and serve as the musical highlight of the semester, Dec. 5-10.

Since the staff will spend the semester getting familiar with operating the new acoustic system, the School of Music is planning its dedication for the Spring 2017 semester. The massive event, Whaley said, will be “one great big praise service for the Lord for all that He has done at Liberty.”

Beneath the concert hall is an entire floor designed for air conditioning. Units sit at one end of the vast room, while the rest of the space remains empty. Air comes up into the concert hall through the floor, helping maintain a comfortable temperature with no noise interference.

The Center for Music and the Worship Arts spans two connected buildings — the educational wing opened last fall, and offices in the second building were occupied in the spring while construction on the concert hall was still underway.

Sharing the building with the concert hall is a 124-seat recital hall, a percussion lab, green room with dressing rooms, four classrooms, piano storage, a catering prep space, world music exhibit, and offices for faculty and administration. There is also a loading dock to facilitate the arrival and departure of large equipment.

The educational wing includes 50 practice rooms, 42 teaching studios, two recital halls (one with 45 seats and another with 129), common rooms on each floor, and piano, songwriting, and music computer labs.

The center is expected to be fully completed by next spring. The last space — a recording studio attached to the educational wing — is in the design phase with construction planned to commence soon.

Liberty’s School of Music is the nation’s seventh largest school of music and is comprised of two centers — the Center for Music & the Performing Arts and the Center for Music & Worship — as well as the newly established Department of Commercial Music.

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