The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth
Volume 20, No.1, Winter 2003

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UMD opens new Weber Music Hall

UMD’s new Weber Music Hall, which opened in October of 2002, provides musicians with the best of both worlds — the intimacy of a 350-person audience and the sound of a symphonic hall. As Jack Bowman, Dean of the School of Fine Arts says, “The Weber Music Hall is shaped like a gem.” But while the copper exterior may shine, the high dome ceiling does even more for the music than it does for the campus skyline. The sound on stage travels up into the spacious dome, creating the rich volume of a large concert hall.

The Weber Music Hall, which was designed by world-renowned architect Cesar Pelli, completes the “arts triangle” in the UMD Ordean Court along with the Tweed Museum of Art and the Marshall Performing Arts Center. Pelli’s celebrated work includes Malaysia’s Petronas Twin Towers, the World Financial Center in New York, and the design of the new Minneapolis Public Library. But that doesn’t stop him from getting excited about the UMD hall. From the moment he saw the Weber’s golden dome from the air as he flew into Duluth, Pelli was pleased with the finished product. He isn’t reserved about his opinions either, he calls the Weber Music Hall “the finest small concert hall in America.”

The hall opened with a series of events featuring clarinet concert artist and soloist, Richard Stoltzman, and his family, who joined UMD music faculty and students. A special commissioned work by UMD Professor Justin Rubin titled “Dedication and Fanfare” was also performed.

Before it opened, UMD Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin said, “We believe this extraordinary Weber Music Hall will become a campus and a community destination providing enrichment and enjoyment, and further defining UMD as an exciting regional arts center.” Judging from the sold-out concerts, she is going to be right.

The hall is named in honor of Mary Ann and Ron Weber for major gifts toward the design and completion of the building. The couple, now Twin Cities residents, met while both were students at UMD. inside the hall, the Brenda and Samuel Singer Rehearsal Room was named in their honor by their children.

Everything about the building is remarkable. A dramatic skylight stretches across the copper dome illuminating the night sky from within. The lobby grand staircase provides a commanding view of Lake Superior, and boasts a graceful, custom light fixture, concept-designed by Cesar Pelli.

The most pronounced aspect of the new hall is its wonderful acoustics. Weber Music Hall acoustician, Russell Cooper of Jaffe Holden Acoustics, said that different types of music sound best with different acoustics. The magic of the new Weber Music Hall is that, by moving baffles and curtains, the hall can be retuned for any type of music from rock, to jazz, to orchestral. Assistant Professor and Band Director Dan Eaton is excited about the possibilities this holds for the future. He said, “You can do whatever you want in here.”

With over 50 additional concerts and recitals by UMD music ensembles, faculty, and guest artists scheduled this year, Eaton is clearly not the only person looking forward to the possibilities Weber holds.

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