Work nears end on Skidmore's Zankel Music Center
Published: Saturday, October 17, 2009
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The music center’s new auditorium is equipped with 600 additional seats. (ERICA MILLER/The Saratogian)
West shows guests one of the center’s practice rooms, which employ heavy doors to seal in sound. (ERICA MILLER/The Saratogian)
By ANDREW J. BERNSTEIN, The Saratogian
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Mike West, vice president for finance and administration at Skidmore College, shows off the auditorium inside the college’s new Zankel Music Building, scheduled to open for the spring semester. (ERICA MILLER/The Saratogian)
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Although the building will not open until January 2010, students, parents and other members of the tour had a chance to see the inside of Skidmore College’s $32.5 million Zankel Music Center on Friday, as part of the school’s Celebration Weekend.
The building, on which work began in 2007, will be about 90 percent completed when it is ready for students in January, Skidmore College Vice President of Finance and Administration Mike West said to a group of families and students on a tour of the 55,000-square-foot building.
The formal opening and dedication will wait until all the building’s kinks are worked out, and is scheduled for fall 2010, West said.
The new facility, located near the North Broadway entrance to the campus, will replace the aging Filene Hall, and will serve as a home to the campus’s music programs, as well as a venue for community events. The building was funded primarily through a gift from Arthur Zankel, the parent of two Skidmore alumni. Zankel, now deceased, was co-managing partner of High Rise Capital Management, which he founded in 2002.
Previously, he spent 35 years with the investment management firm First Manhattan Co., becoming co-managing partner and senior partner. He is credited with playing a key role in the 1998 merger of Citibank and Travelers Group Insurance Co.
The building was designed as a part of Skidmore’s comprehensive plan in 2001 by Charles Belson, of Philadelphia-based EwingCole Architects. Long before the funds had been secured to build it, the facility won a national award for “unbuilt work.”
Now that the building is preparing for an opening, West said he hoped it would bring Skidmore’s music programs additional prestige.
“To have this building, for this type of school, I think we’ll be in the top 10 percent in this regard,” he said during Friday’s tour.
The building has three wings, each with a separate foundation. To the south is a 600-seat concert hall with a flexible stage to accommodate any kind of musical performance, from a single musician or lecturer to a full orchestra. An additional 100 seats can be added to the stage for some events.
The hall’s most distinctive feature is a soaring glass wall that will give audiences a view of the campus’s South Park. On Friday, fall leaves were clearly visible through the towering wall.
Stretching to the north are faculty offices, practice rooms, classrooms, a recording studio and an acoustically “dead” drum room, as well as circulation spaces.
Beyond the building to the west is a quad formed by the college’s theater and studio arts buildings, as well as the existing music building, which will likely be used for classrooms once Zankel is completed.
The building was constructed with a focus on isolating sounds, leading architects to use 750 tons of structural steel to support thick concrete pillars and walls. Some doors, specifically designed to seal in sound, weigh as much as 600 pounds and rotate down against sound proofing as they close.
Although West, charged primarily with construction, said he was not well versed in plans to make the building available for community events, he said there would be opportunities to give performers coming to SPAC a chance to perform at Skidmore as well.
“If we can offer them another venue, and perhaps have them do some instruction, it could be very good for SPAC as well as us,” he said.