Sep 12, 2017

Music in the Desert: Construction of New Northern Arizona University Recital Hall Reflects Popularity of Music Program

Chamber of recital hall at Northern Arizona University, photo courtesay NAU

Music performance offerings this fall at Northern Arizona University will include a jazz ensemble concert; an October tuba performance, named, appropriately enough, Octubafest; and a choral tribute to Veterans Day.

Just twelve months or so from now, such presentations will be held inside NAU’s brand new Recital Hall, construction of which is launching on the west side of the main Flagstaff campus.

“This is all very exciting for us,” says Todd Sullivan, director of the School of Music at NAU. “But it is also very exciting for our students.”

“You hear about different projects that are being talked about, but as the students are returning to our campus this fall and actually seeing the middle part of a structure being demolished, that really makes an impression,” says Sullivan.

That “middle part” is a large space sandwiched between the NAU’s Ardrey Memorial Auditorium and a structure known simply as the Performing and Fine Arts building—a space that university officials thought could be put to better use.

“That area until now has been made up of very large ramp, which we are tearing out,” says Daniel Okoli, vice president for capital planning and campus operations at NAU.

“After that, we are repackaging some of the other building space that is there and moving that back, which will then give us enough room towards the front to build the new recital hall,” says Okoli.

Ultimately, out of the 26,800 square foot project, roughly 21,000 square feet will be made up of new construction, while 5,800 square feet will be renovated space.

Architectural rendering of new recital hall, photo courtesy of NAU

And that new space will put a premium on functionality, with the inclusion of a 250-seat recital hall, a choral rehearsal room, a choral library, an instrument library, an instrument rehearsal room, and lobby.

“This is a building that is being constructed for a purpose,” notes Sullivan. “When its finished, not only will it be a beautifully acoustic environment, it will also be a visually stunning place where our students can do their primary work.”

At a university whose enrollment is in excess of 30,000 students, NAU’s School of Music enjoys a steady enrollment of around four hundred graduate and undergraduate majors.

But NAU officials note that the music school additionally serves hundreds of other students who take various music course offerings, even though they are may be non-music majors.

The new space will also accommodate such programs as the Community and Dance Academy, which offers dance instruction, says Sullivan, to “community members from the age of 3 to 90.”

“You might imagine that with hundreds of students and individual recitals, along with the various small group recitals, that we are going to be keeping this new building busy for most months of the year,” he adds.

Members of the Arizona Board of Regents approved the $15 million project this summer, capping some two years of planning.

Of that $15 million, $9.5 million is being funded through bonds, with the remaining $5.7 million coming from a combination of gifts and donations.

Architectural rendering of inside proposed new recital hall, photo courtesy of NAU

“We have amazing support in the community made up of people who are not always from Flagstaff, but moved here and been taken with what we do,” explains Sullivan.

“These are donors who attend all the various recitals, get to know the students personally, and are just overall supportive.”

The new recital hall, says Okoli, while magnificent in its modernistic, edgy design, is not by any means the largest construction project seen on the NAU campus recently.

“Of the different high-profile projects we’ve undertaken here in the past few years, it is actually one of the smaller ones,” Okoli remarks.

The larger projects include the $35 million Student and Academic Services Building; a $20 million expansion of dining space at the du Bois Center; and the $70 million Wall Aquatic Center.

University officials say they expect to see the new recital hall completed, and ready for the sounds of music, by the fall of 2018.


By Garry Boulard

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