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Davis, California

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Davis family sparks effort for new music building

The long-awaited recital hall that the UC Davis department of music has been sorely lacking is finally under way thanks to a significant donation from a local family.

Announced on Sunday at the annual performance of the combined UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, Chorus, and Alumni Chorus, the $1 million gift from Grace and Grant Noda and their adult daughters – Kathy Miura and Tanya Yan – is the largest in the department of music’s history. It will go entirely toward construction of a 400-seat facility.

Professor of musicology and symphony conductor D. Kern Holoman said Noda’s donation jumpstarted the effort.

“She really got this going with her announcement Sunday, giving money so they can get the project over with soon and inviting everyone to jump in the cause now,” he said.

Anna Maria Busse Berger, the music department chair and professor of musicology, said of Noda, “It’s wonderful, and it’s so generous of her. She was a pianist, and she always cared about music and it’s so wonderful that she did this. It’s a great way to show appreciation for what we do here at UC Davis because we have such a strong music program, but we don’t have a good building and this will change everything.”

The hall will be located at the edge of campus, adjacent to the current music building on the east side, facing Sproul Hall, Olson Hall and on the brink of downtown Davis. It is projected to be one of the most active venues in the Sacramento region upon opening in 2011, said Phil Daley, events manager for the department of music.

The entire project will cost $21.6 million, $16.1 million of which will come from a bond issue proposed for November 2008, and the remaining $5.5 million will come from private contributions. Factoring the Noda gift and other significant contributions, approximately $4 million remain.

The recital hall is expected to be home to more than 100 concerts annually, including chamber festivals, the free Noon Concert series, and performances by student and professional resident ensembles.

Daley gave an example of a group that would benefit.

“The very successful Alexander String Quartet is a series that has been in the studio theater for a couple of years now as something that the Mondavi Center regularly presents. But the Studio Theatre is not an acoustically ideal hall, and the new building will be more accommodating,” he said.

Holoman said the facility will have the most impact on the Noon Concert series, the oldest established concert series in Northern California that dates back to the earliest days of the campus.

“Year in and year out, Thursday at noon, there’s always a concert, it’s always free and now there will be a state of the art facility to provide better sound quality,” he said.

The biggest benefactor of the new hall among classes, and the primary user Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 9 a.m. will be Music 10. When the current music building was built in 1966, 50 students were enrolled in the class. Today, that number has jumped to 750, and the class needs a home.

As a gesture of appreciation, the campus will name a courtyard on the west side of the new facility “The Noda Family Courtyard.” It will link the recital hall to the existing music building and serve as an outdoor area for lectures, informal performances, and artist receptions.

The new building will provide much more than the average recital hall. It will contain four new teaching studios, recording controls, an ethnomusicology studio, artist and audience amenities, and production and teaching offices.

Busse Berger has been working on the effort for a new music building for more than 10 years and was exuberant over the triumph to be had in 2011.

“I love teaching here at UCD. I think our students are among the very best, but we don’t have proper facilities. I think our music department is really one of the best in America, but our facilities lag far behind, and I want our students to be able to play in a proper concert hall. I think [the new recital hall] will enhance the music experience at Davis for generations to come,” she said.

The Noda family has also contributed to a youth opera program in San Francisco, the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, local Democratic candidates and, previous to the recital hall donation, donated more than $100,000 to UC Davis over the years in support of the arts, ethical studies and sciences.

MIKE DORSEY can be reached at campus@californiaaggie.com.

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