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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Pitzer Center to benefit students, Davis community

NICKI PADAR / AGGIE
NICKI PADAR / AGGIE

New recital venue provides music students with enhanced musical experience

The opening of the Ann E. Pitzer Center concert hall, a new performance and teaching space, has been much-anticipated by the UC Davis Music Department. The Pitzer Center will celebrate its grand opening from Sep. 23 to 25 with a variety of performances by the UC Davis Jazz Combos, the UC Davis Symphony, the Anderson-Roe Piano Duo, and a film screening of Koyaanisqatsi with world-renowned composer Philip Glass. 

The center is named after Davis alumna Ann E. Pitzer, who generously bequeathed $5 million toward the facility’s construction, and was a long-time supporter of UC Davis. The plans for the building have been in progress for years, and it has proved rewarding for the faculty and planning committee to see the completed outcome.

Carol Hess, a professor of music and the chair of the music department at UC Davis, noted that the process has been “a good exercise in persistence, and not letting things go.” She was present for the acoustical tests over the past weekend and raved about the center.

“It was wonderful to see so many people in the music department show up on a Sunday to make sure that this was all going smoothly, and the sound is just amazing!” Hess said. “We knew it would be good, but we didn’t know it would be that good. [The students] can walk out on the stage of a state-of-the-art concert hall where the acoustics can be perfectly calibrated to best compliment whatever instrument they are performing on. And if you’re a singer, the acoustics can be justified to have a optimal positions for [whatever] you’re performing.”

The center hosts 17,000 square feet of classroom space and a 399-seat recital hall.

“In addition to all of the professional benefits, it’s a real show of commitment in the music department, and the fact that we all really care about what we’re doing,” Hess said. “And if you’re a musician, you don’t say ‘Oh, I’m going to be a musician so that I can be rich’ — you do it because you love music, and I think that that has manifested itself in so many ways as we have gone through the years of planning, fundraising and preparation.”

Angela Yam, a fourth-year music major, was also present and participated in testing the Pitzer Center’s acoustics. 

“Rehearsing in the recital hall was an absolute dream; the audience felt simultaneously close and far away, which is perfect for performers just starting their careers to feel comfortable enough to emote while minimizing stage fright,” Yam said.

Groups such the Brazilian drumming ensemble, Cuban drumming ensemble, East Indian ensemble, jazz band and wind ensemble will be able to utilize the music hall. There will also be additional practice rooms that are, according to Hess, “a much better environment.”

“Right now, we’re all crammed into the music building,” Hess said. “If you are a brass player and you have to be practicing right door to the percussions studio, and you won’t hear what you’re doing. And that problem will be solved with the new concert hall.”

The space will not only be available for students of the Music Department, but also for a variety of majors and departments. The entire community of Davis is set to benefit from the enhanced musical experience of the Pitzer Center, as the space will continue to host concerts in a now larger and more professional environment. The popular Shinkoskey Noon Concerts, which have been hosted in older classrooms or in the lobby of the Mondavi Center, will now take place in the state-of-the-art Pitzer Center.

Philip Daley, the events and publicity manager for the Music Department and an alumnus of the music program, believes that the opening of the center will greatly benefit students.

“It’s thrilling to see this building finally happening, because I had performed my senior recital in a one-hundred-person classroom,” Daley said. “I will be looking forward to seeing how this will change for our current students. The center has been in the works for a long time, and we’re elated that it’s going to open!”

Hess also noted the impact that the center will have on the faculty and other performers.

“When the faculty perform, it’s so much nicer when you can really take pride in the surroundings,” Hess said. “It’s a professional environment, and we were feeling very celebratory after this weekend when we heard the detail, and the level of attention that has gone into the acoustics, and the things that are possible. It’s truly, really spectacular.”

All are welcome to the opening of the Pitzer Center, located at Old Davis Road and Hutchinson Drive, on Sep. 23. The Jazz Courtyard will provide an informal gathering space outside, and a jazz combo will be playing there on 3 p.m. on Friday. Admission to this event is free.

Visit the UC Davis Department of Music’s website for more information about ticketing for other Pitzer Center events.

 

Written by: Pari Sagafi — arts@theaggie.org

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