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Music Hall Updates


December 2016 Update

What's New With Music Hall Construction?

This month delivers many exciting updates on renovation work at Cincinnati’s Music Hall:

• The transformation of Corbett Tower continues! This space must be seen to be believed. Visit cincinnatisymphony.org/musichall for a link to 3CDC’s construction photos, including the jawdropping restoration of Corbett Tower.    

                                                                    The new concrete “stage apron” in Springer Auditorium

• The “stage apron” concrete has been poured. This is the area of the stage that extends past the proscenium arch, to bring the Orchestra into Springer Auditorium. This stage extension will allow the musicians to hear each other more clearly, and will improve acoustics for the audience as well.

• The areas around the new music library have been reinforced, preparing the space for the library’s heavy, high-density storage.                  

• The CSO offices have drywall! Did you know that a “mezzanine” level has been added in what was formally a single-level office space? The architects have been very clever in “finding” square footage throughout the building. Another great example is reclaiming the unused carriageway spaces.

• Just outside the new CSO offices and box office space, progress has been made on a new elevator bank. This elevator will reach all floors—something entirely new to Music Hall!

Work to restore Corbett Tower continues, including opening the formerly bricked-over windows and revealing the raised ceiling


November 2016 Update

Where is the Music Hall Chandelier?

In each issue of Fanfare, we update audiences on the Music Hall renovation and answer some of the questions that we are most frequently asked. Without a doubt, one of the most popular questions is about the Music Hall chandelier.

 Music Hall’s chandelier awaits restorative treatment on specialty hanging racks.

Since 1969, Music Hall’s Springer Auditorium has featured a grand chandelier in the center of the frescoed ceiling. This chandelier—and the others throughout the building—were donated by Patricia and J. Ralph Corbett during Music Hall’s most recent renovation, nearly 40 years ago. Audiences have adored this sparkling feature of the Auditorium, and we are pleased that this chandelier will return to its prominent place when Music Hall reopens.

So where is the chandelier now? After being carefully packaged in June, the chandelier was whisked away to its temporary home in St. Louis, Missouri, where it is being rewired, repaired and cleaned to shine brightly on generations to come. According to Gary Behm, Historic Lighting Consultant and President of St. Louis Antique Lighting Company, the Music Hall chandelier’s 22-ft. diameter is considered “monumental,” and each of the thousands of crystals is being cleaned by hand. “We use an ultrasound bath,” says Behm, “which is same way the jewelers would clean your diamond ring.”

We’d like to thank Scott Santangelo of Cincinnati Arts Association for sharing the photo below of the chandelier’s graceful exit from Music Hall.


A picture is worth a thousand words, and so in this issue we are featuring a sample of the photography around the Music Hall renovation.

Each of these images was shot by photographer Matt Zory—who also happens to play bass with our Orchestra! You may recognize Matt whether you attend our classical performances or prefer the Pops, where Matt often performs in the swinging “rhythm section.”

Matt compares his renovation photography project to a portrait series he recently showcased, focusing on the diverse faces of Over-the-Rhine. Says Matt, “That show highlighted the humanity of the neighborhood at the time—many of whom had never stepped foot inside Music Hall. Now, here we are exploring not just the resurrection of this neighborhood icon but the people who are committing a huge chunk of their waking hours to making it happen—and many of them had never been in Music Hall before either.”

To see more of Matt Zory’s photography work, visit facebook.com/MatthewZoryPhotography, or watch the CSO’s Facebook page.


For this month’s update on the Music Hall renovation, we reached out to 3CDC’s Vice President of Project Management, Jeff Martin. Martin is well versed in every facet of this complex renovation.

CSO: Can you give us an overview of the construction that has taken place to date?

Jeff Martin: A tremendous amount of work has already gone into the project, with teams from Messer Construction working in double shifts to ensure we meet our deadlines. In the spring a good deal of careful demolition took place—we removed the old auditorium seats, safeguarded the historical elements of the hall, demolished the unused carriageway spaces, ran exhaustive asbestos abatement, and much more. In early summer the teams began working on installation of mechanical, electrical and plumbing—all of the important groundwork to prepare the building for what lies ahead.

CSO: What are the next steps in the renovation?

Martin: While we have made a great deal of progress, this is only the beginning! Corbett Tower will undergo a major historical restoration, and it’s going to be jawdropping— during early construction we found some hints about its original designs that we’ll be able to bring back to life. Springer Auditorium is of course the heart and soul of the project, and every piece of that room will be touched in some way to be sure the acoustics, the history and the patron/musician experience of the room are protected and enhanced. We have restrooms, bars and a box office to build, many accessibility needs to meet, and some beautiful new seats to install (which Music Hall patrons chose!). It’s going to be a busy year, but when we’re through Music Hall will be ready for the next generation of your patrons.

CSO: What has been the most interesting part of the project for you so far?

Martin: It is fascinating to be working on a National Landmark, and one with such deep and emotional connections for so many people. It’s an honor to work on a project that has so much passion behind it. This building is not only an architectural gem, but it has also provided so many memories to thousands (if not millions) of people in our community over time, and learning about its rich history has been extremely interesting and intriguing. It has been an engaging process to honor and preserve those memories, while simultaneously looking to the future to help facilitate new memories.

Dive deeper into the renovation and keep up to date with 3CDC’s construction photos, weekly emails and the CSO’s own Music Hall FAQ here: cincinnatisymphony.org/musichall.


Summer 2016 Update


Music Hall Renovation: Finding the Leaders

The planning process surrounding the renovation of Music Hall began with a litany of questions. Among the “whens” and “whys” came the question of “who?” Who would comprise the team to accomplish such a massive project? One component of the team is overseeing the many moving parts of the renovation; who better to put to the task than Cincinnati's own Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation, more commonly known as 3CDC.

Founded in 2003, 3CDC is a non-profit real estate development and finance organization focused on strategically revitalizing Cincinnati's downtown urban core. You might recognize some of its recent projects, such as the revitalization of downtown's Fountain Square and the renaissance of Music Hall's front lawn, Washington Park. 3CDC's Vice President of Project Management, Jeff Martin, gave Fanfare Cincinnati the facts: “Over the past 11 or 12 years, 3CDC's development projects have totaled $843 million, resulting in 144 buildings restored, 50 new buildings constructed, 10 acres of restored civic space, 1,113 housing units, 156 hotel rooms, 328 shelter beds, 845,000 square feet of commercial space, and 2,656 parking spaces."

In the revitalization of Music Hall, 3CDC has been "engaged as the Development Manager, responsible for overseeing the financing, design, construction and turnover of the entire project," said Martin. "What makes this project exciting is the puzzle of figuring out how to get it all done in a timely manner and turn it back over to the tenants and patrons quickly! For this reason, work actually began in the building last summer and continued even while the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra carried out its season...This is more exciting work than renovating a vacant building or constructing something new—there will be many people waiting to get back in and experience a whole new Music Hall."

Throughout the renovation, Music Hall will be in the hands of the people most capable of its care and longevity. Says Martin, "Music Hall is a national landmark and one of only a few architectural treasures here in Cincinnati. I know this phrase gets used a lot, but it truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity."

—Laura Bock


May 2016 Update


Music Hall Renovation: The Sweetest Sound

To many people, the single most important element in renovating a historic performance hall is that of the acoustic treatment. Dealing with the sonic complexities of such a large venue housing instruments of countless timbres and tones is no small task, so an extensive bidding process with the best acousticians in the world was performed in preparation for the renovation of Music Hall. The search ended with acoustical design firm Akustiks, which has led the renovations of Severance Hall, Eastman Theatre, and which will soon tackle “the most challenging renovation project in history” according to Principal Designer Paul Scarbrough: the transformation of David Geffen Hall (formerly Avery Fisher Hall) at Lincoln Center.

A rendering of the renovated Springer Auditorium, Music Hall, with new lift systems to improve acoustics.

Just as musicians must tune their instruments, the Akustiks team conducted their own “tuning” of Springer Auditorium, where in-depth acoustic tests on stage with CSO musicians pinpointed the nuances to consider. Scarbrough readily affirms that his team has “tremendous respect for the acoustic legacy of Music Hall and how it has shaped the sound of the ensembles and companies that call it home.” The firm’s design strategies are founded on comprehensive studies of the historic European and American halls where symphonic and choral traditions as we know them were born. “Far from being radical or untested, the subtle changes we are introducing in Music Hall have evolved through over a century of acoustic research, testing and listening. We have tremendous confidence in these strategies because they are based on our own successes and that of other acoustical practitioners throughout the world,” said Scarbrough.

On this auditory front, none should fear—Music Hall is in the most capable hands. Dedicated to his craft and to protecting the “musical memory” that Cincinnatians harbor about Music Hall, Scarbrough left us with this comforting notion: “One might think of us as the guardians of Music Hall’s historic acoustic legacy while working to burnish that legacy for new generations of Cincinnati audiences.”

—Laura Bock


Update for April 2016


Music Hall Renovation: Setting the Stage

By now, you are more than aware of the intensive renovation currently underway at our beloved Music Hall. You’ve read about the architects and the
design, even about the acoustic treatment. But what about lights? Drama? Theatre? This month, we’re taking a step deeper with a profile of the company responsible for the vision behind all things technical: meet theatre planners and architectural lighting designers Schuler Shook.

Founded in 1986, Schuler Shook has made a reputation for itself in the world of theatre consulting with projects ranging from 200-seat intimate drama
theatres to 3,000-seat opera houses, including successes with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Kings Theatre in New York and Saenger Theatre in New Orleans. 

After undergoing a $95 million renovation, Kings Theater, closed for nearly 40 years, reopened in 2015. 

The designers at Schuler Shook believe that a crucial key to successful design begins with an open collaborative process, which is exactly the process they’ve taken with plans for Music Hall. Partner and principal designer Michael DiBlasi told Fanfare Cincinnati that their work on Cincinnati’s architectural icon “is a careful balance between the needs for the various performance groups, the existing historic building, and inserting the appropriate stage technology systems.” Specifically, DiBlasi said, his team will consult with each of Music Hall’s user groups, as well as the other design team members (3CDC, acousticians, architects, etc.) and focus on the technical systems: “the stage rigging for scenery and orchestra canopy, pit lifts, stage lighting, seating and sightlines, and the technical infrastructure for all of the productions.”

A rendering of the renovated Springer Auditorium, Music Hall, with new lift systems to improve acoustics.

Why all the change? Quite simply, the utmost care has been taken to ensure that efforts being taken will result in a better audience experience. Examples of proposed changes to Springer Auditorium include new extensions, or orchestra “lifts,” which will be put in place for a better all-around acoustic experience and more leg room added to previously cramped conditions on the orchestra level.

Regarding Schuler Shook’s enthusiasm for this project, DiBlasi said, “Music Hall is an incredible building and it has been great to engage with all of the users to understand their needs and to design a project that will work well for many years to come.”

—Laura Bock


Update for March 2016


Looking Forward to a Renovated Music Hall

Music Hall is iconic, but in dire need of attention. Too many grand halls throughout the nation and around the world have fallen victim to neglect. In fact, historic theatres right here in Cincinnati have fallen into disrepair and many torn down—theaters like the Albee, Shubert, Capitol, Grand and Palace. This renovation will preserve Music Hall for generations to come by proactively addressing real underlying issues that endanger the hall’s future viability. The cost of this work is well into the millions of dollars. These important repairs, structural reinforcements and improvements are absolutely necessary and represent an essential investment in Music Hall’s future. This critically important renovation will ensure Music Hall remains a vibrant community gathering space for future generations.

Cincinnati's Albee Theatre, pre-demolition.

Imagine for a moment what’s ahead.

This renovation will affirm Music Hall as one of the world’s greatest performance venues, celebrate the hall’s remarkable history, breathe new life and
accessibility into the Music Hall experience, and lay the foundation for a bright future. People from all over the country will look to Music Hall as a renovation and restoration in tune with the aspirations of audiences and community.

Music Hall’s extraordinary history will come to life as windows are re-opened and historic treatments of walls, ceilings and doors are restored— seamlessly and artistically blended into an accessible, comfortable and updated experience. The space will be connected more than ever to the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and Washington Park, which underwent a remarkable transformation just four years ago.

Music Hall as a backdrop to Washington Park during LumenoCity, 2014.

A great deal of attention is going into every detail, from new elevators to expanded restrooms to much greater accessibility to fantastically restored and reimagined spaces. And in Springer Auditorium, where audiences have come to know and love the CSO and Pops through amazing performances for several decades, the acoustic process has been meticulous, engaging the world’s foremost acousticians, the Orchestra’s artistic leadership and CSO musicians.

With support from throughout the community, Music Hall will be there for future generations of Cincinnatians. The renovation project moves forward because it must, and in order to achieve all that’s possible, support is still needed.

Please visit cincinnatisymphony.org/musichall or send an email to updates@cincinnatisymphony.org to find out more.

—Chris Pinelo


Update for February 2016


Music Hall Renovation: Finding the Architects

Music Hall has been an icon of Cincinnati’s landscape and culture since the building’s completion in 1878.

During its lifetime, the storied auditorium has resonated with the rich bravado of trumpet fanfares and gentle cries of tremulous violins, and felt the tapping of toes – even the presence of a ghost or two, if you’re inclined to believe the building’s mythology. Needless to say, when confronted with the task of renovating such a beloved house, the utmost care was taken to select the design team to complete the job. After a rigorous vetting process of design firms nationwide, 3CDC and the building’s resident companies selected two architectural firms for the design team: Martinez + Johnson Architecture (M+J) and Perfido, Weiskopf, Wagstaff + Goettel (PWWG).

Saenger Theatre in New Orleans, LA depicted here was completed in 2013 by M+J.

M+J, a firm specializing in cultural projects involving performing arts, has worked on impressive ventures such as the Boston and Kiel opera houses, as well as the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans. Gary Martinez, Principal Architect at M+J, said that the firm’s most significant projects are those “beloved institutions serving as centers for the aspirations of community and the sharing of cultural values.” To Mr. Martinez, the Music Hall renovation is “a dream any designer would cherish” because of the building’s status in the region, stating that it “inspires the patrons of the arts in Cincinnati to greater levels of devotion than that found in most communities.”

The King's Theatre in Brooklyn, NY depicted here was completed in 2015 by M+J.

The partnering design firm on the Music Hall renovation, PWWG, is heralded as one of the leading firms in the nation specializing in historic rehabilitation and adaptive reuse. One of PWWG’s lauded historic restorations is the Pennsylvania Capitol Building, an example of which was the revival of the building’s 52-million-pound Main Dome, all while business was conducted in the building as usual.

PA Capitol & Peristyle Resotration recently completed by PWWG.

The excitement around the renovation is palpable. In an interview with Fanfare Cincinnati, PWWG Principal Architect Alan Weiskopf shared his enthusiasm about “being responsible for the ‘care and feeding’ of such a treasured landmark in the City of Cincinnati, knowing that building has touched the lives of so many people.”

The team is also composed of acousticians from Akustiks, who have been charged with acoustically optimizing the performance space, as well as theatre planners and lighting designers from Chicago-based firm Schuler Shook, who are on the project to create the perfect auditorium to fit the needs of the audience and performers. Look for profiles of these firms in future issues of Fanfare Cincinnati.

The team is set, the plans are made, and construction is underway to ensure that Music Hall remains standing for future generations.

—Laura Bock


Update for January 2016



While I was in graduate school, there was a violinist in the local orchestra (one of the “big five”) who was famous among the students. He had chosen as his instrument a beautiful Stradivarius, and because the Strad is a very expensive violin his mode of transportation was a 15-year-old Honda Civic. Rather than settle for a mediocre instrument, he played the Strad and economized in other areas of his life.

Musicians are all about sound. I searched for four years to find the cello I play now, and I happily would have continued the search for years more if necessary. We are intimate with our instruments in so many ways; we practice and perform on them for hours every week; we know every ounce of weight, every scratch and repair; and we know when the weather is changing based on how easily we can tune.

The room in which we perform affects us and our instruments intimately, too. More than just providing a resonating chamber for the sound we make, the space around us affects how our instruments respond and speak. My cello sounds and plays differently if my endpin is resting on a hardwood floor or soft wood or carpet or tile. The surface on which a timpani drum sits changes how the instrument resonates. The wall behind our horn section changes the feedback a horn player receives through the bell and mouthpiece. And the timing of reflections off the walls surrounding us changes not just how we hear and respond to the rest of the Orchestra, but how our instruments vibrate and how we hear ourselves.

So when the musicians of the CSO were approached to provide input on the acoustical renovation of Music Hall, we jumped at the chance to represent the Orchestra. We were closely involved in the selection of the acoustical firm designing the renovation, and we have met with them regularly. We played in various configurations on the Springer Auditorium stage as the acousticians listened and even reconfigured the shell and stage while we played to test theories and investigate potential changes to the Hall.

It is important for the musicians of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to be involved in the acoustical renovation because, even though we each play our own instruments, when we all play together the Orchestra has an instrument, too—Music Hall. We are thrilled to be so engaged in this process and can’t wait for the grand re-opening of Music Hall, when we can all experience with greater impact and power the sound and music that we love to make for you.

—Ted Nelson

Ted Nelson currently holds the Kenneth & Norita Aplin and Stanley Ragle Chair for cello.


Update for December 2015


It has been over 40 years since the visionary philanthropists Patricia and Ralph Corbett led the last extensive renovation of Music Hall.


For perspective, in the decades to follow, dozens of new concert halls have either been built or renovated in other major markets across the country. Our Music Hall also deserves and requires regular care and attention to remain a world-class performing arts facility for the community.

Music Hall’s resident companies have been working with 3CDC and the Music Hall Revitalization Company (MHRC) on this project and the direction of this effort satisfies the needs of each of these organizations and Music Hall’s many stakeholders.

The public voice has also been critical to informing the direction and scope of this project. Feedback dates back to 2010 when MHRC was formed, and certainly three public forums held in 2012 provided enormously valuable feedback to the process and the proposed renovations.

3CDC, working in lockstep with the resident companies, went through a rigorous request for proposals (RFP) process to ensure the project had the right team to meet the goals of the project. This new design team includes: PWWG, one of the leading architecture firms in the nation in historic rehabilitation and adaptive reuse; design architect Martinez + Johnson, which specializes in performing arts venues; acoustician Akustiks, which brings renowned expertise, design and careful planning around Music Hall’s acoustics; and theater planners and lighting designers from Schuler Shook.

The expertise behind this project is second to none, and in the coming months, members of the design team will be profiled in Fanfare Cincinnati and on this page.

You can always find out the latest and greatest information about this important project, as well as give your input or make donations to the effort below.



Top left image is courtesy of The Helsinki University Chorus - Ylioppilaskunnan Laulajat. The 1953 image features the Helsinki University Chorus outside of Music Hall taking a break from rehearsals while recording the works of Jean Sibelius.

The bottom image is comes from the Cincinnati chapter of the American Guild of Organists and dates back to 1878.