Wheaton magazine

Volume 20 // Issue 3
Wheaton magazine // Autumn 2017
The new Armerding Center for Music and the Arts. illustration by Stuart Holmes

Just Right: Armerding Center is Music to Their Ears

While Abigail “Abi” Beerwart ’19 partly chose the Conservatory so she could sing in operas such as The Magic Flute, her response to the College’s performance spaces has been closer to Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Pierce Chapel, Abi says, is “too small;” Edman is “too large.” The planned 650-seat concert hall in the coming Armerding Center for Music and the Arts, however, will be “just right.” 

The same goes for the Armerding Center as a whole, with its central campus location, recital hall, choral rehearsal hall, recording studios, and additional practice rooms and classrooms. 

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“It’s amazing how many non-Conservatory students who go to sing and play worship songs are turned away because there is no space,” she says. “I’m really excited about this new space.” 

So is Corin Droullard ’15, a French horn performance major and Civic Orchestra of Chicago Fellow. 

“We can’t underestimate the ripple effect something like this has,” Corin says. “The current space in McAlister Hall doesn’t reflect the level of musicianship there—let alone attract better musicianship. It moves me deeply, as someone trying to do orchestra, to have this validation from the College, saying, ‘What you’re doing is important.’”

The design of the new Conservatory space and concert hall underscores the importance of musicianship. College Architect Bruce Koenigsberg says the Armerding Center will feature several “wows.” In addition to the concert hall, there will be a new recital hall, which he calls “a transformation of the old science lecture hall.” It will feature 108 upholstered seats in an intimate, acoustically designed setting for musical performances. Another is the acoustical isolation of all the new spaces—faculty studios, practice rooms, and classrooms. The fourth, Koenigsberg says, “is the sense of entry and hospitality that is not present in McAlister. The main floor of Armerding will have generous corridors, with seating and artwork.” The fifth, he adds, is the substantial increase in size— from just over 48,000 square feet currently to nearly 80,000 square feet—properly sized for 200 music majors and available also to the rest of the campus community. 

Abi is thrilled.

“Right now music majors are kind of secluded from the rest of campus,” she says. “There will be more crossing of paths. It makes my heart so happy.” 

For his part, Corin predicts the Armerding Center will enable the Conservatory of Music to attract more student musicians, faculty, and visiting performers. It will also make a “phenomenal statement” about Wheaton’s core identity. He’ll get no argument from Dean of the Conservatory, Arts, and Communication Michael Wilder. 

“The Armerding Center is so much more than just a building project,” Dr. Wilder says. “This building is about equipping God’s children in following him and in discovering their God-given gifts and obligation to make the most joyful of noises.” 

And the music offered on campus will be heard far and wide. 

“The Armerding Center,” Dr. Wilder notes, “will make possible new partnerships with people and organizations, nearby and around the world. Several groups have already approached us and new conversations have begun. Think of the possibilities for conferences and initiatives in theology and the arts, music ministry, arts engagement, music education, and culture cultivation.” 

Corin, who is involved in both music performance and education in Chicago, agrees. 

“Music is a cultural mover and identifier,” he says. “It is an art that shapes and defines culture and gives voice to emotions that can’t be expressed any other way. It’s essential to culture, and Christians need to be involved.”

And with the Armerding Center, they will be.