At 5 p.m. Saturday, July 19, a groundbreaking celebration will mark the official start of construction for Idyllwild Arts Foundation’s new $6.5 million concert hall. The 298-seat facility will become the centerpiece of IAF’s 200-acre, mountaintop campus and is named in honor of Idyllwild Arts’ first president, William M. Lowman. The construction process is estimated at 12 to 18 months.

Donations, spearheaded by two challenge grants and garnering extensive support from board members, Academy and Summer Program alumni, IAF faculty and staff, as well as individual supporters of arts education worldwide, fully funded the project.

Sander Architects of Santa Monica designed the hall in tandem with world-renowned acoustical and space-planning engineers at Arup North America in Los Angeles (designers of the Sydney Opera House).

The facility will echo Idyllwild’s natural environment and campus architecture and will feature state-of-the-art acoustics; a performance stage 60-percent larger than the current facility (which will remain); a 298-seat audience house expandable into the lobby; an outdoor seating area; a backstage space for piano/percussion storage; and natural landscaping creating a community commons gathering place.

“A symphony orchestra becomes transcendent when its voice and the room are one,” says Dr. Larry Livingston, professor of conducting at the University of Southern California and retired dean of the Thornton School of Music, who has supplied leadership for the Idyllwild Arts Symphony Orchestra for 25 summers. “Lowman Concert Hall will be a crucible for our art, a sanctuary for our young artists, and a testament to the enduring legacy of our beloved president emeritus,” said Livingston, speaking of retired IA President Bill Lowman.

At the Academy, music is traditionally the largest major with 92 percent of graduates moving on to conservatories, colleges and universities, including The Juilliard School and the Colburn Conservatory of Music.

Alumni perform with renowned classical music ensembles such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Philharmonic and New York Philharmonic. Graduates include jazz clarinetist Evan Christopher, Grammy-winning jazz trombonist Jason Jackson, the young jazz guitar prodigy Graham Dechter, and the 2011 American Idol sensation Casey Abrams.

Idyllwild Arts, located on a 200-acre campus, offers a fully accredited, boarding arts high school Academy, and an extensive Summer Program with 100-plus hands-on workshops for students of all ages. The Academy, opened in 1986, offers majors in music, dance, theater, visual arts, writing, filmmaking and inter-arts. IAF also has a history of visiting artists such as Ansel Adams, Meredith Wilson, Bella Lewitzky, Fritz Scholder, Maria Martinez, Pete Seeger and Norman Corwin.