Doug Ashcraft, head of school for Idyllwild Arts Academy, stood in the interior of the new William M. Lowman Concert Hall at Idyllwild Arts. He was beaming. The roof of the hall is on, the side structures await a metal exterior that will develop a patina over the years, the stage area and green room areas are defined, the raked audience floor is being prepped for special chairs that complement the hall’s acoustic design, the lobby stands ready for its walls of glass, and a gradual soft opening is scheduled to begin with the arrival of Academy students in the fall. “It’s an exciting time for Idyllwild Arts,” said Ashcraft.
And that is probably an understatement. Adding Lowman Hall gives IA a musical venue finely tuned to give audience and musicians a concert venue designed for acoustical integrity — where every note of the most delicate solo violin, playing pianissimo,can be heard, and where an entire orchestra playing fortissimo can be breathtaking.
“It’s a fact that most people can’t imagine how different it will be,” said Ashcraft, referring to the thrill of hearing instrumental music in a hall designed to have impeccable acoustics, such as Vienna’s Musikverein or the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. “Bowman [IAF Auditorium, the longtime concert venue at IA], did not do anything to make string players sound wonderful, but the sound of accidentally knicking a music stand could be deafening,” said Ashcraft. “Now all that will change when Lowman Hall opens.”
Ashcraft discussed plans to have an all-alumni orchestra formally open Lowman Hall in January 2016. “[Former conductors] Ransom Wilson and Denis Segond [resident conductor] will return,” said Ashcraft. Segond, currently conducting in Europe, was on faculty from 1999 through 2005 and Wilson, on faculty at Yale University School of Music and assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, was on faculty from 1997 through 2007. Ashcraft noted that not just classical but also jazz concerts would take place in the new hall. “We’re planning an alumni jazz reunion concert in March,” he said.
The new concert hall is named after the academy’s first headmaster and president who retired in 2011 after leading the academy since its founding in 1986.
Other changes, which the Town Crier will discuss in upcoming editions, include important new hires for academic faculty and administration positions. Chris Reba, currently associate professor of Music and Sound Recording at the University of New Haven in Connecticut will take over as chair of the Music Department.
Reba, a contrabass player and instructor, has wide-ranging musical interests, including experimental and avant garde music. He has played in ensembles and bands in many musical genres, including with Grammy Award-winning artists Sean and Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek.
“There’s always been a classical performer in charge
of the department,” said Ashcraft. “Chris will bring experience in many genres as well as a sound-recording background, something we need. In today’s world, all musicians benefit from broader exposure to what is becoming a world music scene. For all our kids, this presents an opportunity to be better trained in the business of music today. We also wanted a music chair who could be externally focused to build partnerships in Los Angeles and elsewhere.”
Heather Netz, currently on faculty as assistant to the music chair, will take on the dual position of orchestra and Lowman Hall manager. “I think Heather is an organizational dynamo,” said Ashcraft.
In the next edition, we’ll profile Reba and Netz, with additional profiles of incoming faculty in the coming weeks.
For more information about Idyllwild Arts see www.idyllwildarts.org.