Tufts University

Granoff Music Center Opens at Tufts University

Granoff Music Center$27 million facility will be showcase for arts education; 300-seat recital hall will fill unmet need among Boston venues

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. – When the Perry and Marty Granoff Music Center celebrates its opening festival at Tufts University in February, it will showcase the superb design and advanced technology that most music students and educators can only dream of. Its acoustically perfect 300-seat recital hall is the first major new performance hall to be built in the Boston area for many years and will meet the area's long-felt need for a state-of-the-art venue suitable for smaller-scale performances.

"Thanks to the wonderful support of Tufts trustee Marty Granoff, his wife Perry, and many other generous benefactors, we now have a music building that is worthy of the extraordinary talents of our students and faculty," said Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow.

The $27 million center reaffirms Tufts' commitment to music and the arts, and to engaging the surrounding community in those arts.

"It's very important to us that the first new academic building built in our administration is an arts facility," said Provost Jamshed Bharucha, himself a violinist as well as a psychologist whose research has focused on the cognitive and neural basis of the perception of music. "The arts have always played a leading role in culture, yet over the last few decades the arts have become increasingly marginalized. Educational institutions must boldly assert the critical role that the arts play in the development of the individual and the development of society."

At the heart of the 55,000-square-foot Granoff Music Center is the Distler Performance Hall, which accommodates 300 guests but is also suitable for concerts with smaller audiences. With a 40-foot ceiling and low stage, the hall creates a feeling of both magnificence and intimacy. Its "box in a box" design isolates the hall from outside sound and offers superb acoustics with resonance across all frequency ranges from all points. The hall offers a green room, storage area to hold two grand pianos, 12 built-in sound reinforcement and recording microphones, and a professional multimedia production and recording booth. Simple audio management and recording production can be done by even casual users directly from the stage of the user-friendly hall.

A sky-lit lobby atrium serves as a multi-purpose forum for pre- and post-concert events and other formal and informal gatherings.

Tufts Music Program to Grow

The prospect of the new building –which has been used by students and faculty since the start of the January semester– helped lure noted musicologist Joseph Auner from SUNY-Stony Brook to Tufts, where he is professor and chair of the Music Department.

"There is no hall of this size with this quality anywhere in New England," said Auner. "Outside of large symphony halls, acoustic groups must rely on churches, museums or older halls at colleges and universities, none of which offer either the acoustical quality or the technological resources of this hall."

"In addition to making Tufts one of the nation's most attractive schools for students interested in serious music-making within a liberal arts setting, we hope this will be a major addition to the arts scene in Boston and surrounding communities," he added. "As the first step in that process, our opening festival will inaugurate a series of Sunday Community Music Concerts that will enable those who live in nearby communities to enjoy this wonderful facility."

The center also offers a 95-seat performance space, classrooms, practice rooms, rehearsal halls, offices, and library and research space that will enable Tufts' music program to continue to grow.

Three teaching classrooms of different sizes – 25-, 35- and 65-seats – include sophisticated multimedia and recording capabilities. A 12-station multimedia lab with Advent technology to support the music composition program at Tufts is equipped with MIDI, notation software and music recording software.

Faculty spaces include 20 offices big enough for a piano, plus a lounge and departmental office. Eleven practice rooms are available along with three soundproof Wenger booths, designed to accommodate percussion, rock and similar music. Five rehearsal rooms support chamber music and a cappella, as well as a World Music Room with individualized climate control needed for the Javanese Gamelan – a traditional Indonesian ensemble including many tuned percussion instruments – as well as African drums and Japanese shakuhachi (instruments similar to flutes or recorders).

The Ruth Lilly Music Library, part of the university's Tisch Library, provides space for academic scholarship, research and innovation with compact shelving units, computer listening stations, comfortable reading areas and a library service department

The Granoff Music Center, designed by Perkins+Will (architect of record) and the Babcock Design Group and built by Linbeck Construction, connects to Tufts' existing Aidekman Arts Center. Together with the meeting and performance space at the new Sophia Gordon residence hall across the street, the music center is the cornerstone of an arts complex that brings together music, drama, dance and visual arts.

Community Events Highlight Opening Festival

Tufts University will recognize the new Granoff Music Center with a festival of performances, symposia, and workshops in February. While a special performance by Tony-award winning artist Brian Stokes Mitchell on Feb. 9 will be a celebration for Tufts donors and friends, many other festival events will be open to the public.

Initial community events include:

  • Feb. 2-"Music Futures" symposium, with a keynote address from Don Randel, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Leaders from academia, the arts and medicine will examine what skills, methodologies and models students will need to become active members of their local and global musical communities and how new partnerships between musical disciplines, institutions and organizations can respond to the changing musical landscape.
  • Feb. 10-Festival of Tufts Music, Youth Workshops & Open House and Lunchtime Jazz Middle school and high school students and their parents are invited to a series of short, interactive music workshops throughout the morning. Attendees will be able to experience the creative process as Professor of Music Composition John McDonald writes a piece in just one hour. For youngsters 3 through 10, a series of Dalcroze sessions—which teach music through movement, listening, clapping and singing—will be a prelude to new community music programs for children that Tufts will offer in the fall.
  • Feb. 11-The first in a new series of free Sunday Community Music Concerts at Tufts Members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra will perform Schoenberg-String Quartet No. 2 and the Hayden String Quartet in G Major, Opus 77, No. 1 for the debut of the University's new community concert series. Professor Auner, a Schoenberg scholar, will offer a pre-concert lecture.

Granoffs Have Long Commitment to the Arts

Perry and Martin Granoff, whose son Michael was graduated from Tufts in 1991, have a long history of philanthropy and interest in the arts.

"Students of the arts are very important to the fabric of a university," said Granoff. "I hope this building will enable Tufts to become a destination music school for the best and the brightest music students. I think President Bacow, Provost Bharucha, and Music Department Chairman Joseph Auner share this vision."

A trustee of the National Hillel Foundation as well as Tufts University, Granoff was instrumental in establishing the Granoff Family Hillel Center at Tufts. He is chairman and founder of Val d'or Inc/Cannon County Knitting Mills and former director and trustee of Kellwood Company. He is also a member of the National Trust Council for Historic Preservation.

Photo by Alonso Nichols for Tufts University

This story originally ran on Feb. 5, 2007.