Description of MC Venues and Classrooms

The Talaske Group carefully analyzed every music space in the Music Center. By honoring acoustics design principles and requirements as first priority in all design and construction decisions, excellent standards of sound resulted.


Sauder Concert Hall (1,000 seats) has been described as one of the top venues for classical music in the country by leading ensembles such as Chanticleer, Canadian Brass, and Apollo’s Fire Chamber Orchestra. These ensembles, and all others who perform here, appreciate the outstanding reverberation and liveliness, as well as their ability to hear themselves and others in the ensemble while performing together on stage. Audiences universally appreciate the “ring,” as well as the way in which the sound envelopments them—surround sound at its best.

Furthermore, Sauder Concert Hall is acoustically adjustable. An adjustable overhead reflector, or canopy, as well as large curtains make the performing space suitable for a wide range of desirable acoustical situations—from single voice or instrument to a small ensemble, to a larger ensemble and to a group with modest amplification support.

The gross geometry of Sauder Concert Hall is a narrow rectangular shape, characteristic of traditionally successful concert halls. In addition, the sidewalls are gently reverse fan-shaped to direct lateral reflections to the center of the room and promote running liveliness. A single wrap-around balcony and a technical ledge create acoustic shelves that contribute to listener envelopment by reflecting sound down to the audience plane from the sides of the room.

The performance platform is located in the same single space as the audience, not separated by a proscenium arch, nor requiring the use of a temporary enclosure, so that none of the music is lost into a stage house or absorbed by thin materials. A permanent choral seating terrace surrounds the platform and melts seamlessly into the side balconies.

The curved overhead reflector, or canopy, is situated 45 feet above the stage and provides essential cross-platform reflections for musical communication among performers, also projecting sound to the audience. This reflective canopy has six “wings”—three on each side—that can be adjusted, depending on the need. For a performance using amplification, where performers get their feedback from monitor speakers instead of live sound, the wings can be moved to the “up” position, allowing the sound to “escape” from the stage area.

The retractable curtains are incorporated on the side and rear walls of the hall and on the wall behind the platform in order to control the overall reverberation in the hall when necessary. Implementing all curtains can reduce the reverberation from over three seconds to approximately one second. Adjustments to the curtains configuration can be made easily as ensembles shift during a concert program.

All of the good music inside Sauder Concert Hall can only be truly appreciated if all outside sounds are kept out. This is fully accomplished by the exterior 13-inch concrete walls that surround the interior 10-inch concrete block walls, separated only by air space.


Rieth Recital Hall (300 seats) is an outstanding venue for solo and chamber music, offering excellent acoustics to both performers and audience members alike. The hall has excellent loudness, and nicely balances clarity, liveliness and reverberance. The visual ambience of Rieth reminds many people of a medieval cathedral or castle with its high ceilings, large pillars and elevated window placement.

Rieth Recital Hall resembles Sauder Concert Hall in several ways. Its basic shape is also a narrow rectangular geometric design. It also has a single balcony: this time, however, it wraps around only on two sides. A curved overhead reflector (at 30 feet) again focuses the sound back to performers and the audience. And finally, acoustical adjustments in Rieth are similarly accomplished by exposing absorbent curtains within the room.

The curtains are stored in boxes at the balcony level along the north wall and on tracks along the south, east and west walls. Those on the north wall move vertically – below and above the balcony – and are motorized and operated from the platform vestibule. Curtains can be exposed partially or fully, as needed.

In both Sauder Concert Hall and Rieth Recital Hall, all surfaces are very hard and also thoroughly sealed. The exposed concrete block walls received four coats of special sealant to eliminate any absorptive quality of the blocks (which are more absorbent in their natural state than most people think). The application of this material was closely monitored during construction, making sure that no holes remained—a small magnifying glass was used to carefully examine the block surfaces! All solid wood panels throughout both halls are firmly attached: the construction process involved thick drywall glue and many wood screws to secure the solid maple panels.

Seating in Rieth Recital Hall is fully adjustable. A unique two-way (or more) option enables the audience to face the platform for recital performances or face the opposite direction for organ performances. This flexibility allows Rieth to be used for a wide variety of events, including recitals and concerts, hymn sings and other worship events, weddings, dinners, coffee houses, etc.


To prepare for outstanding performances in Sauder Concert Hall and Rieth Recital Hall, successful individual practicing and group rehearsing is essential. The Music Center offers two large rehearsal rooms and over 25 additional spaces for teaching and practicing. Remarkably, all of this music making can be conducted simultaneously without hearing anyone else’s music.

The key to this multi-use capability is the complete sound isolation throughout the facility. Brembeck Instrumental Hall and Zook Choral Hall each have foundation to roof isolation from the rest of the building, incorporating a two-inch air space with no structural contact.

The faculty studios and practice rooms have triple ceiling construction and two layers of concrete for the floors with sound separation material between them. Double walls have sound-absorbing insulation between the supports, with a three-inch air space between walls. All faculty studios have sound-separation doors that “drop” into place as they are closed. Student practice rooms have wooden doors that allow just enough sound into the hallways for others to enjoy their practicing.

Brembeck Instrumental Hall and Zook Choral Hall have hard surfaces and are very “live,” but have 15-foot curtains that can be deployed along nearly all wall surfaces. The goal of acousticians for these spaces was to approximate the type of sound experienced by performers in Sauder Concert Hall. Within the rooms are significant angles, an acoustical shelf at about 15 feet high, and ceiling mounted reflectors to provide side-to-side support for those rehearsing.