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Bing Concert Hall nears completion

Stanford hopes to use next year’s opening of the Bing Concert Hall as an opportunity to better integrate the arts into campus life and to engage with local communities, the University announced Monday at an event that also included the introduction of Stanford’s rebranding of its four-decade-old performing arts program.

Stanford Live will replace Stanford Lively Arts, the previous organization tasked with helping to cultivate the performing arts on campus. Its inaugural season will begin January 2013 when the Bing Concert Hall holds its first performance.

“Engaging with surrounding communities is going to be a priority for us,” said Bing Concert Hall Managing Director Wiley Hausam. “A second priority is to build new audiences.”

The $111.9 million concert hall — named after the financial supporters of the project, Helen and Peter Bing ’55 — is expected to open on schedule and on budget, the University announced. The theme of the opening weekend’s performances is a celebration of the Bay Area.

“Bing Concert Hall is a shared facility,” said Stephen Hinton, faculty director of the Arts Initiative and the Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts. “It doesn’t belong exclusively to any groups on campus, but it’s also for local artists.”

Hinton said that Stanford Live and the new concert hall will help students complete the recently revised breadth requirements that include courses in aesthetic and interpretive inquiry and creative expression.

“The University is committed to integrating the arts in its curriculum as an extension of the classroom,” Hinton said. “We will link the [concert hall] schedule to other events on campus. For example, I will be teaching a freshman seminar next year, and we will use the schedule as a cycle for our class.”

Another plan for integrating the arts with the rest of campus is the Beethoven Project. Various groups’ performances of all of Beethoven’s symphonies and piano concertos in the 2013 season will coincide with a symposium of international scholars called “Heroism in the Age of Beethoven.”

Hausam added that this academic intertwining is aimed to attract students who probably would not otherwise be inclined to attend a Beethoven concert.

“There is a sense of social exchange and dynamic energy within the hall,” said Jenny Bilfield, the artistic and executive director of Stanford Lively Arts. “The University campus is the performing arts center of the 21st century with its integrated and interdisciplinary approach.”

Bilfield also stressed the intimacy of the venue, with its 844-person seating capacity and unique “vineyard” shape designed by acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics, who was also in charge of the acoustics at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the New World Symphony in Miami. Bilfield noted that not just the stage itself — which is sunken in the center of the hall — but also practice rooms, a recording studio and an underground rehearsal hall were designed with minimal right angles for the ideal acoustic experience.

Ennead Architects, which was contracted for the 1999 expansion of the Cantor Arts Center, led the overall design of the concert hall.

Though the concert hall is set to be completed before the end of the calendar year, this deadline does not mean that development of the venue will cease. Bilfield said that performers will experiment with different forms of presentation on the hall’s unique stage, which is surrounded by audience seating on all sides, presenting a significant difference from the traditional “box stage.”

“As we begin to work with this space, we can develop its uses,” Bilfield said. “It’s up to the imagination of the visitors and the performers.”

The schedule for the concert hall’s first season — which will extend from Jan. 11, 2013, to June 1, 2013 — includes more than 40 performances. The pre-season events, Harmony for Humanity on Oct. 3 and Grammy Award winning Chanticleer on Dec. 11, will be held in Memorial Church this fall.

Featured performances in 2013 will include cellist Yo-Yo Ma with pianist Kathryn Stott, violinist Midori with pianist Ozgur Aydin, pianist Emanuel Ax and vocal groups Cappella Romana and the New York Polyphony.

Stanford student groups will also appear at the venue throughout the season. In addition to independent student performances, artists such as singer Vusi Mahlasela, who has a history of working with the a capella group Stanford Talisman, will involve students with their appearances at the concert hall.