Concert Hall & Music Facility
The new concert hall and music facility will provide
both outstanding teaching space (for a department that outgrew its current
home years ago) and
performance space unequalled in West Michigan. Planned for Columbia Avenue
between Ninth and 10th streets, the concert hall will not only benefit those
who perform in—and attend—Hope student and guest-artist concerts,
but will also serve as a resource for the broader Holland and West Michigan
A Greater Hope for Music
There’s really no overstating the difference that will be made.
The concert hall and music facility that headlines the A Greater Hope comprehensive
campaign will be replacing a building constructed when the college was
about one third its current size. That statistic alone says much about
the need for an upgrade, but the emphasis in the department of music
is not on what will be transcended but on what will be gained. The new
building will make possible an even stronger learning experience for
students, and not just music majors but the hundreds college-wide who
take courses in the department each semester.
“The building will make a major difference,” said Dr. Robert
who is an associate professor of music and chairperson of the department. “It
will provide teaching, rehearsal and performance space that not only supports
the size of our program but is designed to be outstanding in supporting
the learning of music.”
The concert space is an especially exciting
part of the project, and intended to enhance not only the campus but the
wider community. There are particular benefits to student performers in
honing their craft in acoustically superior space, but that venue will
no less benefit audiences attending the 100-plus recitals and concerts
held at Hope each year, events that include not only students and faculty,
but community groups and guest artists from across the nation and around
“This will be a top-notch, first-rate concert hall, specifically
designed for music, that will be unequalled in West Michigan,” Dr.
The new building will be constructed facing Columbia Avenue
between Ninth and 10th streets. At 64,000 square feet, the $33 million
facility will be more than double the size of Nykerk Hall of Music, which
totals about 27,000 square feet.
The project has received major support through a lead gift from the Richard
and Helen DeVos Foundation. Fundraising for the building so far totals
The building’s primary concert hall will seat 800, and will include
both main-floor and balcony seating.
“It’s big enough to do everything we need to do, yet small
enough to be intimate,” said Dr. Brian Coyle, professor of music.
A smaller recital hall will seat about 125.
In contrast, most concerts at Hope currently take place in either Dimnent
Memorial Chapel, which isn’t ideal acoustically for performance,
or Wichers Auditorium in Nykerk Hall. At the same time, Dimnent is much
in demand given its primary role as a place of worship, presenting scheduling
challenges for both the music program and Campus Ministries.
Less visible to visitors, the teaching and rehearsal spaces will be no
less significant. The new building will include 25 practice rooms and 25
teaching studios, as opposed 15 of each in Nykerk Hall. They will support
learning by some 600 students each semester taught by 40 full- and part-time
The practice rooms will make an important difference to individual students,
for whom peak demand can create a situation akin to a busy holiday-season
parking lot. “You can pass by at certain times of day and every practice
room will be taken and students are on the prowl for practice space,” Dr.
In the same way, the faculty are also squeezed. In some cases,
for example, two, three or even four part-time instructors share office
space in a single converted practice room measuring less than 10 feet
The new building will also better support the college’s 20 performing
ensembles, none of which have acoustically supportive rehearsal space,
and will include accommodations for newer initiatives, like the popular
program in studio
weren’t envisioned when Nykerk Hall opened in 1956. And then, there
are the little things, like adequate storage space for instruments that
currently call a hallway home, soundproofing that prevents individual
practices from becoming inadvertent ensembleplaying
and a roof that doesn’t, despite all best efforts, insist on leaking…
Even as it benefits Hope students, the building will help bring true a
community dream of nearly two decades. In the 1990s, Holland explored the
possibility of an “area center,” a facility envisioned as a
philanthropic and public partnership that could host both athletic contests
and performances. The idea was that the center would succeed the venerable
Civic Center, at the time home court for Hope men’s basketball, which
in both size and design was no longer adequate.
The area center didn’t materialize, but a component of it was realized
when the college’s Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse opened in 2005.
In addition to providing a topflight home for Hope athletics, the fieldhouse
has also become an important venue for community events, ranging from basketball
games, to high school graduations, to concerts and even dinners.
However, while the fieldhouse does host musical performances, it’s
clearly not designed for them. The college’s concert hall will in
a sense complete—and even improve upon— the second half of
the area-center vision by providing outstanding performance space intended
specifically for music.
Correspondingly, the college is making a priority of developing partnerships
with community organizations like the Holland Symphony Orchestra, Holland
Chorale and Grand Rapids Symphony that could benefit from the space. The
Holland Symphony Orchestra, for example, has been holding its concerts,
which consistently draw audiences of more than 800, at a Zeeland high school
and would like a destination venue closer to home.
The new building, adjacent to Holland’s downtown, even becomes part
of an “arts corridor” developing along Columbia Avenue between
14th and Eighth streets, from the department of dance in the Dow Center,
to the DeWitt Center main theatre, to the De Pree Art Center and gallery
and forthcoming Kruizenga Art Museum, to the Holland Area Arts Council
on Eighth Street, all part of a thriving area arts culture that is itself
a community asset.
“That’s one of the biggest draws in a community for both employers
and people: does that city have a cultural center—and where is it,” said
Kay Walvoord, president of the Holland Symphony Orchestra. “With
a downtown location you have access to restaurants, businesses. That all
ties together, too.”
The vision is for the relationships to foster additional connections. Already
through the years, for example, many members of the Hope faculty and students
have performed with the Holland Symphony Orchestra, which has also provided
internship opportunities for students interested in arts administration.
Hope choirs joined with the group and the Holland Chorale in 2009 for a
performance of Verdi’s Requiem (a landmark achievement for a community
of Holland’s size), and the college has hosted or co-hosted events
like the Holland Symphony Orchestra’s concerto competition for youth
in January and week-long summer conducting institute. With additional links
through geography as well as purpose, the opportunities should only grow.
“I think Hope College and our orchestra have a lot in common,” said
Doug Rasmussen, chairman of the Holland Symphony Orchestra’s Board
of Directors. “We together share a strong cultural commitment to
our greater community. We see that as a great basis from which both of
our organizations can work to make the concert hall a great success.”
This article, written by Greg Olgers '87, was originally
featured in the April 2012 issue of News from Hope College.
The largest single fundraising effort in the college’s history,
the $175 million A Greater Hope comprehensive campaign will benefit
every student as it strengthens the college’s endowment, adds several
new buildings, and supports immediate needs through the annual Hope Fund.
For more information, and to explore supporting the college through the
campaign, please visit Hope on-line
or contact Mary Remenschneider, campaign director at firstname.lastname@example.org