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The Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center

Home of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra

Long before its opening in the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s (DPO’s) 2002-03 season, the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center provoked a great deal of excitement, which proved that – in Dayton – the saying, “If you build it, they will come,” is true for arts fans and sports fans alike.

DPO70signingbeamREV2In November 1999, workers imploded the former Rike’s building, making way for the new performing arts center. Shortly afterwards, Dr. Benjamin Schuster and his wife Marian made a substantial contribution to the project giving the facility its name.

Construction began in July 2000. As 2002 came to a close, progress on the DPO’s spectacular new home – the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center – was obvious. From the street, the most noticeable element of the structure designed by Cesar Pelli and AssociatesDPO70wintergardenglassconst Architects was the glassed-in Wintergarden. Pelli – most famous for designing the world’s tallest building, the Petronas Towers in Kauala Lumpur, Malaysia – also designed Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center for the Arts, which opened in 1995.

With the Schuster Center, Pelli sought to make a strong statement that Dayton was a city moving into the future. In an interview with the Dayton Daily News, Pelli called the Schuster Center “…an exclamation point for Dayton!”

Construction reached completion in early 2003. The Schuster Center complex consists of two DPO70schusterext distinct structures – a performing arts center and an office/ condominium tower – joined as one. The performing arts center includes the 2,300-seat Mead Theatre and the 150-seat Mathile Theatre. The distinctive tower, called Performance Place, rises 224 feet from the sidewalk, encompassing eight floors of office space, nine stories devoted to luxury condominiums, and a 120-seat restaurant that opens into the adjoining Wintergarden.

With the opening of its new home, the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s 70th anniversary marked the beginning of an exciting new era for the organization. In March 2003, the Philharmonic moved into the Schuster Center, a world-class, state-of-the-art performance hall that has attracted arts aficionados from all corners of Ohio and the nation. The Schuster Center has become the focal point for Dayton’s performing arts community.

DPO70bandaloopREVThe Gala Celebration of the Schuster Center encompassed a 24-month time frame peppered with ribbon cuttings, donor recognitions, and performances by diverse area arts organizations, including the DPO. A Classical Housewarming concert and gala on March 6 and 8, 2003, featuring the talent of guest violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, celebrated and christened the Orchestra’s new home at the Schuster Center. To mark the occasion, the DPO performed Beethoven’s Consecration of the House.

The majestic Wintergarden, with its marble floors and magnificent spiral staircase, ties the elements of the Schuster Center together. It features a grove of Washingtonia Robusta palm trees – each 35 to 40 feet tall – set against a block-long, glass-enclosed atrium.

DPO70wintergardensunnyREVThe Mead Theatre represents the heart of the Schuster Center. It is a state-of-the-art facility designed to accommodate a diverse array of performing arts, including orchestral music, opera, theatre, and dance. Jaffe Holden Acoustics, the acoustic engineers on the Schuster Center, have designed the acoustics for some of the world’s most important concert halls, including the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and Severance Hall, home to The Cleveland Orchestra.

The goal was to create an auditorium that would provide excellent acoustics for orchestral works, while still maintaining an intimate setting for theatrical productions. The result is a multi-purpose hall in which no seating tier is more than nine rows deep, and the last row is a mere 120 feet from the stage.

Paying homage to Dayton’s place in the history of flight, the new concert hall has a special DPO70meadhallwide Starfield in its grand dome ceiling that is an exact replica of the star pattern Orville and Wilber Wright saw on the night before their first flight. Interestingly, the width of the Starfield is the exact width of the Wright Flyer’s wingspan, and the length from the ground floor of the performing arts center to the tip of the Starfield is the exact distance as the first successful flight made by the Wright Brothers.

Architect Cesar Pelli’s design invokes the feeling of an evening in the southwest under the stars. The cool blues and orange-reds of the theatre’s interior reach to the magnificent domed ceiling, called the Starfield. Concentric circles of fiber-optic lights in the Starfield depict the Dayton sky as it appeared on the eve of the Wright Brothers’ first flight, December 16, 1903.

The Schuster Center is the home of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and the Dayton Opera Association. The Victoria Theatre Association and Dayton Ballet Association also present portions of their seasons at the Schuster Center.

Providing a world-class facility for the best in local, national, and international performing artists, the Schuster Center educates and enriches lives.
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