‘Music can change the world’: Officials break ground on new SUU Music Center

CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah University officials broke ground on a new Music Center building Thursday morning.

Southern Utah University leaders, along with elected officials and others involved with the project, break ground for SUU’s new Music Center, Cedar City, Utah, April 25, 2024 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The planned two-story, 44,000-square foot facility, to be located in what is now a parking lot to the northwest of 300 West and University Avenue, has a target completion date of June 2026.

“What a glorious day this is, celebrating the groundbreaking of a music center that holds tremendous value to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and our community,” said Shauna Mendini, dean of the SUU College of Performing and Visual Arts, as she welcomed those gathered for the event.

“This new facility will support 21st century needs for cutting-edge technology, with recording studios, rehearsal spaces, classrooms, practice rooms, a recital hall and a beautiful and spacious concert hall enabling large music ensembles to be performed on SUU’s campus for the very first time,” Mendini added.

The half-hour program featured short speeches by SUU Vice President of Operations Tiger Funk, architect Joe Smith of Method Studio, Brian McBeth of Layton Construction and Utah State Senators Don Ipson and Evan Vickers.

Following a vocal performance of “Consecrate this Place,” by SUU’s OPUS ensemble choir, under the direction of Andrew Briggs, SUU President Mindy Benson gave the closing remarks.

Funk spoke of the extensive collaborative efforts that have been taking place during the project’s planning stages.

Southern Utah University Vice President of Operations Tiger Funk speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for SUU’s new Music Center, Cedar City, Utah, April 25, 2024 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“We don’t tell our trade partners how to do how to perform their work, but rather through the use of specifications and drawings, we show them what the results need to be,” Funk said. “From this, it’s through their means and methods that the magic happens.”

Added Funk: “In our thanks, we include those who dig the footings, erect the steel, hang the sheetrock, finish the concrete, paint the walls, lay the bricks, pull the wire, install the mechanical systems and roll out the roof. It is these great men and women who help make our dream a reality.”

During his remarks, Smith highlighted the building’s key design features, including a 502-seat concert hall and a 105-seat recital hall, plus rehearsal spaces, recording and production labs, 21 practice rooms and 19 teaching studios.

“This new music building will serve as a testament to the unwavering commitment to the arts and education,” Smith said. “It will be a space where the nuances of every known and subtleties of every performance are celebrated and cherished. It’ll be a place where memories are able to be made.”

Noting that Layton Construction was awarded the bid for the project last June, McBeth said: “Since then, we have sat in many meetings, assisting with estimating construction means and methods, and the overall planning for this project. … In short, a lot of effort has gone into getting to this day. Through all of this, we’ve had a great experience working together as a team, all to ensure that SUU and its students and faculty receive the best music center possible.”

Sign shows an architectural rendering of Southern Utah University’s new Music Center, which is scheduled to be completed in June 2026, Cedar City, Utah, April 25, 2024 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“Buildings are more than just the materials that go into them,” McBeth added. “They are the places in which we learn, study, rehearse and enjoy. This new music center will not only be a welcoming place for the students and faculty, it will also be a place that will benefit the residents of Cedar City.”

During his remarks, Sen. Don Ipson (R-St. George) said Mendini led him and other elected officials on a tour of SUU’s current music building three years ago.

“We entered a nearly 60-year-old building to the sounds of horns and pianos,” Ipson said. “It was obvious that they needed more space.”

Although the initial plan was to add 18,000 square feet in a remodel of the current building, Ipson said it didn’t take long before “it was realized that to rehab that building was just not in the best interest of the university.”

Fellow Sen. Evan Vickers (R-Cedar City) called his colleague an “unsung hero” and noted that even though Ipson might downplay his role, “he was a key figure in making sure that the funding was in place.”

Vickers said the building will be an “amazing addition” to Cedar City.

Southern Utah University President Mindy Benson speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for SUU’s new Music Center, Cedar City, Utah, April 25, 2024 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“Not only will it bless the lives of students, and professors and faculty, but it’s going to bless the lives of the community,” Vickers said.

During her concluding remarks, Benson noted that the new music facility will be the first campus building project to carry her signature.

Benson talked about the historic stained-glass window that will be incorporated into the new building. As previously had been mentioned by Mendini, the window was created by the late Frank Adams and depicts the Great White Throne of Zion National Park, with a large red sun shining over it. It originally graced The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel that once stood at the corner of 200 South and 200 West. 

“Today marks a significant milestone in the rich tapestry of our institution’s history,” Benson said, mentioning several key names in SUU’s music history, including William “Pa” Manning, Roy Halversen and Hal Campbell, along with retired music professor Virginia Stitt, who was seated in the audience.

“Beethoven said, music can change the world,” Benson said. “These words resonate as we embark on this journey to create a music space dedicated to cultivation and celebration of musical excellence.”

Added Benson:

As we lay the foundation for this new chapter, in our institution’s legacy, let us remember that we are not just building a structure, we are building a home for creativity, a sanctuary for inspiration, and a beacon of hope for generations to come. May the music that resonates from these halls, uplift spirits, spark imaginations, and remind us all of the boundless potential that lies within each of us. 

Following Benson’s remarks, she joined other university staff, faculty members and elected officials, along with others involved in the project, in turning over ceremonial shovelfuls of sand to signify the start of the project’s construction phase.

According to university officials, even though 231 parking stalls are to be taken away from the lot where the new building will sit, another 238 parking spots are to be added in nearby areas. Additionally, the existing mature trees that line the north side of University Avenue will be preserved and will help frame the front facade of the new music building.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.

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