An Acoustic Dream Come True
“Dr. (David) Brown told me this is the first time he’s been able to hear the wind instruments during an orchestra practice,” Maranatha Fine Arts Department Chair Dr. David Ledgerwood said. “The sounds no longer get washed together. We have a very clean-sounding room.”
An astounding increase in the clarity of the music is just one benefit of the remodeled Burckart Hall. The historic room on the second floor of Old Main was given a roughly $250,000 facelift over the summer and is now the perfect venue for both practices and recitals.
“That room has come into its own,” Vice President for Business Affairs Mark Stevens said. “It has finally been repurposed for its intended use.”
The first symphonic band practice in the “new” Burckart Hall took place Sept. 29. Band director Dr. Rick Townsend ordered a tip of the hat to the room’s history when, before practice began, he asked the band’s 61 members to sing three stanzas of “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” That was the first hymn sung in the room on Sept. 10, 1968, the first chapel service after Maranatha was established.
Band members had spent the first month of school practicing in sections. When those sections were finally united, it took only a few measures of “On the Mall” for the director to notice the difference from the 2009 band.
“I can actually hear you,” Townsend shouted with a wide smile. “It’s amazing.”
A dedication is planned for Dec. 10, in conjunction with the Christmas Festival of Music program.
Work on Burckart Hall began in mid-May. More than 20 Facilities Management department workers contributed more than 1,500 man-hours of labor. Alumni and friends of Maranatha donated more than $118,000 toward the project. Architectural Components Group Inc. of Marshfield, Mo., contributed all 52 barrel-shaped acoustical wall panels as well as the 18 suspended curved wood panels above the stage that help disperse the sound evenly throughout the room.
Surprises and unexpected challenges along the way are standard procedure in most extensive renovation projects. Facilities Manager Dr. Werner Lumm said that, thankfully, those were minimal.
The only significant delay came in late summer, when the wooden floor was about to be installed. A string of extremely humid days led to concerns about the possible contraction of the Brazilian teak hardwood flooring after its installation. Large dehumidifier units were brought in for a week to help stabilize the moisture content of the wood.
Some steps of the renovation were more difficult than others. Installing the acoustical panels on three walls required that 12 separate support brackets be perfectly aligned—sometimes requiring extensive modification of the crooked walls. Hanging the metal support framework for the “clouds” above the stage required workers to maneuver through a hot, cramped space above the ceiling.
The project included an extensive renovation of the lobby area, as well as the hallway area between Burckart Hall, Century House, and the hallway of music practice rooms. The lobby area confessional booths, left over from Old Main’s previous Catholic tenants, have been replaced by a practice and instrument storage areas. Two practice rooms were added and new carpeting was installed in the music practice room hallway. New, thicker feet were ordered for chairs to prevent scuffing of the wood flooring.
Spotlights directed toward the stage are mounted on the side walls and suspended from the ceiling. New lighting fixtures brighten the room considerably and allow for dimming during performances. The former library circulation desk in the back of the room has been removed.
The signature stained-glass windows remain in the room that served as the original college chapel when Maranatha opened in the fall of 1968. It was converted to a library a year later, then became a fine arts performance hall and practice room in 1996 when the Cedarholm Library and Resource Center opened.
“It’s a lot warmer sound,” senior Jonathan Haynie said. “The tones are not as harsh. You can hear the whole band. And, it looks like a concert hall. I loved the way the room looked before, the majesty of it. But people will grow to love this too.”
“The sound quality is drastically different,” sophomore Amber Perkins said. “The sound is a lot crisper. You can hear each section. I like the way it looks too. It looks neat and clean, and I like the look of the wood.”
Some sound experimentation took place early on, especially regarding the effect caused by retracting or opening the heavy velvet curtain on the north wall.
“It is a dramatic difference,” Townsend said. “I can hear the people in the back of the room for the first time. I can hear parts. This will absolutely take the lid off what we can do here.”
Burckart Hall was named on Aug. 29, 1997, to honor Dr. Edward Burckart and his wife, Dorothy. Dr. Burckart was an original faculty member and taught music and Bible classes until his retirement in 1993. Mrs. Burckart taught music appreciation, elementary music education, and private music lessons until 1994.
“The sound and the aesthetics are both very impressive,” Ledgerwood said. “This puts a new face on our Fine Arts Department.”
A Timely Gift
When Maranatha Vice President for Business Affairs Mark Stevens began to contemplate how to finance the proposed Burckart Hall renovation project, he recalled a conversation from a few months earlier.
“Gary Thompson had contacted me, introduced himself, and said, ‘This is what I do; if you need anything, holler,’” Stevens said. “That whole conversation was really the Lord’s timing.”
Thompson is president, CEO, and founder of Architectural Components Group Inc. of Marshfield, Mo. The company manufactures wood walls and ceilings, including acoustical applications for performing arts halls. It was exactly what was needed in Burckart Hall, and ACGI was glad to lend a hand—a big hand.
“This was one of the largest in-kind donations we’ve ever received,” Stevens said.
ACGI sent 52 barrell-shaped acoustical tiles for the walls and 18 curved wood panels to hang above the stage and disperse sound evenly throughout the room. The company also picked up the acoustical engineer’s consulting fee.
“The Bible says ‘He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think,’” Thompson said. “Every project we work on, every sale we have, is a direct result of God’s blessings. The Lord is the source for these things. I’ve never, ever, outgiven the Lord.”
ACGI has completed many projects for Christian colleges as well as some high-profile public buildings like the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, the National Air and Space Museum, the Fort McHenry flag room at the Smithsonian Institution, and the Winnipeg and Sacramento airports.
Thompson’s primary connection to Maranatha is through his children. His daughter Dori, a 2006 graduate, is Residence Supervisor of Gould Hall and administrative assistant in the Office of Student Activities. His son, Peter, is a junior Pastoral Studies major. His daughter, Meredith, is a sophomore Business Management major.
“The people who teach at Maranatha are gems,” Thompson said. “We appreciate the effect their ministry has had on the lives of our kids.”