Music Hall FAQ
Everything about the Music Hall Transition
The following questions and answers are about the Music Hall Renovations. For questions about the Taft Transition for the CSO, Pops, & May Festival, please see the Taft Transition FAQ.
Why is Music Hall being renovated?
Music Hall hasn’t undergone a major renovation in over 40 years, and the building’s mechanical systems including electrical, plumbing, fire suppression, air conditioning and heating were all operating on borrowed time – well beyond their life expectancy.
This deferred maintenance of these essential systems came at a significant cost in both repairs and efficiency, and the funds required to replace these essential systems were well into the millions of dollars. The systems are being replaced, and this will ultimately lead to far more energy and cost efficient operations and a more comfortable Music Hall.
Under the surface of Music Hall was structural deterioration not unexpected for a building that first opened to the public in 1878 and engineers determined that structural issues needed to be addressed for the building’s long-term viability.
Music Hall presented many challenges from an accessibility standpoint. The building is being made completely handicap-accessible with elevators available at street level for anyone with mobility needs after construction.
Long restroom lines at intermission were common before the renovation and Music Hall will have more than 50 percent improved restroom capacity once construction is completed in October.
The leading complaint from people attending performances and events in Music Hall’s Springer Auditorium was that the seating, largely designed for 19th century audiences, was cramped and uncomfortable. The facility’s long-term viability as an active performance venue required improvements to seat comfort, especially in the two balconies.
In addition, Music Hall is receiving some much needed TLC in the form of paint, replacing carpeting, opening windows, etc. to restore this historic building.
When will Music Hall re-open?
Music Hall will re-open officially on October 6 with the first CSO performance of the new season. There will also be a celebratory public open house on Saturday, October 7. Details will be announced at a later date.
What can we expect in the renovated Music Hall?
It is still the Music Hall you’ve come to know and love.
In the beautiful Grand Foyer, the original and historic marble and red slate floor remains and parts of this floor have even been discovered and uncovered. The beautiful, original detail of the plaster rosettes in the coffered ceiling remain. The glass separating the Grand Foyer from the North and South hallways has been removed, revealing the original grandness of that space.
In Springer Auditorium, the proscenium and plaster work around the stage is being restored and will look better than ever, as will the fascias around the Balcony and Gallery levels. The painted fresco and chandelier will remain prominently in the center of the coffered ceiling, and all of that room’s exquisite architectural detail will remain, including the existing columns. You will immediately recognize this space as Springer Auditorium, but major improvements have been made to the accessibility and seat comfort, sightlines and acoustics.
Music Hall will be more welcoming, more accessible and more comfortable
What can you tell me about Music Hall’s acoustics?
Every decision about the design in Springer Auditorium has been informed by the need to maintain and enhance acoustics. Artistic leadership and a committee of musicians from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, who perform in that space week in and week out, as well as the artistic leadership the Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Opera and the May Festival have been fully engaged in the discussions and tests around the acoustics, and we are all in agreement with the plan.
During the search for this project’s acoustics firm, proposals came in from the most acclaimed experts in this field from around the world, and overwhelmingly that input affirmed the Auditorium design direction now being implemented and refined by our winning firm, Akustiks. The resident companies are confident our process has demonstrated a level of cautiousness and diligence that is commensurate with a renovation project of such historic significance.
Music Hall’s former acoustics varied dramatically depending on your seat location – and in this respect not all those seats were good. The Auditorium’s warm sonic identity will be maintained, yet the acoustics will emerge enhanced by creating an even, present sound throughout the Auditorium that conveys the full timbral and dynamic palette of the performers. This, in turn, in turn creates an intimate experience between the stage and audience. In short, Music Hall’s acoustics will be better than ever following construction.
Find out more by watching this video.
How many people will Springer Auditorium seat?
For Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival performances, the capacity in Music Hall’s Springer Auditorium will be 2,289. For Pops performances, the capacity will be 2,439.
The total capacity with all seats in will exceed 2,500 for other types of performances.
These capacities are subject to shift slightly after final seating is installed this year.
How is the experience being improved in Springer Auditorium?
The walls are coming in around the sides and back at the first level and balcony level to make Music Hall’s natural sound more present, immersive and more evenly distributed in every seat. This also allows for spaces to separate the auditorium from lobby areas, protecting performances from ambient light and noise. The walls, ceiling and wonderful architectural details of the third level, known as the Gallery, are remaining the same.
Springer Auditorium’s cubic volume will be reduced where there are pockets of acoustically less desirable seats tucked way under the Balcony and Gallery overhangs, but the grandeur and historic detail of the room will be preserved. The cubic volume post-renovation will be similar to other great concert halls around the world.
Will there be a center aisle?
The center of the main floor are among the best seats in the house and in order to maintain appropriate main floor seating capacity, there will not be a center aisle. An audience member seated in the middle of those center rows on the main level will need to cross on average 3 to 4 more seats than they do now to reach his/her seat, and row depth is being created to allow for easier traversal and more legroom.
It’s important to note that Spring Auditorium will be more accessible than ever with improved access to restrooms and concessions. The Balcony and Gallery level are also being “re-raked,” which means the each tier on those levels is getting wider, to increase legroom and improve sightlines.
What is the Terrace?
The Terrace is an elevated area towards the rear of the Orchestra with easy access in/out of the Auditorium. Steps lead to raised tiers for enhanced sightlines. The back and side walls have been brought in, allowing for more even and rich sound to be heard from these excellent seats.
Where are the “Xtreme” seats?
The base price for CSO is $15, including the facility fee. The CSO continues to offer tickets starting at $15. In the new seat configuration, you’ll find these seats, formerly referred to as “Xtreme” seats, labeled as “Partial View B” in the rear and/or sides of each floor.
How will you accommodate popular performances that now sell out?
As the resident companies are able and as demand warrants, performances will be added to accommodate more people. Increasing the number of performances is a consistent practice among arts presenters and orchestras around the world. This is not to say performances won’t sell out, and that’s certainly been the case in recent years.
How are ticket prices being affected?
For the CSO, we have maintained eight different price zones, starting at $15, to allow you to choose the seating section and price zone that works optimally for you. The Pops starting price of $25 ($26 including the facility fee) has been maintained. All seats in Music Hall’s Springer Auditorium have been replaced with wider, more comfortable seats with enhanced legroom and sightlines, and the price zones in Music Hall reflect the value of these based on anticipated demand.
Music Hall’s resident companies all remain firmly committed to accessible ticket prices and reaching out to new audiences. Just like now, ticket prices will vary depending on the program and seat location.
As has always been the case, the best way to ensure the best seats at the best prices is to become a subscriber.
There are essential elements that allow our region to sustain great arts institutions and at the same time make ticket prices as affordable as possible, including support from ArtsWave, the Louise Dieterle Nippert Musical Arts Fund of the Greenacres Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council, annual fund donors, endowment gifts and estate gifts.
What is the 3.5% Music Hall facility fee and what does it do?
To provide dedicated, permanent funds to help maintain the beautifully restored Music Hall, a 3.5% facility fee is assessed on all tickets sold to Music Hall events across all resident arts groups Facility fees are typical to most performing arts venues across the country, and this fee will be used for ongoing maintenance of this historic treasure.
Who is responsible for the money collected with the facility fee?
The Music Hall Revitalization Company (MHRC) holds the lease for Music Hall and is ultimately responsible for both the fund and the building’s maintenance, which are managed by Cincinnati Arts Association on behalf of MHRC.
How and when will seats be assigned for the CSO’s 2017-18 season?
Seats will be assigned starting mid-March through May 2017. Subscribers who continuously renewed through the 2016-17 Taft season and all renewing subscribers will be seated first, followed by new subscribers. Your seating priority is based on the frequency of your concert attendance with an emphasis on overall investment in the Orchestra, including donation history and length of tenure. Please note that Create Your Own subscribers receive seating priority over single ticket buyers but are seated after curated series whose benefits include the same seats for every subscription performance.
Will CSO concerts be offered on Thursdays?
To address demand for morning and afternoon concert options, and to make CSO concerts more accessible to family and out-of-town audiences, we have increased the number of matinee performances. 2017-18 CSO season programs will be performed on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with start times of 11 AM, 2 PM and 8 PM. Thursday performances may be added, when possible, based on demand.
Can I create my own package of CSO concerts that I choose?
Our popular Create Your Own series will go on sale in May 2017 after curated series (Series 1, 2 & 3) subscribers have been seated. This will allow Create Your Own subscribers to select seats immediately upon ordering. (Create Your Own pre-orders may be placed by phone in advance, however seat locations cannot be guaranteed be guaranteed and prices may differ based on availability.)
Is an entrance off the Central Parkway pedestrian bridge part of the renovation plan?
Contingent on the pedestrian bridge remaining, a wheelchair-accessible entrance is now planned off that pedestrian bridge on the Central Parkway side of Music Hall.
Was a rear entrance part of the original renovation plan?
Keeping the Ballroom entrance off the pedestrian bridge was always part of the plan, continent on that bridge remaining.
The design team recommended removing the current rear entrance (known to many as the “timeline” entrance) because it is not wheelchair-accessible and requires audience members to traverse multiple flights of stairs. Removing this entrance also provides needed operational space to allow the resident organizations to combine back-of-house functions and work as efficiently as possible.
After gathering public feedback on this element in particular, the design team explored other options that would allow for a rear entrance while still providing for back-of-house needs.
As planned, the new rear entrance would provide access to the Springer Auditorium lobby area in addition to the Ballroom from the pedestrian bridge. It is fully wheelchair-accessible and would offer direct access from the Town Center Garage. Again, this is contingent on the bridge remaining.
What does the future hold for the Town Center (CET) Garage on Central Parkway and the pedestrian bridge?
3CDC is leading an effort to ensure parking needs are being assessed and that demand for Music Hall parking is met.
To be clear, the resident companies have all advocated for the garage and pedestrian bridge, which are owned by the City of Cincinnati, to be repaired and retained. Our commitment to safe, accessible and convenient parking for Music Hall is unwavering and we share the concerns expressed around this particular issue.
You may have seen in the Enquirer some months ago that a proposal was put before the City by a group of donors that would combine private philanthropy and public funds to make necessary repairs to the bridge. We know that further study is under way as that proposal is considered by the City.
Even if the critical repairs to the bridge proceed, it is very unlikely these repairs would be completed in time for Music Hall’s reopening in October given the scope of that work. We continue to monitor this situation closely and are working with 3CDC and the City on a number of initiatives to ensure the path from the Town Center Garage to the front entrance of Music Hall at street level is significantly improved.
How is Music Hall being protected as a building on the National Registry of Historic Places?
3CDC, the Design Team and Music Hall’s resident companies are working closely with the State Historic Preservation Office to ensure that Music Hall retains its historic character.
Nearly 20 percent of the funding for Music Hall’s renovation has been provided via the $25 million catalytic tax credit the hall was awarded from the Ohio Development Services Agency in December of 2015 as part of the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program.
Accepting these tax credits essentially guarantees the hall will retain its historic character, as one of the main requirements of the program involves receiving approval from both the state and federal historic preservation offices. In addition, upon completion, a state-appointed preservation officer must review the site to ensure the historic character was maintained and renovations were made according to the approved plans and the Secretary of the Interior’s national historic guidelines.
How will the renovation impact the Music Hall Ballroom, Corbett Tower, the Critic’s Club, etc.?
Music Hall’s Ballroom will have improved access via new high-speed elevators, and retains its grandeur.
In Corbett Tower, 14 feet of additional height was discovered behind a drop ceiling, revealing a beautiful coved ceiling with stenciling and additional windows. Thanks to the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall, these grand features are being recreated and/or restored.
The location of old Critic’s Club has been converted into new offices for the Cincinnati Arts Association. In place of the Critics Club, a new event space has been created out of the old south carriage way and will offer convenient, accessible access from both Springer Auditorium and the backstage area.
How have you sought public input on this project?
The Music Hall renovation project, which has been planned, discussed and carefully considered for several years now, reflects an extraordinary level of collaboration among the design team, the resident arts organizations that call Music Hall home, the Cincinnati Arts Association, the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall, and the public. The project’s design reflects years of feedback from the public through forums and avenues of communication to the design team and resident companies. All of the decisions have been informed by audience input and made with the audience experience in mind. We have been listening to you—our community. Everyone involved with this project knows how precious and how treasured Music Hall is, and we are deeply committed to getting this project done right.
What is the history of the chandeliers, and will they be maintained?
Chandeliers throughout Music Hall were not historic and were added in between the 1960s and 1990s. The main chandelier in Springer Auditorium, which was added in 1969, is remaining. The three large chandeliers from the Grand Foyer are being refurbished and relocated to Corbett Tower.
Will Music Hall retain its statues, portraits and other pieces of art and history?
Yes, the design team is working with the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall to ensure Music Hall’s many treasured artifacts are stored and protected during the renovation and properly displayed once the building reopens in October.
Who is paying for the Music Hall project?
A combination of private and public funds is being used to finance the $135 million project. The public funds have come in the way of tax credits and commitments from the City of Cincinnati and the State of Ohio. While most of the money has been committed, fundraising is still active. To make a donation, please visit http://www.musichallcincinnati.org/support/.
Who owns Music Hall?
Music Hall is owned by the City of Cincinnati, which has invested $16 million into this complex renovation project, and managed by the Cincinnati Arts Association (CAA).
The Music Hall Revitalization Company, a non-profit organization led by Otto Budig, Jr., now holds a long-term lease for the building and has hired 3CDC to specifically manage the renovation project. 3CDC is working on a daily basis with the expert Design Team, CAA and Music Hall’s resident companies, which include the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops, May Festival, Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Opera, and the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall.
What is the status of the renovation budget?
The renovation budget is $135 million and funds are still needed. Visit the Music Hall Revitalization Company’s website, musichallcincinnati.org, to support the project or call 513-381-1848. Checks can be made payable to MHRC and sent to 1203 Walnut Street, 4thFloor, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45202.
What is the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall and how is this organization involved in the renovation?
SPMH (The Society for the Preservation of Music Hall) is a non-profit, volunteer organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Cincinnati’s historic Music Hall. This organization supports the renovation and has committed over $3.3 million to the project. Founded in 1987, SPMH has long been an advocate for protecting and preserving Music Hall and put considerable focus and energy into this major renovation.