Campus News

The New Studzinski Recital Hall and Kanbar Auditorium: Your Key to a World-Class Musical Experience

Story posted April 27, 2007

Studzinski Recital Hall, a new state-of-the-art music performance and practice facility that includes the stunning new 280-seat Kanbar Auditorium, will open with the first of a series of inaugural concerts on Friday, May 4, 2007.

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Kanbar Auditorium inside Studzinski Recital Hall

The challenging $15-million renovation and preservation of the former Curtis Pool building, originally designed by McKim, Mead and White, reaffirms a commitment to arts and culture at Bowdoin. It complements the renovation of the 610-seat Pickard Theater and construction of the 150-seat Wish Theater (both completed in 2000), and the $20.8-million renovation and restoration of the Walker Art Building - home to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art - that will reopen in October.

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The recital hall was designed by William Rawn Associates, of Boston in collaboration with Lawrence Kirkegaard Associates and Theatre Projects Consultants. This is the same team that designed the much acclaimed Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood for the Boston Symphony (recently ranked by Leo Beranek, in his book Concert Halls and Opera Houses: Music, Acoustics, and Architecture, as one of the two best concert halls in the United States built in the last 50 years and among the top four halls in the United States). This team has worked together on numerous other music and performing arts projects during the past ten years.

Studzinski Recital Hall, with its intimate room for music, is central to Bowdoin's vision for achieving excellence in the arts. The facility also satisfies students' expectations for practice space in nine individual practice rooms. A rehearsal room, green room, lobby areas, and new and refurbished pianos complete what will now be the center of musical teaching, training and performance at the College.


Studzinski Recital Hall was made possible by the generosity of John J. Studzinski, a member of the Class of 1978 and a trustee of the College. Studzinski is an investment banker and philanthropist known worldwide for his work on behalf of the homeless and human rights, and for his support of the arts. The interior 280-seat Kanbar Auditorium was made possible by the generosity of private equity investor Elliott S. Kanbar of the Class of 1956, and his brother, Maurice Kanbar.

"This is an important and inspirational achievement for Bowdoin," said Bowdoin College President Barry Mills. "The imagination, energy, and skill applied to transform our former swimming pool into a first-class recital hall reflects Bowdoin's commitment to the arts and music as vital components of a liberal arts education. This elegant hall will provide a stunning space for our students and faculty to explore and study music, while bringing joy to music lovers here and throughout Maine. We are enormously grateful to our principal donors John Studzinski, and Elliott and Maurice Kanbar of the Kanbar Charitable Trust. Our architect, Bill Rawn, has achieved something very special with this design, which was executed with great care and skill by H.P. Cummings. All of us at Bowdoin are thrilled with the result."

Architecture & Design

The project combines a radical transformation of the interior with a "light touch" restoration of the building's exterior. A large acoustic volume was carved out of the existing structure. Into that volume is placed a more intimate oval-shaped "vessel for music." This bold, curved geometry provides an exciting contrast with the "shoe-box" shape of the existing building (which is ideal acoustically) and introduces a vocabulary of taut, minimalist surfaces and warm, natural materials.

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Two parallel arcs defined by sheer planes of brass mesh and wood paneling embrace audience and performer in a singular and exceedingly intimate space. These forms organize audience seating along the sides of the room, surrounding the stage and uniting audience and performer in a vibrant "community of music."

Ten freestanding "pylons" defining the top of the oval are an especially innovative element of Studzinski Recital Hall. The taut surfaces of brass mesh contain the space visually, yet allow sound to pass through to the massive bass-supportive brick exterior walls, maintaining the acoustical "bigness" of the hall. The tall pylons create a hidden inner space that conceals an adjustable acoustical curtain that can be raised or lowered to "tune" the hall for different music programs (acousticians often describe recital halls as themselves a musical instrument).

"Recognizing the important role of music and the arts to a liberal arts education, we designed the building to meet the unique needs of student performers," said architect William Rawn. Further, we saw the recital hall as a place that will bring the Bowdoin community together, a place of gathering and celebration. To this end we conceived of the hall as a warm, inviting space with natural birch woodwork and filled with natural light."

On the exterior, the project respects and re-energizes the McKim, Mead and White fašade. A new transparent link replaces a solid connector between the pool and adjacent Sargent Gymnasium, reinforcing the elemental, object quality of the existing building (reconnecting this building to the character of Bowdoin's strong elemental buildings defining the main quad). The McKim, Mead and White exterior has been cleaned and restored; while a simplified landscape in front of the building (Hyde Plaza) brings the green space of Bowdoin's Main Quad to the front door of the recital hall.

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A preview of Kanbar Auditorium as acousticians take measurements during a variety of performances

Throughout the project, Kirkegaard Associates worked with the architects and the construction company to ensure that the hall would enjoy the finest acoustical experience possible. Known throughout the world for their acoustical expertise, Kirkegaard has previously provided acoustical design support for such facilities as the Atlanta Symphony Center, Carnegie Hall, Chicago's Orchestra Hall, the Music Center at Strathmore, Royal Festival Hall in London, the Tanglewood Music Center, and New York's Riverside and Trinity churches, among many others.

Engineering Challenges

Renovation of the Curtis Pool building began in September 2005 by H.P. Cummings Construction Company of Winthrop, Maine - the same firm that built the original Curtis Pool in 1927-28. This time around they faced a daunting and unique challenge: remove a swimming pool - which was literally supporting the building's walls - without compromising the structural integrity of the historically significant building. Specialists were brought in to carefully create support for the walls with tension bars, while the steel pool itself was painstakingly extricated and recycled.

Preservation and Conservation

The transformation from Curtis Pool to the recital hall is a testament to Bowdoin's commitment to both preservation and conservation. Rather than construct a new building on the periphery of the College, which would have been less expensive and less time-consuming, Bowdoin was determined to create this new space in the heart of the campus while preserving the exterior of the McKim, Mead and White structure.

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The Curtis Pool Buiding (circa 1928)

Upholding an ongoing commitment to the concept of sustainability, the College recycled much of what was removed during the renovation project. Thirty tons of steel and other metals were recycled, as were 165 tons of concrete. In addition, the recital hall is heated and cooled geothermally, using water from two 1,500-foot-deep wells and heat pumps. Well-insulated groundwater, pumped into the building, remains at a constant temperature of around 50 degrees; the heat pumps extract 15 to 20 degrees to heat or cool the buildings. The system allows Bowdoin to save more than 40 percent of the energy usually consumed in a similarly sized building.


The original Curtis Pool building was the gift of Cyrus Hermann Kotzschmar Curtis, founder of the Curtis Publishing Company in Philadelphia, who was born in Portland, Maine, and spent summers in Camden, Maine. The Curtis Pool building, completed in 1928, was the design of McKim, Mead and White, the famed architectural firm that also designed Bowdoin's Walker Art Building, the Moulton Union and several other campus buildings, along with such well-known buildings as the Boston Public Library, the Morgan Library in New York and the Brooklyn Museum.

Curtis Pool

Through the years, the pool served the College and the community - not only as an athletic and recreational venue - but as an important training facility for Bowdoin students during World War II, all of whom were required to pass a course titled "Military Swimming." The course included instruction on how to swim safely through and under burning oil, how to jump into the water without submerging a rifle and other skills deemed important for Bowdoin undergraduates to master during wartime. Curtis served as the College's swimming pool until 1987, when the Farley Field House complex (with a pool later named for Bowdoin President Emeritus A. LeRoy Greason) opened.

Arts and Culture at Bowdoin

Studzinski Recital Hall not only raises the profile of music at Bowdoin, it raises the quality of the academic experience. Among the hall's technical advances, for example, is video and audio recording equipment linked to the stage that will allow individuals and groups to review their taped rehearsals and performances. Nine new practice rooms give students added space for practicing their instruments; complete with wireless technology, they also can become satellite performance or composition spaces where students are virtually engaged.


"The design and location of this beautiful building speaks very directly to the central role music plays in academic and social life at Bowdoin," said Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd, a noted musicologist and Bowdoin professor of music.

"There are so many ways to encounter music at Bowdoin," she said. "Students can perform in one of the College's acclaimed instrumental and choral groups or participate in student-run musical ensembles. They can steep themselves in music history, theory, and composition - or explore the intersection of music and technology. The rich culture of sound here goes back a long way, and now this recital hall will be a gathering space for those who love music long into the future."

"I think the recital hall will transform music at the College," added Professor of Music Mary Hunter. "Having a beautiful place, dedicated to performance, tells students visibly that we are serious about music. I think it will improve the standard of student performance as well. When you have a better hall, you actually play up to the facility."

Community Impact

Studzinski Recital Hall addresses a variety of needs for both the College and the midcoast and southern Maine communities. One of Bowdoin's long-term goals, as part of a broader arts initiatives that includes a new curricular requirement in the performing and visual arts, is to attract exceptional musicians to the College who recognize the value of a liberal arts education while providing a wide range of opportunities for all undergraduates to encounter musical study and performance of the highest caliber. In addition, the new recital hall will serve as a much-needed cultural venue for a variety of musical performances that are open to the public, and will serve such organizations as the Bowdoin International Music Festival, which is in residence on the Bowdoin campus each summer.


John Studzinski, of the Class of 1978, is a senior managing director at the prominent private equity and investment management firm, The Blackstone Group. Mr. Studzinski serves as global head of the firm's Corporate Advisory Services Group, with primary responsibility for overseeing Blackstone's corporate advisory services business in the U.S. and the development of the firm's corporate advisory business in Europe. He is also a member of the firm's Executive Management Committee.

Mr. Studzinski is currently vice-chair and director of Human Rights Watch, where he serves on the Executive Committee and as chairman of the Investment Committee. He also serves as a trustee of the Passage Day Centre for the Homeless, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Tate Gallery, and is the founder of the Benjamin Franklin Museum in London. He was the Former Chairman of Business Action on Homelessness, and serves on the Board of Emmaus.

Mr. Studzinski has been made a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory for his humanitarian work on behalf of the homeless and a Knight Commander of Saint Sylvester. He received the Prince of Wales Ambassador's Award in recognition of his contributions to the homeless. In 2001 he founded the Genesis Foundation, a UK-based charity that supports young adults in the early stages of careers in the arts. In 2004 he was honored by the Beacon Fellowship as the "most generous business leader" and as "one of the most creative and entrepreneurial philanthropists to be found in [London] today."

Mr. Studzinski graduated from Bowdoin magna cum laude with a double major in sociology and biology and went on to earn his MBA at the University of Chicago. He has remained active in the life of the College, serving as a BASIC representative and YAAC representative. He was elected to the Board of Trustees in 1998 and is a member of the Academic Affairs Committee and Subcommittee on Honors.

Kanbar Auditorium

The hall's 280-seat acoustically designed auditorium was made possible by the generosity of private equity investor Elliott S. Kanbar of the Class of 1956, and his brother, Maurice Kanbar. Elliott and Maurice Kanbar also made it possible for the College to provide new and improved space for the departments of psychology and education and the Baldwin Center for Learning and Teaching through the construction of Kanbar Hall, which opened in 2004.

Additional Donors to Studzinski Recital Hall

The large practice room was made possible by gifts from David E. Gamper of the Class of 1967, his wife, Gisela R. Gamper, and David's mother, Harriet E. Gamper, in honor of David's father, Chuck Gamper, an avid enthusiast for student musicians on campus.


Three other practice rooms were made possible by the generosity of Norman C. Nicholson Jr., a member of the Class of 1956 and overseer emeritus; the Hannaford Charitable Foundation; and members of the Bowdoin faculty.

The Steinway concert grand piano (purchased to pair with an existing Steinway concert grand) was a gift of Nancy Kirkpatrick Morrell in memory of her mother, Mary Rose Clark Kirkpatrick, and the refurbished Model O grand piano and two new Yamaha upright pianos used in the practice rooms were made possible by Mitchell and Barbara Davich, parents of Arlyn and Eric of the Classes of 2003 and 2006, respectively.

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