Monday, January 16, 2012

The Chosen Spot 2: Green Music Center

The reason I visited the Luther Burbank gardens on New Years Day was because my host and chauffeur Janos Gereben insisted upon it. Afterwards, we wandered around Sonoma County in his rental car while he indulged in an interesting relationship with his female-voiced GPS unit in particular and navigation in general.

Janos had invited me along principally so that I could take some photos for his San Francisco Classical Voice article about the upcoming opening of the $130 million Donald and Maureen Green Music Center on the campus of Sonoma State University. The theatre above was still having a front outdoor plaza installed but essentially the new concert hall, its lobby and adjoining fancy restaurant have been completed.

On New Years Day, there was a reception for donors, development people, publicists, and a few journalists, held in the restaurant space which is already being rented out for wedding receptions.

It's easy to see why as the place is beautiful.

There were speeches by University President Ruben Arminana above right, and Sanford I. Weill (sitting beside him next to his wife Joan) thanking all the donors and also threatening them with more outreach for funds.

The project started off with a large donation by Maureen and Donald Green (above right, with Arminana) for a new choral center on the campus twelve years ago, and somewhere along the way the plans became more and more ambitious, and the simple choral center had morphed into a major musical education complex with a serious, world-class concert hall at its center.

To complete the project, Sanford Weill and his wife Joan donated a huge sum last year and the concert hall has been named after them. It was a good investment, as the building is magnificent.

Listening to Sanford Weill above was a bit disconcerting, since the 72-year-old investment executive is a major poster boy for the recent excesses of Wall Street. The Weills bought a winery estate from Joe Montana in Sonoma County a couple of years ago for $31 million, which is how they became involved with the Green Music Center in the first place, and then they convinced their pianist friend, Lang Lang, to test drive the concert hall at midnight one evening. He was enraptured with the sound, and the rest is soon to be local history.

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