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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

‘A Crown Jewel’

Upgrades make UE’s Wheeler Concert Hall stand out

When a 1960s-era pipe burst in 2019 inside the University of Evansville’s Krannert Hall of Art and Music’s Wheeler Concert Hall, the space became unusable.

“It virtually destroyed the hall,” says Dennis Malfatti, co-chair of UE’s Music Conservatory. That said, “We’d known for a number of years it needed a facelift,” he adds.

As of fall 2023, the space again welcomes performers and audiences. Ken Steinsultz, another Music Conservatory co-chair, says it had been years since the hall had seen any significant updates. Before, the acoustics were unreliable, either too loud or too quiet, both muddy and harsh. So, the decision was made to remodel.

As Steinsultz puts it, “Why would we build back and have the same thing?”

Architectural firm Hafer led the redesign. Acoustic consulting came from Arup, an international collective of engineering and sustainability consultants. Upgrades included improved ADA-accessible entrances and seating, along with better lighting. Fourteen variable acoustic drop-down panels also were installed to be adjustable depending on the size and type of performance.

UE in 2021 raised $2.8 million in less than six months from donors — including John C. and Diane Schroeder, Sharon and Burkley McCarthy, G. Richard and Rita Eykamp, and Wayne and Beth Kinney — along with Friends of UE Music, Music Conservatory alumni, and the public. Insurance covered the rest of the $3.4 million price.

“Now that we have upgraded, it’s state of the art acoustically,” Steinsultz says. “It’s a crown jewel for us.”

“I really do think this is a gem for the whole region, one of the best acoustic spaces,” Malfatti says. “It makes UE a focal point for music-making in the Tri-State.”

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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