Campus: Sonoma State University -- March 14, 2000

Technology Industry on Board for World-Class Music Facility

Fund raising for the Center for the Musical Arts at Sonoma State University kicked off with a $10 million gift from a most unlikely place: the high tech industry in Sonoma County. Donald Green, founder of several local technology companies, and his wife Maureen, an alumna, enjoyed singing with the University's Bach Choir, all the while aware of the need for a concert hall in the area built expressly for music. They discussed the idea with campus officials who had already been thinking along those lines. When President Ruben Armiņana and his wife Marne Olsen visited Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood in western Massachusetts, they brought the news that a near-perfect model for musical performances had been found. The Greens then visited Tanglewood and agreed. Starting with their $10 million gift, the fund raising for the specialized building built momentum.

Don Green then challenged his friends and colleagues in the Telecom industry to raise $5 million amongst them to fund a recital hall in the music center.

The industry took up the challenge with a vengence.

SSU administrators knew there would be tremendous support from patrons of the arts; that was expected. But after Don Green's challenge more than $4.5 million was committed which resulted in 9 of the top 11 donors coming from the high-tech industry in the area. (Petaluma, California has been called the "Silicon Valley of the North Bay.)

Says Mike Hatfield, founder of Calix Networks of Petaluma, "When I first came to Sonoma County, I was amazed at the number of musicians and artists who live and thrive in the community. In that light, the Center for Musical Arts occupies an important role in helping to extend the county's rich cultural history well into the future. The Center will not only afford existing members of the community the wonderful opportunity to participate in the musical arts but it will also serve as a magnet to draw others interested in the arts to the community."

In addition to the Green campaign gift, substantial support from technology companies and employees has been received from Herb Dwight (chair of Optical Coating Laboratory) and his wife Jane, John Webley (of Turin Networks) and his wife Jennifer, B.J. Cassin (South Bay venture capitalist) and his wife Bebe, Jay Abbe (President of Optical Coating Laboratory) and his wife Karen, Advanced Fibre Communications, Advanced Telecom Group, Tom Birdsall and Rebecca Green (of the Green Foundation), and Mike Hatfield (founder of Calix Networks) and his wife Debra.

Though not yet built, excitement for the project resulted in the first events of the Center for Musical Arts which takes place this July in the first annual summer music festival. Tom Birdsall and Rebecca Green are coordinating the "Festival on the Green" and anticipate this new tradition at Sonoma State University of celebrating music and the arts during the warm summer months will be tremendously popular. The first event, on July 4, features a celebration of American Independence with music, history and fireworks. Games for the children and appearances by historical characters such as Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry promise to make the evening exciting for all. Festival on the Green will also feature programs for children including the Summer Arts for Youth program for high school students, the SSU Chamber Music for Youth program, the Santa Rosa Symphony's Music Academy and the Z Space Music Theatre Camp.

Construction on the Center for the Musical Arts begins this year and will be completed in Fall 2002. At the heart of the Center is a 1,400 seat concert hall with first-rate acoustics. It will open at one end (much like Tanglewood's) to provide additional lawn seating for 3,000 people, all with an excellent view of the stage and the Sonoma hills, which lay just beyond the building. For larger performances, additional lawn space will accommodate audiences of 10,000. A smaller hall, seating 300, will be used as a recital hall.

The landscape surrounding the Center will highlight vineyards and rolling foothills, which represent the sereneness of the North Bay Wine Country that so many travel from around the country to experience.

The excitement mounted as the Santa Rosa Symphony, an award-wining orchestra, chose to make the Center for the Musical Arts their new home. The Symphony has been an active member in fund raising for the music center project as they visualize the excitement of such a center.

"There are very few opportunities over the course of a lifetime when one can make a real difference. We have one of those rare opportunities now. A seemingly serendipitous combination of events involving musical artists, philanthropists, educators, and visionaries have conspired to create a situation whereby Sonoma County will become a major center for not only superior orchestral and chorus presentations but also a center of music education. By lending our financial support we, too, have an opportunity to "make a difference," along with the satisfaction of knowing that we didn't let the opportunity pass us by," says Creighton White, president of the Santa Rosa Symphony Board of Directors.

The Trione Foundation recently committed $1 million at the urging of Henry Trione, former Geyser Peak owner of the North Bay wine industry.

While the Center for the Musical Arts is being privately funded, it will be gifted to the California State University for use as a music venue as well as a teaching and learning facility. Sonoma State University donated $10 million toward purchasing the land on which it will sit as well as adjacent parking lots, landscaping, bridges and roads.

For more information about the Center for Musical Arts, call the Development Office, (707) 664-2712.

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