Seattle Symphony opened the doors of its music discovery center, Soundbridge, on April 17 to “inspire and nurture a love of symphonic music through active participation,” said Seattle Symphony’s Executive Director Deborah Card.
In anticipation of the opening, the symphony’s conductor Gerard Schwartz said, “Education is one of the greatest priorities at the Seattle Symphony. Soundbridge is going to help us fulfill our mission of not only being a great symphony orchestra, but also of being a great educational resource for our community.”
The name, “Soundbridge,” created by Heckler Associates of Seattle, represents the Puget Sound and the sound of music, as well as the arch of Seattle Symphony programming that reaches out to people of all ages and cultural backgrounds. The center started after the Symphony received an anonymous $1 million gift in 1998, a few months before Benaroya Hall opened. Construction on the learning center was completed last month at a cost of $2.4 million.
The 2,000 square-foot learning center designed by Lehrman Cameron Studio, a planning and design firm based in Seattle, is one-of-a-kind with its listening bar, Science of Sound, virtual conducting station and other exhibits. It is designed for people of all ages and all levels of musical experience, enabling all visitors to explore the lives of musicians, conductors and composers, past and present. It will also connect the community with all Seattle Symphony performances, programs and festivals.
At its listening bar, five computer stations offer an extensive listening and resource library, which consists of more than 500 recordings — from the Renaissance through the present. Listeners can experience a variety of symphonic music selections, preview the Seattle Symphony’s concert season and learn about the lives of different composers. The “Science of Sound” kiosk demonstrates the physical properties of sound and their relationship to music making.
In the “Building the Orchestra” part of the center, visitors examine the different ways music plays a role in history and culture. Displays teach the various forms of symphonic music, from overtures to fugues and sonatas. The displays also show how symphonic music is used in popular culture. At the virtual conducting station, visitors can get a sense of what it is like to conduct a symphony as a curved screen presents a video performance of the Seattle Symphony from the point of view of the conductor. Different interpretations of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony can also be heard.
Visitors also get to meet the performers through videotaped interviews. The musicians share their memorable musical experiences, give performance practice tips and give insights into the rewards and challenges of their lives. Visitors also get to try their hand at playing instruments, including timpani, as well as piano, cello and string bass.
Exhibitions are both permanent and temporary. The wall panels are stationary, but the computer programs will change every few months. Visitors will have the option to explore exhibits independently or as a group. The center also offers a workshop performance space in which teacher workshops, student recitals, meet-the-musicians sessions, early-childhood music classes, storytelling and other events take place.
Patricia Costa Kim, the symphony’s education director encourages members of the community to call her with ideas for the center. She said that she would like to collaborate with community members in setting up different music programs at the center that tie-in with musical performances at Benaroya Hall. To reach Kim, call the Seattle Symphony’s administration office at 206-215-4700.
Exhibits are open to the general public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, and to Seattle Symphony ticket purchasers until concert time. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children. Annual memberships are also offered at $20 for an individual, $40 for a family, $50 for a school and $100 for a corporation. Call 206-336-6600.