LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra is planning to move into its first permanent home in its 58-year history.
A groundbreaking Thursday marked the beginning of the Stella Boyle Smith Music Center in Little Rock. After its projected September 2024 completion the symphony will be in a 20,000-square-foot $11.75 million facility.
The center, which is being called “state of the art,” will have features for adults and children to participate in L. Lee Ronnel Music Academy programs, including classrooms and practice spaces. The space will include Morgan Hall, named in honor of long-time ASO supporters Susie and Charles Morgan, which will serve as a versatile space for rehearsals and concerts.
ASO Music Director Geoff Robson invoked a range of musical styles in the ASO’s education goals.
“Arkansas has a rich tradition of music creators, including Florence Price, Johnny Cash, William Grant Still, the Ozark Folk Tradition, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and many more,” he said. “As we embark on this exciting journey, our vision is that this new center will inspire appreciation for all kinds of music-making, be an accessible resource for those learning the craft, and help to cultivate the next generations of music creators.”
More then 200 donors contributed to the new center, including 48 musicians, raising more than $11 million. ASO said fundraising continues toward the additional $500,000 needed to reach its goal.
ASO representatives said performances by the orchestra would continue to be held at Robinson Center while the Stella Boyle Smith Center would be for additional community gatherings.
Stella Boyle Smith was a Little Rock philanthropist and long-time supporter of the orchestra. She began by starting The Musical Group in her living room in 1923 and continued to support what became the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra until her death in 1994 at 100 years of age.