Arkansas Symphony Orchestra unveils plan for $9 million music center

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 1,184 views 

Artist rendition of Stella Boyle Smith Music Center.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (ASO) announced Wednesday (Jan. 12) plans for a new $9 million, 20,000-square-foot music center in Little Rock’s East Village.

The state-of-the-art facility will be named the Stella Boyle Smith Music Center and will expand ASO’s capacity for education programming and additional musical offerings.

“Right now, hundreds of students and adults come to create, learn and perform music in a building built in 1916 as a nunnery and dining hall. Children must rehearse and practice outside, in the storage room or in offices because of the high demand for music classes and the limited space in ASO’s current facility. Yet, students from all across our state return week after week to inspire and be inspired,” ASO CEO Christina Littlejohn said.

“This new community music center will allow us to meet current demand, expand music instruction offerings and allow us to provide more programming for adults of all ages to complement the concerts at Robinson Center,” she added. “We are incredibly grateful for the generous support of our donors to date and through their leadership, we are ready to share the vision for this transformative project for ASO and the communities across Arkansas that we serve.”

The new community music center, located between Heifer International and the Clinton Presidential Center, will include a Grand Hall for rehearsals and concerts, multiple practice spaces, music classrooms, climate-controlled instrument storage and additional flex space for the future.

The Stella Boyle Smith Music Center will also have a dedicated streaming studio to eliminate all barriers for all Arkansans to access ASO programs.

“This project will become an incredible addition to the arts and culture landscape of Arkansas and a vibrant jewel of creativity in Little Rock’s East Village, and it will also be far more than that,” said Brigita Gardner who serves as chair of the fundraising effort. “This new center is a commitment to serve our communities for generations and marks a significant opportunity for our current community leaders to leave a lasting legacy that ensures every young Arkansans for years to come will have access to music education and all the power that comes with it.”

“With this effort, ASO will soon have the potential to double or even triple the number of students and community members they can serve, significantly advancing Stella Boyle Smith’s vision of providing quality music education and access to every young person in our state,“ said Stella Boyle Smith Trust trustee Mike Mayton. “Once this new music center is complete, thousands of children from across our state will experience tens of thousands of hours of the highest quality music education in an environment that inspires them to excel.”

ASO said it has raised $5.4 million towards its goal of $9 million to make the music center a reality. Leading gifts have been made from the state of Arkansas, Stella Boyle Smith Trust and Simmons Bank.

The Stella Boyle Smith Music Center was designed by Witsell Evans Rasco Architects of Little Rock.