Arkansas Symphony Orchestra breaks ground on new $11.7M music center

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 2,040 views 

Artist rendition of Stella Boyle Smith Music Center.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra broke ground on its new $11.75 million Stella Boyle Smith Music Center in Little Rock’s East Village, creating a first-of-its-kind music-focused headquarters for the state.

The new 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, slated to open in September 2024, is the Symphony’s first permanent home in its 58-year history.

The new music center will provide access to music education, music performances and music making to residents of all corners of the state through new spaces and a broadcast and recording studio.

“Our new music center represents a defining moment for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and for the state,” said Brigita Gardner, chair of ASO’s Crescendo Committee. “Countless individuals in the community have dedicated their time, effort and passion to raise funds and meticulously plan for how this center can be accessible to all and a source of joy. We embrace the promise of this landmark home as it enriches the arts in our community and serves Arkansans for many generations to come.”

The new music center will boast state-of-the-art features for children and adults that participate in the programs of the E. Lee Ronnel Music Academy, including music classrooms and practice spaces, ensuring a conducive environment for musical growth and creativity. 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, fostering an immersive musical experience.

“Live music serves as a unifying force that connects us all, transcending all walks of life,” ASO Music Director Geoff Robson said. “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. 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. We look forward to ushering in this new era of possibilities.”

ASO is currently raising remaining funds for the Stella Boyle Smith Music Center, as it is just $500,000 shy of its fundraising goal.

“We look forward to future partnerships with community leaders such as Saint Mark Baptist Church, William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum, Lyon College, Central Arkansas Library System, City of Little Rock and more to determine how we can be a resource to strengthen their missions,” ASO CEO Christina Littlejohn said. “Music has the power to connect us and build communities at the micro and macro levels. Creating community has never felt so important as we read about increasing loneliness and isolation. The new Stella Boyle Smith Music Center will be a space for joyous communities.”

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 58th season in 2023–2024.