SUU Breaks Ground for New Music Center5 min read

By Ruth Scovill

On Thursday, April 25, 2024, SUU held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Music Center at the Corner of 300 West and Center Street. As Dean Shauna Mendini would point out, being kitty corner from the Southern Utah Museum of Arts (SUMA), across the street from the the home of SUU’s Theater Arts and Dance Program, and only about half a block west of the home of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, the new building in this location will complete a corridor of arts for the university and for Cedar City.
Mendini welcomed numerous dignities from the city, county, and state, giving special recognition to Utah State Senators Don Ipson and Evan Vicker, and State Representative Rex Shipp for their work with the state legislature to obtain funding for the project. Mendini also recognized her team and members of the music faculty for their input throughout the design process. Both Mendini and Sen. Ipson noted the efforts of Donna Law in shepherding this project into existence. She noted that the new building will also be graced by a beautiful stained glass window that had previously been in the Cedar 2nd & 8th ward building before the building was demolished. The window which was originally created by the late Frank Adams and features the sun over the Great White Throne in Zion N.P. It is currently being refurbished.
Next, Tiger Funk, SUU Vice President of Operations, spoke about how the new music building would serve as a tool to help the music faculty to inspire not just students, but also those who have never before experienced great performing arts. Paraphrasing John Quincy Adams, he said, “If our act of constructing this building inspires others to dream, to dream more, to learn more, do more, and become more, then we have succeeded.” He expressed thanks to the legislators, the Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management (DFCM), Methods Studio, and other design and engineering consultants, Layton Construction, and many others “who put in long hours to ensure that projects like this one meet standards as they come into being.” He discussed the idea of having the faith in the different contributors’ “means and methods” to use their own talents and knowledge to bring about amazing results based on the plans and drawings that they have received. In two years time, Funk hopes to see the audience back to attend the ribbon cutting.
Joe Smith of Method Studio, specializing in architecture, interiors, and planning, said “The groundbreaking ceremony for this building symbolizes not just the commencement of construction, but the realization of a collective vision. A vision born from the desire to foster a vibrant and dynamic community of musicians, scholars, and artists.” He said that the heart of the building would be the concert hall with seating for 502 and an additional 126 seats in the choir loft. The building will also feature a recital hall with 105 seats. It will have dedicated rehearsal rooms for choral, instrument, and percussion ensemble, along with 21 practice rooms and 19 teaching studios.
Brian McBeth of Layton Construction Company spoke about how much he loved the great community feel of the SUU campus. He said that one of the reasons he loves construction is that you get to start with nothing–an empty parking lot–and see it turn into something beautiful. He said, “Buildings aren’t really the material they’re made of, but the impact they have on people. The great thing about music centers is that they impact so many people.”
Don Ipson, Utah State Senator from Cedar City, has been a driving force in getting the legislature to fund the music building. He talked about being invited to tour the old Thorley Music Hall. At that time, the proposed project was to add 18,000 square feet to the old building to accommodate the needs of the school. It quickly became evident to Ipson and others that simply doing a rehab on the old building would not be in the best interest of the school, the community, or the state. The Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management (DFCM) went along with them and changed the course in order to approve and construct the new building. Ipson said that he was honored to be part of the ground breaking, “It’s going to be a phenomenal experience when we build this building and see the students and professors come together in an instructional space that is second to none.”
Evan Vickers, Utah State Senator from Cedar City, reminisced about the times that he had shared with his family in the Thorley Music Hall listening to his wife perform in operas with Kent Myers, or listening to his children’s and grandchildren’s piano recitals. The new music hall will bless not only students and teachers at SUU, but the entire community.
SUU Opus, led by Dr. Andrew Briggs, sang “Consecrate This Place.”
Closing Remarks were given by SUU President Mindy Benson. She noted that Cedar City has had a rich history of music. “Our community and our campus have always celebrated music. From the beloved Paul Manning and Roy Halverson to Hal Campbell, to Virginia Stitt who’s here today, to our fabulous faculty who are here and now, each has had an untold impact on generations of students, and built a phenomenal foundation on which we continue to build today.” Benson said, “Music and arts have a unique power to transcend boundaries, unite communities, and inspire change. . . . As we lay the foundation for this new chapter . . . let us remember, we are not just building a structure. We are building a home for creativity, a sanctuary for inspiration and a beacon of hope for generations to come.”
Following Bensons remarks, the speakers did the first groundbreaking, followed by several other sessions which allowed everyone involved, including contributors, music faculty, and music students to participate in the event.


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