July 28, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
66°F
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Mixon Hall opens in style in Cleveland

CLEVELAND – Mixon Hall, the Cleveland Institute of Music`s new performance hall, opened to the public Sunday and the public took notice.

The event, which featured speeches by its architect and acoustician as well as numerous musical performances, was standing room only and abuzz with plenty of praise and appreciation.

The afternoon kicked off with a very brief introduction by the hall`s namesake and CEO of Elyria-based Invacare, A. Malachi Mixon.

“I`m very honored to introduce Mixon Hall,” he said, not in the new hall but 100 yards away in the older Kulas Hall. Mixon is the chairman of CIM`s board and – along with his wife, Barbara – a major source of funding for the project.

As a former musical performer, Mixon was visibly excited about the virtues and possibilities of the new space.

“It sounds beautiful and looks even better,” he said. “It is sure to be the newest jewel in University Circle.”

Before letting the audience see the new jewel, Mixon added, “It is sure to allow CIM to compete on the world`s stage. It sometimes seemed like it would never get finished.”

Indeed, Mixon Hall was completed at the 11th hour. According to CIM spokeswoman Susan Schwartz, finishing touches were applied to Mixon Hall up to the very last second. But – after Mixon`s introduction ended and the crowd entered – it looked finished and polished.

In fact, the juxtaposition between the utilitarian Kulas and the pristine and state-of-the-art Mixon was striking.

Its wooden walls, plush seating and soft lighting played second fiddle to the hall`s magnificent 43-foot glass wall that backs the stage. Looking out on a small garden, the wall “combines the beauty of music with the beauty of nature,” in the words of Mixon`s chief architect, Charles T. Young.

Even on a gray, rainy day the effect was astonishing. When the first ensemble – an eight-piece – came out, what light there was streamed through the window on the musicians like a natural spotlight. Their music reached every corner of the venue, which has just 250 seats because it is primarily just for student recitals, according to Schwartz.

But yesterday – when the celebrations were open to the public – the lack of seats did pose a problem. Spectators had to watch the performances and appreciate the new venue in stages.

The minor inconvenience didn`t seem to dampen any of the spectators` spirits.

Between songs, murmurs would waft through the audience.

“The sound is amazing,” one woman said.

“The stage is so beautiful,” a man said.

The second performance also was a crowd-pleaser. The CIM Sato Center for Suzuki Studies performed two traditional folk tunes. Few knew what to expect, and when the stage filled with elementary-aged violinists, few were disappointed. These children from the Cleveland community (some as young as 5 years old) played “Sakura, Sakura,” (cherry blossom) and “Hana” (flowers) to smiles and gasps from the audience.

The musical performances eventually gave way to a panel discussion by architect Charles T. Young and acoustician Paul Scarbrough on the hall`s construction and planning. Both expressed their pleasure at being able to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

And so was the audience.

When the festivities ended, the audience left with smiles. Many excitedly took tours of the rest of the expansions and renovations, including a library, lobby and computer lab.

But none could outshine Mixon Hall. Many members of the audience voiced their desire to return for concerts soon and often.

And if Sunday`s festivities are indicative of the venue`s future, it looks like they will not be disappointed.

Contact Michael Baker at 329-7155 or mbaker@chroniclet.com.