The construction of the Scheidt Family Performing Arts Center is nearly complete with a grand opening scheduled for the upcoming fall semester. The $40 million building is set to dramatically change the music community on campus and around Memphis with its innovative technologies and world-class facilities.
The Scheidt Family Performing Arts Center has been in the works for over 15 years. Rudi and Honey Scheidt, inarguably the music school’s greatest supporters and philanthropists, donated millions of dollars to the school over the last several decades before the new building was even an idea.
“I think my dad made his first donation to have the building 17 years ago,” Susan Arney, daughter of Rudi and Honey Scheidt, said. “There are no words to express the happiness my parents would feel that this project is finally – I’m not going to say be completed – the building will be completed but the project will be forever growing as our students are ever-growing.”
The grand opening gala for the building is scheduled for September. There will be special musical performances, but performers have yet to be confirmed.
“It is our family’s hope that we’ll have everything from Opera Memphis to the Memphis Symphony to all the different groups in Memphis all perform in the new building. When they perform, we’re hoping they will interact with the students at the school, so the students can thrive in the community and come participate and see the students’ performances and professional performances.”
Arney and her siblings: Rudi Scheidt Jr., Elkan Scheidt and Helen Gronauer, committed $500,000 to match donations to the Strike a Chord: Scheidt School of Music Drive for Excellence Fund. The $1 million fund is set to help student musicians who can’t afford instruments with professional, high-quality instruments and equipment.
“We are looking forward to even more future commitments to help, and getting our friends to also help,” Arney said.
When a donor gives between $5,000 and $150,000, the money the Scheidt siblings donated will match those amounts, guaranteeing certain technologies for the new building, from laptops and projectors for teaching, to rehearsal spaces to industry-quality audio engineering equipment.
This fund will allow students to excel in their studies without worrying about the cost of equipment.
“The arts have the power to inspire individuals and transform communities,” Meredith Powers, director of development at the College of Communications and Fine Arts, said. “The state-of-the-art facility will showcase our talented students and faculty and be known as a cherished and welcoming community gathering place. Philanthropic support of the Scheidt Family Performing Arts Center – at any level – helps ensure that unforgettable experiences are available to everyone.”
Faculty and students have expressed their excitement about the new building, including the increase in opportunities for ensembles regarding community outreach.
“There were a lot of things that I would have loved to do with the bands, but we just [couldn’t] because we didn’t have the space for that, but now we do have the space for that,” Albert Nguyen, director of bands, said.
“We have the space for a larger audience. We have the space for larger ensembles. We also have the ability to communicate with all the technology, to communicate with other universities and partners in ways that we probably hadn’t even imagined yet.”
With this significant increase in space, ensembles and programs across the school of music will now be able to easily collaborate.
“I have dreams of collaborating with theatre and dance, and now that we have a space that will allow for some kind of staging with the band, that’s going to be exciting,” Nguyen said.
Students like Mario Shaw, a sophomore performance major, expressed excitement about the new performing arts center and how it will provide current and future students with new opportunities during their time at the university.
“I’m happy that we’re getting a new space to cultivate the already growing culture that’s here at [the University of Memphis],” Shaw said. “I’m way more excited about the exposure that musicians like me, who are Black, are going to get when we get this new music building, and I am happy to bring up more musicians in a new building with more space. It’s exciting.”
Grace Williams, a junior instrumental music education major, expressed her gratitude and excitement about the new building and how it will unite the community.
“The opening of the new music building will be very beneficial to the school of music,” Williams said. “It will allow the school of music to be even more connected and involved with the community than it already is. I think this building is one more thing that will bring the performing arts community together.”
The decades-long project may be coming to an end with its construction, but the real project of improving performance and outreach in the school of music is just beginning.
“We’re going to be forever in debt to the Scheidts for this,” Albert Nguyen said. “I’m thankful for their support of the entire school of music – it allows us to dream big – and they are major benefactors of that, and I don’t know if we can thank them enough.”
The Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music's new facility is nearing completion, but that is not where the work stops for the school.