EMU Information / March 24, 2016

Behind The Scenes: Pease Auditorium

Have you been to see an orchestra concert? Listened to one of the choirs preform? Maybe you’ve been there just to see a guest speaker. It may be 101, but it doesn’t look a day over 90, here is your behind the scenes look at Pease.

Music has held an important place at Eastern Michigan since well before we were even Eastern Michigan. In 1881, Michigan State Normal School established the Normal Conservatory of Music; the program grew rapidly and by the beginning of the twentieth century was in need of further facilities. President Lewis H. Jones had hoped to build an auditorium during his time as President, 1903-1911, he only succeeded in completing one building, Sherzer Hall. It fell to his successor as president, Charles McKenny (Yes, that McKenny) to fund a new auditorium.

The new auditorium was constructed in 1914 for $159,000. For 1914, that’s a lot of dough!  Initially, the building was named for John D. Pierce, (Yes, that Pierce) the first State Superintendent of Instruction. Plans of the building had shown both the new auditorium and, adjacent, new conservatory building to be named after the head of the music department, Frederic H. Pease. Pease was the Professor of Music from 1858-1909 and Head of Conservatory of Music. Students remembered him as an exacting teacher and a deep believer in the moral and spiritual influence of music in education. Sluggish funding made many supporters fear that the conservatory would never be built. Sighting Pease’s close relation to music, they requested that the name of the auditorium be changed to Pease to memorialize this great man. The school honored their request, changing the name to Pease Auditorium in 1915.

When opened, the building was considered to have excellent acoustical properties.  Nevertheless, in the mind of Frederick Alexander, (Yup, that Alexander)  one thing was missing. Music Professor Alexander, had hoped to have an organ installed when the auditorium opened in 1915. Due to lack of funds an organ, much less a new conservatory was out of the question. Determined to remedy the lack of an organ, Alexander donated, upon his death $85,000, for the university to build a new organ. Erich Goldschmidt, EMU Professor of Organ (1955-1978) designed and voiced, or tuned, the Frederic Alexander Memorial Organ for its home on the stage of Pease Auditorium. It took Goldschmidt an entire year to tune the pipes properly in his workshop, located in the basement of Pease. Its first performance took place in 1960. The organ was restored between 1993 and 1999, and now sings with its original voice.

Fast Facts:

Construction date : 1914

Dedication date : June 22, 1915

Name after : Frederic H. Pease, Professor of Music, 1859-1909

Building function : Musical events, performances and lectures.

Cost(USD) : 159,000

Architect : Smith, Hinchman, and Grylls, Detroit, MI

Architecture style : Georigan Revival

Square footage : 26,947

Cubical content : 758,878

Seats: 1,600


Tags:  auditoriumn backstage pass Behind the Scenes Pease

1 Comment

Dec 26, 2016

I was there when Dr. Goldschmidt uilt this organ. Mant times I would drop by and watch him working on its construction. He had a thick accent and very polite intelligent man. I attended the dedication concert and my major was keyboard and I had the opportunity to play this awesome organ.
All music classes were in Pease until the old medical building was remodeled to house music classes and a new room for band and orchestra rehearsals.

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