Washington University purchases Community Music School building from Webster University

Washington University has reached an agreement with Webster University to purchase the Community Music School building, 560 Trinity Ave., in University City.

Community Music School
The Community Music School of Webster University, 560 Trinity Ave. The building was recently purchased by Washington University to serve as additional performance, rehearsal and classroom space for music and performing arts programs.

The purchase will provide Washington University with additional — and much needed — performance, rehearsal and teaching facilities. The building includes the 1,115-seat E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall; a 300-seat performance space; and a small recital hall, as well as dozens of classrooms and practice spaces; a recording studio; and administrative offices. The concert hall will become the largest performance space at Washington University.

Built in 1929, the two-story, 45,000-square-foot former synagogue is located less than a mile from the Hilltop Campus at the intersection of Trinity and Delmar Boulevard, near the western end of the Delmar Loop shopping and entertainment district. It has been home to the Community Music School since 1974. Webster will use proceeds from the sale to fund construction of new Community Music School headquarters on its main campus in Webster Groves.

“This is a wonderful addition to Washington University’s music and performing arts spaces,” said Edward S. Macias, Ph.D., executive vice chancellor, dean of Arts & Sciences and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences. “It will ease pressure on existing facilities and be of great benefit to our students and faculty, many of whom live in the neighborhood.”

The deal includes a purchase price of $4,935,000. Webster will continue to occupy the property for one year. At the end of that term, Webster will have use of the E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall for two Sundays per month for an additional eight months.

Macias noted that the university’s current performce facilities — principally the 650-seat Edison Theatre; the 100-seat A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre; and the 100-seat Annelise Mertz Dance Studio — are striving to balance the needs of student, departmental and professional groups.

The Department of Music and the Performing Arts Department (both in Arts & Sciences) currently combine for about 100 graduate and undergraduate majors, though hundreds of non-majors participate in student theatrical productions, dance concerts and music ensembles. These range from Performing Arts’ large biannual mainstage productions to the 75-member Washington University Symphony Orchestra, the 65-member Washington University Concert Choir and numerous student-run groups.

“Additional space for Music and Performing Arts will allow us to present new activities not possible before,” Macias said. “By providing room for everything from individual lessons to group rehearsals to student performances, this building greatly enhances our ability to meet an increasing demand from various entities.”

Meanwhile, the professional Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series, now in its 33rd year, brings to St. Louis a wide variety of nationally and internationally known performing artists. Charlie Robin, executive director of Edison Theatre, pointed out that the E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall will provide “a larger, acoustically brilliant space” in which to present select concerts and other community events.