By Micah McIntyre, News Editor
On Wednesday afternoon, students, faculty and staff gathered together in what will become the lobby of Wheaton’s $64 million addition to Armerding. They’d come to dedicate a support beam for the pedestrian bridge across the concert hall’s lobby, signed by hundreds in the Wheaton community.
Before the ceremony, the beam was placed at the Quad’s north end to give members of the Wheaton community a chance to make their mark on one of the more prominent structures in Armerding’s new wing. The Dean of the Conservatory of Music and Division of Arts and Communication, Michael Wilder, explained that while the ceremony was a celebration of the building itself and those involved in the construction process, it was also for the surrounding community.
The construction team cleared the walkway and entrance to the concert hall lobby for spectators to watch the beam’s installment, which supports the sky bridge that will connect Armerding’s new and old structures. Every seat was taken. The crowd flowed onto the walkway bordering the construction site.
The Wheaton College Concert Choir opened the ceremony with a rendition of “Be Thou My Vision,” making them the first musical group to perform in the new space. Several speakers then took the stage, including Wilder, then Provost Margaret Diddams, Vice President for Advancement, Vocation and Alumni Engagement Kirk Farney, senior music pedagogy major Addie Gammond and President Ryken.
A large number of students attended the ceremony, the majority of whom are members of the Conservatory. For senior concert choir member Ethan Hinkel, it was hard to believe how much the concert hall’s construction had progressed.
“I know that they’ve been working hard on the whole project, but the moment I saw this when I came back, I was just impressed,” said Hinkel. “It’s so exciting seeing all this and seeing what it’s going to turn into, but being able to see it in process like we did today was really nice.”
Finally, members of the faculty and staff donned hard hats and reflective vests to add their signatures, and the crowd cheered as the beam was fastened into place.
“There’s a lot of excitement for this building,” President Ryken told the Record. “I also think it was a unique event. Our planning team and Advancement do an excellent job and that builds momentum for people coming to these kinds of events.”
“We wanted to do something the first day of classes to welcome [students] back and to celebrate all that’s been done,” Wilder said. “We wanted people to have a chance to say, ‘I love this idea [and] I’m signing a petition for the overall project.’ I thought it was a beautiful image and it well captures the ceremony and the opportunity to celebrate.”
For many Conservatory students, including senior concert choir member Amelia Blanchard, the ceremony reflected the support the administration has shown for the arts over the last few years
“I felt super loved and cared for by the administration in seeing their faithfulness and persistence in building this for us,” said Blanchard. “[How] they’ve been valuing us — the choir and the arts [as a whole] — has been really special.”
The Conservatory will be most directly impacted by Armerding’s new addition, but Wilder and Gammond made it clear that this project is for the entire Wheaton community. “What I love most about this project is the Conservatory walls are no longer just for music majors,” Gammond said in her speech. “They are for all students on campus to come and make music to the Lord. They are for family and friends, believers and non-believers to come hear concerts that play and sing of our God, the builder of our lives.”
According to Wilder, the college has raised over $58 million since the project’s announcement but is still in need of donations as the construction continues. The concert hall is not set to be completed until October 2020, but it has already generated great anticipation for its opening.