Celebrating Like It’s 1997

Jacksonville has an anniversary to celebrate – one that literally changed the direction of the community and its Symphony. On April 26, 1997, Robert E. Jacoby Symphony Hall was opened to the public. How it came about is due to the vision and foresight of many supporters of the Symphony and Jacksonville. The construction and subsequent hall gives the Jacksonville Symphony something that many orchestras in the United States don’t have – their own dedicated hall.

Before Jacoby Hall, the Symphony was performing in the cavernous 3,200-seat Civic Auditorium which had been completed in 1962. The orchestra had to share the hall with traveling roadshows, graduation ceremonies and other events. And the acoustics were a problem.

Plans started to take shape in 1993 when Mayor Ed Austin’s River City Renaissance plan envisioned a multi-million-dollar renovation to the auditorium. The Florida Times-Union agreed to commit $3 million to puts its name on the building and private contributors would add $11 million more.

But that original plan had no provision for a separate home for the Symphony. Preston Haskell, a board member who sat on the Symphony’s Building Committee, thought that was a problem. In meetings with then-Music Director Roger Nierenberg and others, it was decided to add $10 to $15 million more to the fundraising to create a permanent home.

Joining Mr. Haskell on the committee were Dink Foerster (Chairman), Bob Jacoby (Co-Chairman), Carl Cannon, Isabelle Davis, Bob Shircliff, Jay Stein and Jim Winston. A lead gift from Bob Jacoby got them started.

KBJ Architect’s Jack Diamond brought in world-famous acoustician Larry Kierkegaard to oversee sound quality. They chose a “shoebox” configuration, modeled after musical halls in Vienna and Boston.

So 20 years later, as you enjoy the sound of the Jacksonville Symphony, give thanks to the vision and hard work of so many non-musicians who made it all happen.