The Jacksonville Symphony will mark a milestone April 26, when the ensemble celebrates 20 years in its home at the Times-Union Center’s Robert E. Jacoby Symphony Hall.
On that date in 1997, a sold-out crowd gathered for opening night at Florida’s only dedicated symphony hall – and since then, Jacoby Hall has become an integral part of Jacksonville’s culture. To celebrate the anniversary, the Jacksonville Symphony is offering tickets for concerts at the same price they were in 1997 throughout the weekend of April 28: $25.
The Symphony will present Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto with Ayano Ninomiya as guest soloist and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique,” on Friday and Saturday, April 28-29 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 30 at 3 p.m.
Although the journey to building such a space began in the mid-1980s, the official planning of Jacoby Hall started in 1993. The original project included a multimillion-dollar overhaul of the Civic Auditorium, which would be named the Times-Union Center for Performing Arts after a $3 million donation from the Florida Times-Union. But the auditorium did not meet all the needs of a rapidly-growing Jacksonville Symphony.
“The acoustics were not good for a symphony orchestra,” said Bob Shircliff, one of the community leaders who helped drive the effort to upgrade the venue. “And the musicians could never rehearse where concerts were being played.”
After consulting with then Music Director Roger Nierenberg, board member Preston Haskell pitched the idea of building a symphony hall within the Times-Union. He said the new hall would give the orchestra an acoustically balanced home to practice and perform without having to schedule everything around the visiting theatrical performances, concerts and graduation ceremonies.
The hall’s namesake, Robert E. Jacoby, contributed the first gift. Jacoby’s support built excitement for the project, inspiring many other donors to get involved in a campaign that would exceed its initial goal, raising $22 million total.
Designed by Jack Diamond of KBJ Architects and world-renowned acoustician Larry Kierkegaard, Jacoby Hall seats 1,800, and its “shoebox” shape takes inspiration from acclaimed music halls in Vienna and Boston, a configuration considered to be the gold standard for orchestral sound design.
“I don’t know if newer patrons realize what a monumental effect the Jacoby Hall has had on making the symphony what it is today,” said Robert Massey, president and CEO of the Jacksonville Symphony. “We have the most professional orchestra in Florida because we have this venue. It is one of the crown jewels of performance destinations.”