The Benedicta Arts Center is the CSB home not just to the music department, but also the Art Department, Theater Department, and Fine Arts Programming. The massive Arts Center holds the 1,078-seat Escher Auditorium; the versatile Gorecki Family Theater; the intimate blackbox Colman Theater; the outdoor Darnall Amphitheater; the Helgeson Dance Studio; the Recital Hall; the Music Rehearsal Hall; the Small Ensemble Rehearsal Hall; the Studio Theater; the Music Library; the Organ Studio; Percussion Studios; numerous classrooms, offices, and studios; ample practice rooms; art galleries; and art studios.
The Escher Auditorium is the largest performance space at the College of St. Benedict. The Auditorium is named for Sister Firmin Escher, OSB, who was a music professor at St. Ben's and an instrumental figure in the construction of the BAC. The space seats 1,078, and there truly is not a bad seat in the house--the acoustics in the hall are so fine they were used as a model for Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. In addition, Escher Auditorium is the only venue outside of the Twin Cities with an annual Minnesota Orchestra performance. The Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Symphonic Band, and many chamber ensembles regularly perform in the Auditorium, along with numerous outside groups from off-campus.
The Gorecki Family Theater is connected by a movable wall to the Escher Auditorium stage, and the two share a common stage house. The Gorecki Theater is a small, but highly versatile space, and the seating and stage are able to be moved in many different arrangements, from standard theater stadium seating to a thrust stage format, to a jazz cabaret arrangement with both theater and table seating. The Gorecki Theater provides an intimate setting for String Chamber Ensembles and the Chamber Orchestra, and is often used for musical theater performances and plays from the Theater Department.
The Colman Theater, named for former CSB President and Theater Professor Colman O'Connell, OSB, is an intimate black box theater. It is, if anything, even more versatile than the Gorecki Theater, able to be arranged in any setup imaginable. While it is primarily a theater performance space, the Colman also hosts occasional music events, most recently the 2011 Opera Workshop production of Gianni Schicchi.
The Darnall Amphitheater is a unique performance space located just outside of the BAC. Used for a variety of purposes, the Amphitheater provides a casual environment for students and faculty to perform (Pastiche often uses this space) and enjoy performances. Located near a busy section of campus, the Amphitheater is frequented by passers-by, students eating lunch outdoors, or those simply taking a break.
Part of a major expansion and renovation in 2006, the Music Rehearsal Hall is the primary rehearsal space for the Wind Ensemble, Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, Symphonic Band, and many chamber ensembles. In addition, a number of courses including conducting and instrumental methods classes take place in the hall. The piano in the hall is a 7-foot Steinway grand.
The Small Ensemble Rehearsal Hall provides an excellent space for students to rehearse in small groups. The room is used for lessons, chamber ensembles such as the Clarinet Ensemble and String Chamber Ensembles, and casual rehearsals for other small student groups. Well-equipped with computer and audio technology, adjustable acoustic curtains, a Steinway grand piano, and a harpsichord, the room is an ideal space for small ensembles to meet and rehearse.
The Music Library houses an extensive collection of music scores, books, and recordings, all available for student use. In addition, the library has audio and other equipment available to be used and checked out, including CD players and turntable listening stations, audio duplication and reformatting equipment, metronomes, and a USB recorder. Music students often gather in the Music Library to study or work on group projects; it is a great place for students to bond and learn together. For more information, consult the CSB/SJU Libraries site.
The Recital Hall in the BAC is a versatile space used for a variety of purposes. Thursday Recitals are regularly held in the room, and the Women's Choir and Percussion Ensemble hold their rehearsals in the Hall, as well as the off-campus group, the Minnesota Center Chorale. The room is also used for classes such as Music History, and piano studio classes. Occasional student recitals are held in the hall. The Recital Hall is home to a 9-foot Baldwin concert grand piano purchased in 2011.
There are two Percussion Studios in the BAC. Stocked with a battery of high-quality instruments, including timpani, marimbas and other mallet percussion, drum sets, and auxiliary percussion, the studios provide a complete space for percussion students to practice and have lessons.
While the main organ spaces for the colleges are located at St. John's, the BAC also contains a practice studio for organists. Keys for the studio can be checked out from the Music Library. In addition to the practice organ, the studio also houses a two-manual harpsichord and a 9-foot Steinway concert grand piano, which serves as the primary stage piano for Escher Auditorium and other spaces in the building.
The BAC contains 20 practice rooms which hold a total of 35 pianos. This large quantity of rooms ensures that students almost never have to wait for an open practice space. No sign-up, key checkout, or pre-determined practice schedule are necessary--the practice rooms are always unlocked and available for any student to use.
Most instrumental professors and some voice instructors at CSB/SJU have their studios and offices in the BAC. These spaces are used for lessons and other meetings with the professors, who are always friendly and eager to talk with students. There are also a number of classrooms in the building, used for classes ranging from music, theater, and art to English and theology.