- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 31, 2001

Montgomery County and Strathmore Hall Foundation will break ground April 11 for a spectacular 2,000-seat concert hall and arts education center in North Bethesda.

Called the Music Center, the $89 million building will share 11 acres with the Strathmore Hall mansion at 10701 Rockville Pike.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) plans to make the hall its second home and present a full season of performances there annually. The Music Center also will become the residence of the National Chamber Orchestra, the Masterworks Chorus and Orchestra and the Montgomery County Youth Orchestras. Completion is set for 2004.

The pastoral setting, a half-mile north of the Capital Beltway, lies adjacent to the Grosvenor-Strathmore station on Metro's Red Line. A pedestrian bridge will connect the hall and a parking garage planned next to the Metro station.

Montgomery County officials, who call the facility "world class," will take part in the "Ground Shaking Event" at noon to mark the Music Center's beginning. Groundbreaking festivities include performances by the BSO.

The state and county are dividing the Music Center's cost. The county owns the site and building; the Strathmore Hall Foundation will operate the existing mansion and the new center.

Some council members fretted about whether the county could afford such a fine venue as costs rose, and they capped the county appropriation at $44.5 million. A spokesman for County Executive Douglas M. Duncan defended the outlay: "We shouldn't build a Volkswagen when our residents deserve a Cadillac."

William Rawn Associates of Boston, designer of the Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood in Massachusetts' Berkshire Hills, created the Music Center's look. It includes an S-shape roof to emulate the surrounding rolling hills and a glass wall to allow views of the parklike setting.

The facility will stand at the bottom of a steep slope, and some of it will be built into the hillside. That will help keep it from overshadowing the mansion, Mr. Rawn has said.

The center also will house a community music school, senior arts institute and summer youth arts program. "This will be a place where our children can grow up surrounded by wonderful music," says A. Mario Loiderman, president of Strathmore Hall.

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