I have played the violin all over the world. There is nothing like SLC’s Abravanel Hall anywhere.

Not everyone should be at the mercy of convenience and opportunism.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City on Friday, May 17, 2024.

Thirty years ago I first landed in Salt Lake City to audition for the Utah Symphony, a 22-year-old violinist who was embarrassingly unaware of anything about Salt Lake City other than that it had a great orchestra and was home to The Church of Jesus Christ. of the Latter-day Saints.

Two things took my breath away on that first visit, their impression seared into my memory: the splendor of the mountains and the transcendent beauty of Abravanel Hall. I vividly remember walking onto the stage of Abravanel Hall for the first time, so distracted by the lavish chandeliers and the warmth of the gold that adorned the rows of the hall that I almost forgot how nervous I was about my very first audition for a large orchestra. . Somehow the room sounded even better than it looked: rich, warm, round and balanced.

I didn’t win that first audition, but that experience playing at Abravanel Hall inspired me to try again, and I was lucky enough to win an audition a year later. I have now performed thousands of concerts at Abravanel Hall during my 28 years in the Symphony, and its aesthetic and acoustic beauty is as surprising to me now as it was thirty years ago. At this point in my career I have played hundreds of venues across the United States, South America, Asia and Europe. Not once did I think, “I wish this was our venue.”

When I first heard rumors of plans to demolish Abravanel Hall, I dismissed it as a ridiculous absurdity. Who would want to tear down one of Utah’s most beloved buildings, a building made possible and paid for by county residents through a ballot initiative that is both visually and sonically unique? It seems the direction Abravanel is pointing is awkward, metaphorically given the crooked teeth in what would otherwise be a smooth, straight line of new development. Not everything should be at the mercy of convenience and expediency, and won’t more straight lines just lead to more walls, just in a different direction? After all, much great art is the antithesis of expediency. I think of Da Vinci’s sixteen years of work on the ‘Mona Lisa’, or of Brahms waiting more than forty years to write his first symphony.

From what I’ve heard, the entities pushing for the demolition of Abravanel Hall have three main points: the hall is awkwardly positioned; the hall is too expensive to renovate and a new hall would be cheaper; and with new technology it will be easy to create a hall as beautiful and acoustically excellent as Abravanel Hall.

I’d like to address each of these.

The positioning of the hall was purposeful, pointing towards the Tabernacle where the symphony previously played, the open square an opportunity to admire both Temple Square and the hall itself. The square and concourse could play a major role as an open space and buffer for the exciting new sports and entertainment blocks of the SEG development.

It is incorrect that the renovation of Abravanel and its costs are more than new construction. Recent new concert hall construction in Los Angeles, Kansas City and Hamburg cost between $500 million and $1.1 billion in today’s dollar adjustments, which is far lower than the assumed $216 million it would take to renovate Abravanel. (About 40% of this estimate is actually for new additions, and a large portion is for changes to electives.) Despite that cost and use of the latest technology, not all of these halls are known for their acoustics. As any great violin maker will tell you, even with the best wood and the greatest skill, a great result is not guaranteed. Not every Stradivarius sounds great, just as modern technology and money cannot guarantee a great concert hall.

Finally, I know that creating the sports, entertainment, culture and convention district with the least negative environmental impact is a top priority for the city and county leadership, as well as the SEG. Concrete is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and its demolition can have serious negative consequences for air quality. The most sustainable building is one that already exists.

I am grateful to the county and the city, as well as their wise voters, for giving me such a wonderful life here in Utah, and especially such a sublime hall that I can call a workplace. I’m also grateful to SEG, not only for bringing in a hockey team (as a MN guy, I’m excited!) and keeping the Jazz here, but for investing in our city and in our future. Abravanel Hall will only add to the shine.

(Photo courtesy of David Porter) David Porter

David Porter is a violinist with the Utah Symphony and an active pedagogue and chamber musician. He is the founder of MOTUS After Dark and was the founder of the Intermezzo Chamber Music Series.

The Salt Lake Tribune is committed to creating a space where Utahns can share ideas, perspectives and solutions that move our state forward. We rely on your insight. Find out how to share your opinion hereand send an email to [email protected].