The modern glass facade of Esber Recital Hall illuminating an evening on University Park campus.

Hailed as an acoustically superb design, the new Recital Hall has quickly distinguished itself as one of the centerpieces for the arts at University Park campus. Completed in the fall of 2018 the hall has been recognized and awarded for its interior and exterior design by the University, the State College borough, and numerous architectural associations. This 420-seat vineyard style concert hall is home to over 300 performances each year.

When sound encounters architecture, it is reflected or absorbed, depending on the properties of the material.

What makes the hall acoustically perfect is over 200 individual custom wood ceiling panels – which varies in depth - suspended 6 feet below the roof in total weighing more than 170 parked cars. The sculpted ceiling is a masterpiece. The convex shaped - turtle shell - ceiling above the stage is designed to reflect the sound evenly into the audience. Every angle in the hall has a purpose. The interior walls are multiple layers of plaster and acoustic materials installed for sound reflection or absorption. Even the catwalks have an acoustic function – those catwalks on the sidewalls have a angular wood bottom to offer reflection and, in the hall itself, catwalks have cable grid to offer transparency. The seats have wooden backs and bottoms with engineered padding and fabric to meet the acoustic design. Portable custom acoustic towers were designed for soloists and chamber groups, to offer closer reflective surfaces than the side walls.

The hall was designed, with the understanding that most of our concerts are solo and chamber music concerts. But the hall is also needed to serve our mid-size instrumental ensembles and our choirs, thus, acoustic banners were included to allow adjustments – including different settings for rehearsal vs. performance due to an audience impacting the acoustics.

The vineyard style design (mimicking the terraces on a side hill) has been used successfully for large concert halls – Disney, Berlin Philharmonic, and New World Symphony Halls. We believe ours may be the only vineyard style hall of its size.

Air is supplied to the hall very slowly, coming out of openings in the ceiling and dropping down using gravity to hidden air returns behind the stage - providing an absolute silent space. Massive building materials were designed to block out external sounds – the massive pre-cast concrete walls and thick glass, with air spaces between the panes of glass - provide for acoustic isolation. And to eliminate projection noises, a rear-screen projection system is used.

The design achieves an intimacy for the audience and performer, and it works extremely well in this relatively small footprint.

The Hall is also home to two identical Hamburg Steinways. These magnificent instruments built in Germany with sequential serial numbers where most likely built by the same Craftsman and using wood from a similar source thus giving them a matched sound.

Whether you are a undergrad doing a solo recital, member of a small ensemble, participating or attending a master class, or attending one of our many 300 concerts in the space the Recital Hall is your home.

A beautiful atrium runs parallel to the hall. Named for retired emerita flute professor Eleanor Duncan Armstrong, this space is one of the common gathering places for students and audiences not only before a concert but every day of the week. The Olsen-Stone terrace named for David P. Stone has quickly become a gathering place for students throughout the University. It's unique landscape and multilevel design provides opportunities for concerts and productions while also giving students a space to gather to relax or study.

Faculty and students perform solo recitals and give chamber music performances in the Recital Hall. The School of Music's smaller ensembles (percussion, flute, trombone, horn ensembles, the Chamber Orchestra, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble) also perform here. The Recital Hall is home to the Penn's Woods Music Festival.

A world-class recital hall in Central PA

Penn State's Recital Hall provides leading-edge technology and acoustics to students and professional performers alike.