Building the Future: Music Performance Theater

Setting the stage for

performing arts

With thousands of RIT students involved in performing arts expected in the next few years, plans are moving forward for a performing arts complex that will feature a 750-seat theater and eventually a 1,500-seat orchestra hall for larger audiences. The first phase is expected to be completed in January 2024.

A rendering of the aerial view of the Music Performance Theater.

RIT is well on its way to developing the leading performing arts program in the nation for non-majors, attracting talented and creative students who can continue their passions for music, dance, theater, and other performing arts.

A rendering of the aerial view of the Music Performance Theater.

RIT is well on its way to developing the leading performing arts program in the nation for non-majors, attracting talented and creative students who can continue their passions for music, dance, theater, and other performing arts.

RIT President David Munson has said the best students are students who are also involved in performing arts, which allow them to think creatively. It not only helps the students, but that experience gives them a leg up from prospective employers who seek the best, well-rounded candidates who can think creatively in a variety of situations.

The project, to be erected adjacent to Institute Hall and Engineering Hall, is intended to provide more venues for the RIT community as well as options for community groups to hold concerts, talks, and other events.

The 750-seat venue will be built first.

Construction of the first phase—tentatively called the “music performance theater”—is expected to begin in the spring of 2022, with a completion date of January 2024. It will be more than 40,000 square feet, three stories tall and have truck access. The theater is expected to have two balconies and feature a historic, restored theater pipe organ.

The first phase is expected to cost more than $40 million. Additional funds will be sought to support the project and to restore and install the pipe organ.

The second phase, which is funding dependent, will feature an expanded lobby and more than double the size of the building with the 1,500-seat orchestra hall and a stage big enough to accommodate a large philharmonic orchestra, major events, and lectures.

A rendering of the interior of the performance hall in the Music Performance Theater.

Funding the Project

Funding so far is expected from the Transforming RIT campaign. Additional funding from donors is planned.

Special Features

A theater organ, a Barton Opus 24, built in 1927 for the Hollywood Theatre in Detroit, is being restored and will be a centerpiece in RIT’s new theater. Its components are two stories tall and can fill a tractor trailer.

The new theater will also have costume and scene shops as well as offices.

The 750-seat theater may also be an attractive venue for non-RIT events. The Rochester area has numerous theaters that can seat a couple hundred audience members, but there are few options for venues that seat between 700 and 1,500 people. By comparison, RIT’s Robert F. Panara Theatre in Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall has 440 seats.

The Los Angeles-based firm of Michael Maltzan Architecture, which has designed performing arts buildings for other universities, is the design architect. The architect of record is SWBR, a local company that also was involved in construction of the MAGIC Center.

Additional rehearsal and performance space is being planned in the Student Hall for Exploration and Development.

And an expansion is planned in 2022 in Lyndon Baines Hall, next to the Robert F. Panara Theatre which will provide more space for RIT’s dance program and wardrobe area.

Key Websites

Performing Arts at RIT

Performing Arts Theater complex construction update