Los Angeles's Colburn School Breaks Ground On Frank Gehry-Designed Campus Expansion

The development aims to provide more space for students and enhance the school's contribution to the arts.

By: Apr. 05, 2024
Los Angeles's Colburn School Breaks Ground On Frank Gehry-Designed Campus Expansion
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The Colburn School has broken ground on a transformational 100,000-square-foot expansion designed by Frank Gehry, one of the world's most distinguished architects. The new building, known as the Colburn Center, will be located adjacent to Colburn's Grand Avenue campus and will dramatically increase the school's world-class training and performance facilities. The completed project will join Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall and The Grand complex to create the largest concentration of buildings designed by the architect in the world.

The groundbreaking ceremony took place adjacent to the construction site at 130 Olive Street, located within Downtown Los Angeles's Bunker Hill area diagonally across the street from Colburn's existing campus on Grand Avenue, in a renowned cultural corridor that includes not only Walt Disney Concert Hall but also The Music Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Broad. 

The event brought together Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, Deputy Mayor Jacqueline Hamilton, Chairman of the Colburn School's Board of Trustees Andrew Millstein, Colburn School President & CEO Sel Kardan, and lead donors Carol Colburn Grigor, Jerry and Terri Kohl. 

In attendance were some of the many generous philanthropists who have supported Colburn's Building Our Future campaign, including Tom Beckmen, Henry Choi, David Colburn, Jennifer Diener, Richard Fiock, Terry Greene, Stephanie and Greg Guyette, Ann Moore, Merle Mullin, Diane Naegele, and Alyce Williamson, all of whom have made leadership commitments to the project. Also in attendance were LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger; Scott Altman, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Master Chorale; Ben Cadwallader, Executive Director, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra; James Conlon, Music Director of LA Opera and Founder and Director of the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices at the Colburn School; Snehal Desai, Artistic Director, Center Theatre Group; Christopher Koelsch, President and CEO, LA Opera; Jaime Martín, Music Director, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra; Rachel S. Moore, President and CEO, The Music Center; Meghan Pressman, Managing Director / CEO, Center Theatre Group; Thor Steingraber, Executive and Artistic Director, The Soraya.

Madeleine Brand, a former Colburn School parent and the host of KCRW's “Press Play,” served as the event's Master of Ceremonies. The celebration also featured performances by the Colburn Conservatory of Music Pep Band; students of the school's Dance Academy and Conservatory, who performed Moving Parts (2012), choreographed by Benjamin Millepied with music by Nico Muhly; a quartet of Conservatory students Michael Remish, Sean Alexander, Anna Seok Young Ahn, and Josh Harris who performed Samuel Scheidt's Canzon for Four Trumpets (1621); and Community School of Performing Arts students Erre Maqueos and David Zhao, who performed the premiere of Boyde Hood's Fanfare for a Ceremony (2024).

Frank Gehry is a Los Angeles icon and a dear friend, and I am delighted that Colburn is moving forward with their Gehry-designed expansion,” said LA County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, representing the First District which includes Downtown Los Angeles. “This is another initiative that complements LA County's significant investment to uplift cultural institutions along Grand Avenue – and with the opening of the Metro Regional Connector, we are truly creating a world-class hub for cultural, art, innovation, and entertainment. I look forward to a new Colburn Center that is inclusive for all Angelenos.”

“The Colburn Center will be a game changer, stepping up everything we do for the school's own community, for our peer organizations that make the LA artistic ecosystem so vibrant, and for the public that we look forward to welcoming,” said Sel Kardan, President and CEO of the Colburn School. “At Colburn, making performances accessible to LA audiences is as much a part of our core mission as making first-rate music and dance education available to everyone. These are the same values we see in the wonderful design by Frank Gehry: artistic excellence at the highest level, combined with a deep love for the dynamism and diversity that animate life in a great city.”

As part of the ceremony, Sel Kardan, read the following statement on behalf of Frank Gehry, “This is a long time coming, and I am so grateful for everyone who helped make it possible. For me, this building is very special. It adds significant opportunity for growth in music, music education, and collaboration inside of Colburn and with the other arts institutions in LA. I really believe it will unlock untold riches in the cultural community here in LA and I am honored to be a part of it.”

“On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I wish to express our excitement and enthusiasm at the launch of our project to build the Colburn Center, where education, performance, and community will all come together,” said Andrew Millstein, Chairman of the Colburn Board of Directors. “The Colburn Center will enable us to expand the world-class training and performance opportunities we offer our students and further our mission of democratizing access to the arts. As we reach this milestone, I give my thanks to the far-sighted and profoundly generous donors who have enabled us to move forward with this project of such importance for so many of the people of Los Angeles.”

“This has been a long time in the making. The Colburn School expansion is a much-needed project for the community,” said Frank Gehry. “I hope that it will be well-used and well-loved by the students of the Colburn School and the other cultural institutions of Los Angeles. Our goal for this hall is that it will help strengthen the already robust classical music community here, solidifying Los Angeles' leadership in this arena.”

“McCarthy is delighted to collaborate with the Colburn School as the chosen contractor for the upcoming Colburn Center. Our dedicated team of builders is enthusiastic about revitalizing communities through innovative structures, and we are particularly thrilled to be part of the transformative Frank Gehry project.  The intersection of culture, architecture and construction is what makes projects like this memorable and impactful. We take pride in our partnership with Colburn and Gehry Partners, working together to bring their vision to life and contribute to what is bound to become an iconic addition to Los Angeles,” said Paul Erb, Executive Vice President, McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.

At the groundbreaking, Kardan announced that the Colburn School's Building Our Future campaign reached $315 Million of the $400 Million Goal.

The campaign is spearheaded by Carol Colburn Grigor, Life Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Trustees. A leadership gift from Terri and Jerry Kohl will name the 1,000-seat concert hall, and many generous philanthropists have made gifts that will name other spaces and programs, including the Mullin Family Garden of Thoughts and Dreams, the Fiock Family Fund for Excellence, Eva and Marc Stern's underwriting of the Colburn Orchestra, the Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen Stage, the Maestro Ernst H. Katz Chair of Conducting Studies by the T. Robert Greene Foundation, the Choi Family Garden, the Denise Scheerer Tap Studio, the Kobrin Fund for Dance Excellence, the Diener Barre, the Warner Henry Artist Lounge, the Charles Hamlen Artist Dressing Room, and Alice Steere Coulombe's underwriting of Colburn's beloved weekly Performance Forum of the Conservatory of Music. Additional early leadership support has been provided by the Ahmanson Foundation and the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation. The Colburn School is grateful for the support of many additional donors who have made remarkable gifts towards this transformational project. 

The Building Our Future campaign includes funds to underwrite access to the Colburn Center for Los Angeles-based performing arts organizations, artists, and ensembles. Seeded by an initial $5 million gift from Terri and Jerry Kohl, this endowment fund will help support access for multiple, diverse groups to perform in this beautiful performance space. Inspired by Colburn's “Access to Excellence” philosophy, the Colburn Center will present the highest quality professional programming at accessible prices for performers and audience members to ensure that the entire community is able to experience the performing arts.

About the Colburn School 

Founded on the principle of “access to excellence,” the Colburn School provides the highest quality music and dance education at all levels of development, from children as young as 7 months old to adults. A busy downtown campus welcomes an estimated 10,000 people each week, including students attending classes, lessons, and rehearsals; community partners who rent the current performance and lecture spaces; and audience members who enjoy the offerings of over 500 performances a year in two different existing small venues. Robust scholarship support and active community engagement programs ensure that the Colburn experience is accessible to all. In a typical year, students receive over $11 million in scholarship support, and community programming serves 15 Title I LA Unified Public Schools within a six-mile radius of campus. Each year, more than 2,000 students from around the world study at Colburn to benefit from the renowned faculty, exceptional facilities, and focus on excellence that unites the community. Learn more at www.colburnschool.edu.


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