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Philanthropist Gives $6 Million to New Music Center
Building Named in Honor of Donor Conrad Prebys

Ioana Patringenaru | May 29, 2007

Music Center Groundbreaking Ceremony (Photo / Victor W. Chen)
From left to right: Arts and Humanities Dean Michael Bernstein, Chancellor Marye Anne Fox and philanthropist Conrad Prebys.

On a cloudy but pleasant morning Friday, Arts and Humanities Dean Michael Bernstein pointed to the 30-foot-tall walls rising behind him. That’s the best way to start talking about UCSD’s new music center, set to open fall 2009, he said. Within these walls will rise one of the center’s main features, a 400-seat concert hall, he noted.

He spoke to a crowd of about 100, gathered near the intersection of Rupertus Way and Russell Lane Friday to break ground on the campus’ new music center. In addition to the concert hall, the $53-million facility will include a black-box theater, a 150-seat lecture and recital hall and a large courtyard that will double as a performance space.

“This music center is an extraordinary addition to our campus and our community,” Chancellor Mary Anne Fox said during the groundbreaking ceremony.

The facility will be named after Conrad Prebys, a local philanthropist and developer. He recently donated $6 million toward the completion of the building.

That money was badly needed, Chancellor Fox said. For years, UCSD officials had watched construction costs rise, she said. They would go back to the drawing board and spend months redesigning the project to save money. Then they would submit their project to the UC Regents for approval again, only to find that savings had been lost because of inflation, the chancellor said. The project was a few million dollars short. Finally, Fox joked, she pledged to get the money, even if she had to go to jail to do so. She told the audience she’s doubly indebted to Prebys for closing the building’s financial gap – and keeping her out to jail.

Music Center Groundbreaking Ceremony (Photo / Victor W. Chen)
Chancellor Fox and Dean Bernstein applaud Prebys during Friday's groundbreaking ceremony.

Prebys had planned to follow in the footsteps of his father, who was a musician. But he said he was lucky to find out early on that he didn’t have the right stuff for a professional musical career. He became a successful developer instead. As a real-estate professional, he said he understands UCSD’s struggles to make the music center a reality. “I just had the easiest part of anybody,” he said jokingly, adding he was grateful to have the opportunity to help.

“I was very excited when I saw the plans for the music center,” he said. “I could see that San Diego would be gaining a fantastic new venue, the likes of which it had never seen before, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it all.”

The new building will become the home of UCSD’s music department. Now that construction is under way, the department plans to add eight new faculty positions, said Department of Chair Rand Steiger. The center will serve UCSD’s educational mission, with recording and teaching studios, many practice rooms, a large rehearsal room for orchestra and state-of-the-art computer audio, video and networking technology.

 “Our department is already an acknowledged leader in the contemporary, cutting-edge music world and the new center will inspire us to an even higher level of excellence,” Steiger said.

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