Belmont University cut the ribbon Tuesday morning on the new Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, a $180 million facility where internationally acclaimed violinists Mark and Maggie O’Connor would perform later that night.
The 150,000-square-foot building, on Belmont Boulevard between the Trout Theater and Curb Event Center, was named after Bob and Judy Fisher, former university president and first lady, who helmed Belmont through the process of planning, fundraising and construction. The Fishers spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, where a few hundred gathered to hear from university leaders and take tours of the building announced in 2018.
The Fishers thanked the university for the honor, though they said it was more than they deserved. Judy Fisher said she believed the motto should be the only title for the building.
The motto, placed just underneath the name of the building on the front, reads “To the Glory of God.”
“Judy and I are both so astonished at these acts of kindness and putting our name on this building,” Bob Fisher said before giving thanks to the teams behind the building’s construction.
He also addressed students, as he and his wife noted there would be no Belmont buildings if there were no Belmont students.
“Your extraordinary talent inspired this building, and I’m not speaking just to those who are here today, but I’m speaking to thousands who came before you that inspired it. This is your building, and it’s meant to reflect and celebrate your excellence.”
The school also commissioned a statue and plaque in the Fishers’ honor, sculpted by Jeff Hall, who studied under and worked with famed Three Soldiers sculptor Frederick Hart, completing his work after Hart died in 1999. The statue stands in front of the building in what the university is calling Dickens Plaza to honor the contributions and work of former Board of Trustees Chairman Marty Dickens and his wife, Betty.
Board of Trustees Chairman Milton Johnson said Dickens, alongside Fisher, was central to seeing the project through.
“Together, Marty and Bob dared to dream of building a performing arts center that would be the finest to be found on any college campus in the world,” Johnson said. “Their vision, inspiration and commitment truly represent the foundation of this venue.”
The building was opened to the public after speeches concluded, and Belmont officials, faculty, visitors and students flooded into the lobby.
The large columns framing the entrance to the performing arts center gave way to the three-story lobby, which provided a network of stairways and elevators to bring concertgoers to one of 1,700 seats.
It also provides room for up to 900 guests for banquets, galas and other special events. The space features ballrooms on the side to provide for smaller performances and rehearsal spaces for students and performers.
The main stage auditorium features a domed ceiling made of plaster and metal to enhance the room’s acoustics, which Fisher noted was tested traditionally with a shotgun. He showed off the shell during his speech Tuesday morning.
The facility also features top-tier equipment and lighting, including a fiber-optic “night sky” lighting built into the domed roof.
The stage itself was built with lifts and a flexible rigging and lighting structure to accommodate a variety of performances, and the orchestra pit can be set below, above or flush with the stage depending on the needs of a performance.
Belmont scheduled a performance for the opening night, which was set to begin at 6:45 p.m. The center will also host a Dec. 1 performance of its annual Christmas at Belmont concert, which will feature more than 800 student musicians and vocalists and will be broadcast on PBS.
Belmont also has announced two more events, set for May and June 2022.
A collaboration with the Nashville Opera on Richard Wagner’s epic “Das Rheingold” will be held in May, as will a Nashville Ballet residency in June.
The university is also seeking to work with other local arts organizations, including the Nashville Symphony. The symphony is in talks with Belmont, the school said in a statement after the ceremony, to perform at the center in 2022.
Belmont President Greg Jones said he believes the Fisher Center to be “unmatched.”
He said, “The beauty and performance capabilities of the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts are simply unmatched, and its possibilities are unparalleled.
“With Belmont’s rich tradition of creativity and imagination across our campus, the Fisher Center will be a place for those values to come to life through curating, producing and presenting stories and art that inspire.”