"As fine a hall as the Salzburg Festspiel Haus and better than the San Francisco Opera House . . ." Spoken by Heinrich Keilholz, an acoustical engineer from Hamburg, Germany, these words are in praise of John R. Emens College-Community Auditorium.
Ball State University's sixth president, John R. Emens (1945-1968), had a dream. He envisioned a "campus of the future" complete with an auditorium "large enough to house most college functions as well as major symphonies, Broadway productions, ballets, and other forms of entertainment for Muncie and east central Indiana audiences."
Planning for the auditorium began as early as 1947, but the U-shaped building was not actually built until 1961. The structure includes the Hargreeves Music Building, Arts and Communications Building, and the 410-seat University Theatre.
Emens' dream was finally realized on March 14-15, 1964, when the auditorium gave its first performances in the form of a "sneak preview," and then it was officially dedicated on Oct. 25 the same year.
In its first 25 years alone, more than 3.6 million people visited the then 3,581-seat auditorium to see 2,335 programs. The legendary acoustic, scalloped ceiling, and state-of-the-art sound capabilities of Emens Auditorium account for the attraction of many artists to performing in this facility.
Since the grand opening in 1964, many world renowned artists, individuals, musicians, and shows have graced the stage of Emens Auditorium. Legendary performances range from President Ford, David Letterman, Stevie Wonder, Louis Armstrong, Victor Borge, Magician David Copperfield, comedian Adam Sandler, musical Cats and Les Miserables, Red Skelton, B. B. King, The Temptations, Third Eye Blind, and the Dixie Chicks.
Bill Cosby could not have said it better after a performance in 1969: "This is the greatest hall I have ever played . . . the greatest acoustics."
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