Kirkegaard has worked with William Rawn Associates on two additions to the 1950s music building at Phillips Exeter Academy. The first addition, opening in 1996, included a gracious rehearsal room for orchestra and band, plus practice rooms and teaching studios. This new addition includes ensemble rehearsal rooms, classrooms, and teaching studios, as well as a small recording and electronic music spaces. The heart of this addition is the Recital Studio, a soaring new rehearsal room that can accommodate a full symphony orchestra while also providing a beautiful recital space for the school’s students and faculty. Theater consultant Martin Vinik was invaluable in conceptualizing the room and designing its seating and lighting and detailing its adjustable acoustic curtains.
The Recital Studio appears a simple room with a glass wall to the north and a bank of raised bench seating to the south. With the addition of loose chairs, the room can accommodate an audience of 300 for recitals. Subtle shaping at the lower side walls provides support for recitalists while preventing large ensembles from becoming uncomfortably loud. Wood grilles ring the upper volume of the room, concealing various sound-reflecting, sound-absorbing, and sound-diffusing surfaces, a set of curtains pockets, and the acoustic curtains. A sweeping reflector overhead allows the room to serve both its rehearsal and recital functions without compromise. A large sliding door allows audiences to flow in from the lobby before and after an event while minimizing distraction during an event. As a recital hall, the room sounds spacious, with a lovely blend of clarity and reverberance. The acoustic curtains and sun shades together give the room considerable flexibility, suitable for everything from choral to jazz.