5 Star Stories: Scheidt Family Performing Arts Center

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 10:38 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The future of Memphis music now has a new state-of-the-art facility to inspire students on their musical journeys.

In this 5 Star Story about the people, places, and things that make us proud to call the Mid-South home, we’re going inside the Scheidt Family Performing Arts Center at the University of Memphis.

The newly opened building, nearly 25 years in the making, sits smack dab in the middle of Memphis on Central Avenue and across the street from the University of Memphis.

Honey and Rudi Scheidt had the vision for the state-of-the-art building.

The couple also helped transform the University of Memphis with their generous donations, particularly to the music department, where the couple’s $3 million gift elevated the music program.

The department was also renamed the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music in 2000.

The couple’s children, now adults, recall their parents’ dedication to the school’s music students and their attendance at every musical performance.

According to son Elkan Scheidt, “They also had an incredible passion for the arts and they supported everything and incredible passion for music.”

Kevin Sanders, the Director of the School of Music, says the new 82-thousand-square-foot facility had to be named after the Scheidts.

“They were the ones that put the stake in the ground primarily and said, ‘This is what we have to do,’ and started the fundraising and they gave a major gift to get this up and ready. And so... that was the seed that started it all,” Sanders explained.

The center includes a 900-plus-seat concert hall with expanded stage space and exceptional acoustics.

“So, as the performance changes... no matter what the genre of music or style, we can adapt the acoustics. We can adapt the lighting to where a member of the audience can feel like they’re sitting in the middle of a rock concert, or feel like they’re in the middle of a symphony orchestra concert,” Sanders described.

One of the largest recording studios in the Mid-South, with enough room for a full-sized symphony orchestra, sits in the back of the center, complete with state-of-the-art recording equipment and a control room big enough for an entire class.

There are also plenty of dedicated rehearsal spaces, classrooms, and modern music laboratories. And the building is completely wired for online programming for long-distance, among other uses, when and if it’s needed.

For the Scheidts’ offspring, the center is a culmination of their parent’s dream for the school and the city.

“I think that they’d be rejoicing that the building is actually here. And, I think that they’d be so proud for our community to be able to have this fabulous facility,” expressed daughter Susan Arney.

And, although the core of the Scheidt Center is education, the entire Memphis community will be able to enjoy its many offerings, including but not limited to the area’s many performing artists who will be invited to the stage.

Sanders says, “It’s going to be wonderful for the Memphis community to be able to come in and see those concerts, but also for our students to be able to walk down the hallway, interact with those professional musicians, those professional artists... and all of that creates this really amazing environment. That makes it special, that makes it unique... that it’s incredibly difficult to find than anywhere else in the country.”

And that’s the sentiment that daughter Helen Gronauer felt was central to her parents’ desire for the Center.

“I think they felt it was important to introduce arts to all... so that it’s a transformative medium and specifically, they wanted to help the students in Memphis continue the legend that we are... the city of making fabulous musicians,” she maintains.

Giving school of music students real-world experiences and while bringing world-class entertainment to the community are more reasons to be proud to call the Mid-South home.

The grand opening gala for the Scheidt Family Performing Arts Center is Feb. 4, featuring the legendary Dionne Warwick.

The following day, Feb. 5, the Honey Music Fest will feature student performances from 1 until 4 that afternoon.

Incidentally, Honey and Rudi Scheidt passed away in 2019, just 152 days apart, possibly the couple’s longest separation in more than 60 years of marriage.

For more details on the Scheidt Family Performing Arts Center, click here.

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