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New music performance center named in honor of Hamel family

December 5, 2014 By Megan Costello

Illustration: Hamel Music Center

The School of Music’s new music performance center will be named in honor of Pamela Hamel and UW–Madison alumnus George Hamel, who provided the $15 million lead gift to construct the new facility.

Illustration: Holzman Moss Bottino Architects, Strang Architects

The University of Wisconsin–Madison announced today that the new music performance center at the corner of Lake Street and University Avenue will be named in honor of Pamela and George Hamel, a UW–Madison alumnus.

The name of the Hamel Music Center was approved Friday by the UW System Board of Regents and honors the Hamels, who provided the $15 million lead gift to construct the new facility.

The center will include a 315-seat recital hall, large rehearsal room and spacious lobby. It will anchor a highly visible corner of campus in the university’s East Campus Gateway that includes the now-completed Chazen Museum of Art expansion, the Memorial Union renovation, the Library Mall reconstruction and the planned Alumni Park on Lake Mendota. Construction on the new center is set to begin in late 2015.

Pamela and George Hamel

The Hamels’ lead contribution to the $22 million project comes as the university prepares for an upcoming comprehensive campaign, which is currently in the planning phase. In addition to their service on advisory boards across campus, Pamela and George are members of the campaign planning committee.

“We are thrilled and humbled by Pam and George’s generosity. The new center will be a jewel for the campus and a hub for music performance, education and outreach for our students, faculty, performers, instructors and the greater community,” says John Karl Scholz, dean of the College of Letters & Science. “The Hamels are loyal supporters and I could not be more excited to honor their legacy and leadership as we prepare for the comprehensive campaign.” 

The Hamel family, which includes three generations of UW–Madison alumni, has supported the university through gifts to athletics, scholarships, facilities and faculty support. George is a founder of ValueAct Capital, an investment management firm in San Francisco, and the family owns and operates Hamel Family Wines in Sonoma, California. The winery uses a badger-themed logo as a nod to the family’s UW–Madison roots.

“Music has always had an important place in our family,” says Pamela Hamel. “We feel privileged to be able to help provide the university’s musical students and fellow lovers of music a world-class facility in which to learn, practice, perform and enjoy music. It’s exciting for George and me to imagine just how many students will be able to benefit from and delight in the Music Center for years to come.”

“We feel privileged to be able to help provide … musical students and fellow lovers of music a world-class facility in which to learn, practice, perform and enjoy music.”

Pamela Hamel

The center will include a glass-walled lobby, clerestory windows in the recital hall and a dramatic glassed-in corner of the rehearsal hall that will allow passersby to see the ongoing rehearsals. Such extended transparency is designed to create educational and social connections between working musicians and the public, a key priority for the School of Music.

“This new space promises to be an exciting — and beautiful — example of the power of private philanthropy,” says Susan C. Cook, director of the School of Music. “The Hamel Music Center is an investment in the School of Music’s student-focused, mentor-driven educational mission and its embodiment of the Wisconsin Idea.”

In addition to providing a professional space for budding musicians to practice and learn, state-of-the-art audio-video technologies in the recital hall will allow for live-stream concerts and high-quality recordings. The new building is designed by Holzman Moss Bottino Architects of New York City, in partnership with Strang Architects of Madison. Acoustic design is by Richard Talaske/Sound Thinking of Oak Park, Illinois, with theatrical design by Fisher Dachs Associates of New York City.

A look at the positive ways the new building for the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Music will impact people across campus.

Video: Justin Bomberg