Jewish group gives the public a peek at performing arts center being built

June 04, 1994|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun Staff Writer

The Jewish Community Center in Owings Mills gave a public && preview yesterday of the partially built Peggy and Yale Gordon Center for Performing Arts, which is becoming a reality because of a Baltimore man's love for classical music.

Construction of the $4 million, 30,000-square-foot auditorium off Gwynnbrook Avenue next to the community center began last fall. Passersby can see the shell of a mammoth brick structure that is half-completed and eventually will house music, dance and theatrical arts.

Yale Gordon, a real estate and manufacturing magnate, died in 1984 but his love of music led him and his wife to make provisions for the privately funded center. The Peggy and Yale Gordon Trust donated about $2 million to the building.

Loraine Bernstein, trust assistant director, said the Gordons wanted to promote classical music.

"They both loved classical music," Mrs. Bernstein said. "The Gordon Trust is primarily active in supporting classical music, and this center is a way to perpetuate this."

Mr. Gordon's appreciation for music was so great that as a University of Baltimore graduate student in the late 1920s, he once told a professor, "If I'm not in class, I'm at a concert."

Trust director Sid Sherr said the Gordons stressed the importance of preserving an appreciation of classical music.

"They were fearful of it losing its audience," he said. "With this center, we hope to attract a younger audience as well as the faithful listeners."

Besides the shell, the 35-foot-by-70-foot stage is the only completed part of the auditorium. The 550 seats have yet to be put in place and neither have the doors or windows, giving the building a snaggletoothed appearance from outside.

When completed, the orchestra pit will accommodate 45 musicians in its 650-square-foot confines.

The auditorium also will include dressing rooms, costume and scene storage with room for art exhibits in the main lobby. Finishing touches are to be applied in April with performances there by the fall of 1995.

Joseph Meyerhoff II, chairman of the Gordon Center, said the facility also will be used to showcase theatrical plays, traditional ballet and modern dance and concerts for children.

Three years were needed to raise money for the performing arts center -- mostly from Jewish donors and organizations. About 20 percent of the programming will be Jewish in content, Mr. Meyerhoff said.

"People assume that because it is affiliated with the JCC that all of the programming will be Jewish in content and nature," he said. "That couldn't be further from the truth. If you're doing performances for 100 nights a year, you couldn't possibly do programming that is entirely Jewish . . . and still be successful. We want the community to know that the theater is open to all."

Mr. Meyerhoff said the center's attraction lies in its appeal to county residents who have to travel downtown to the Lyric Opera House or to Center Stage.

"This theater is located in one of the fastest growing areas in Baltimore County, and the ability of families to see the performing arts without driving 45 minutes into downtown is an advantage. We also have on-site parking."

And for musicians such as Dana Goode, the first violinist for the Castaglia Quartet, the Gordon Center will be useful as an additional venue.

"I think it's great for the public to have a choice," she said. "If the Gordon Center is allowing people another opportunity to support the arts, it's definitely going to help us keep people interested."

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