Windows of Memorial Union


Playing Host

Washburn’s new recital hall helps stage performances of all kinds

Recital Hall rendering

From Bell Tower - 2022 
By Chris Marshall

For more than half a century, White Concert Hall has hosted everything from children’s music performances to the rock band Kansas. Anyone who grew up playing an instrument or singing in a choir in Shawnee County likely performed in the venue at least once.

The auditorium’s reputation as a musical and entertainment staple in northeast Kansas also means it’s in high demand. The 1,100-seat building is booked year-round and used by organizations outside of Washburn more than 50 percent of the time.

But the University is looking forward to a new venue thanks to a fundraising effort for the construction of Washburn University Recital Hall. The new building, which will connect to the northern edge of White Concert Hall along 17th Street, will provide a smaller, more intimate setting equipped with the latest technology.

When people think of a recital hall, the first image that usually comes to mind may be a grandchild’s holiday concert or a violin student’s senior-year recital. But while the venue will definitely become a cornerstone space for music practice and performance at Washburn and for Topeka at large, it also adds opportunities for hosting non-music events, as Russ Jacobs, retired professor and chair of the philosophy department at Washburn, is quick to remind people. He contributed $25,000 toward the recital hall primarily because of the educational activities it can host, and loves that, in addition to music, the hall will massively increase the university’s ability to offer quality space for speeches, lectures, and performances of all kinds.

“It’s ideal for the scholarly lectures and programs for professional organizations that are more common on Washburn’s campus these days,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs retired in spring 2017 after 43 years at Washburn. His wife, Vicki, who passed away in March 2022, was a kinesiology adjunct professor for 20 years. The couple has been integral to the Washburn community since they came to Topeka in 1975, making regular gifts to the University for philosophy scholarships, department funds and lectures.

Jacobs said the recital hall is a perfect addition for a campus that he and his late wife first set foot on just seven years after White Concert Hall first opened.

“For all those years, she was interested and invested in what goes on around campus,” Jacobs said. “We’re happy to see these kinds of facilities come to fruition because of the enhancements they provide to Washburn and the community.”

As the creator and sponsor of a lecture series in philosophy, Jacobs has become well-versed in the spaces available across campus – he cited Washburn Rooms A&B, Bradbury Thompson Center and Carol Chapel – but none will compare to the advantages provided by the incoming recital hall.

Whether it’s a concert or a lecture, a live recording or a community performance, the newly provided space will be music to the ears of anyone on campus hoping to stage a
first-class event.

Kuehne Bell Tower with fall foliage

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1729 MacVicar Avenue
Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483