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Beautiful Music

White Concert Hall celebrates 50 years of providing students, community amazing venue

White Concert Hall celebrated its 50th anniversary during the 2018-19 academic year

From The Ichabod - Spring 2019

Opera singer Richetta Manager, ba ’75, has performed in concert halls around the world – Cologne Opera in Germany, Royal Festival Hall in London, Vienna Concert Hall in Austria. But she still counts Washburn University’s Elliot Hill White Concert Hall among her favorite venues.

“I’ve always felt at home in White Concert Hall and on its stage,” Manager said. “It’s very much a part of me.”

With 1,200 seats and carefully engineered acoustics, White Concert Hall has been a regional treasure for half a century. Dedicated in 1968, the building celebrated its 50th anniversary this school year. In addition to music department concerts, the building is home to the Topeka Symphony Orchestra, the Topeka Festival Singers, Sunflower Music Festival and the On Stage Live concert series.

Many Washburn students who graced the White Concert Hall stage have gone on to enjoy successful musical careers. Manager, a Topeka native, now lives in Germany and regularly performs for large audiences across Europe, but she’ll never forget her senior recital at Washburn.

Richetta Manager, ba '75, is a world-renowned singer who performed at White Concert Hall as a Washburn student“It was one of my most memorable performances,” she said. “I peeked out into the audience before the concert and remarked to my pianist, (Professor) Virginia Wallace, ‘Wow, look at all those people.’ I had a crowd of several hundred, which was unusual back then for a senior recital.”

For Manager, that senior recital was only the beginning. Her career highlights sound like any performer’s dream: For many years, she served as lead soprano for the Gelsenkirchen Opera in Germany, and she has performed all the genre’s major soprano roles, earning her a nod in the International Who’s Who in Music. She has taken the stage on BBC Television and is accomplished in other genres including gospel, rock, pop, jazz and soul.

Looking back on her career, Manager said the accolades and applause have been nice, but her favorite part has always been the opportunity to fully immerse herself in a character, such as Regan in Sir Michael Tippet’s opera “New Year.” In 1989, Manager became the first singer to embody Regan, who plays a pivotal role in Tippett’s sci-fi fairy tale.

“Rewarding was not just the applause on opening night but to be convincing in the role I was singing and playing – to identify,” Manager said.

Studying at Washburn provided Manager with the foundation she needed to build a successful career. The hall’s acoustics are certainly a boon for any aspiring musician. During planning, Washburn officials consulted with a renowned acoustical physicist to determine the proper building shape and construction materials to produce sound quality similar to an echo chamber. This creates a memorable experience for the audience as well.

“White Concert Hall has been enjoyed by the Washburn community and the Topeka community all these years because of its outstanding acoustic quality,” said Laura Stephenson, dean, College of Arts and Sciences. “Think of the tradition of Washburn Vespers. Every seat is full and audience members are captivated as our students perform because the music is so clear and vibrant.”

In addition to the University’s exceptional venue, Manager credits her professors with guiding and mentoring her, especially the late Gordon Gaines.

“Gordon became my teacher and friend,” Manager said. “I remember how he would call at work and at home to see if I was learning the new arias he had given me and to keep me under his wing – more like a mentor.”

As White Concert Hall looks forward to another 50 years, more students will have the opportunity to discover early success on its stage – just like Manager did at that senior recital so many years ago.

“I learned a great deal at Washburn – far more than I or my teachers realized,” Manager said. “Later it made itself known.”


Historical Highlights

Rock band Kansas performing in White Concert Hall

Dedicated on Oct. 20, 1968, Garvey Fine Arts Center, which includes White Concert Hall, celebrated its 50th anniversary this school year. Here are some of the renowned venue’s historical highlights.

  • Garvey Fine Arts Center also includes Neese Gray Theatre, Mulvane Art Museum and the music and theatre departments.
  • In 2017, the Rita Blitt Gallery and Sculpture Garden was opened. Guests enter through the lobby of White Concert Hall to create
    an intersection of art and music.
  • Olive White Garvey, ba 1914, h ’63, was a primary donor to many areas on campus, including the Fine Arts Center. She named the hall after her brother, Elliot White, ba ’24.
  • A sculpture of a phoenix was placed in the lobby at the opening. The mythical bird represents Washburn’s rebirth since the 1966 tornado. It is still on display.
  • The hall has hosted performances by Broadway star Jeff Kready, b music ’04; rock band Kansas, which features former Washburn students; jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie; and conductor Leonard Slatkin.

Spring 2020 Alumni Mag

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2019-20 spring edition online and look for it in mailboxes in May.

View past editions


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Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483