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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

Did The Tobin Center Pass Last Night's Audio Test?

There was another significant milestone in the world of San Antonio arts this week, and it was at the nearly finished Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

The Tobin Center has been the focus of a huge amount of attention the past few years but now it’s coming down to the wire. Connecticut company Akustiks' job was to create the good sound you’ll hear there.  

“What we’re doing now with audience tonight sounds like a great big penny whistle," said Akustiks' tuning conductor Christopher Blair, who made the sound of that penny whistle with his voice.

He was referencing Thursday night's Texas Public Radio event with Youth Orchestras of San Antonio that doubled as audio tests at the Tobin. He explained further what they are looking for the hall to sound like.

“While the big, loud moments are wonderful, the magic of music happens at the edges of silence, and our job is to provide that silence,” Blair said.

Also in attendance was Akustiks Principal Russell Todd.

“Tonight we have for the first time, not only an orchestra on stage,  but an audience in the room, and we’ll use the audience as our acoustical absorption,” Todd said.

The acoustics of an empty hall sound very different from one filled with people. Those filled with people absorb certain audio frequencies. Todd explained the reasoning behind tuning the room further.

“Because we have a multi-purpose space we actually have adjustable acoustics,” Todd said.

The demands of the hall will be very, very different from night to night, as he detailed.

"Everything from symphonic performance to popular music and entertainment to Broadway theater, ballet and opera," Todd said.

And so Thursday night’s test featuring a YOSA orchestra was a demanding one. What did those present think about the sound?

"They seemed to be happy, yes," Blair said with a laugh.

I asked Todd if San Antonio has a world class place to hear music now.

"Absolutely!" he said without hesitation.

Blair said the hall’s sound will envelope you, that the sound will come from all directions, which is by design.

“And that’s something that you cannot get from your stereo system at home, and that’s something that’s a characteristic of the great concert halls of the world,” Blair said.

You’ll be the judge of that on September 4, when the Tobin opens.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii