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Buffalo’s beloved music hall getting needed repairs

“We are at a critical junction in the state of Kleinhans Music Hall"
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Posted at 5:47 PM, Sep 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-21 17:47:55-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — One of Buffalo's beloved historic landmarks is getting some much-needed repairs.

Kleinhans Music Hall at Symphony Circle on Buffalo’s west side is home to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO).  

A capital campaign to raise $21 million is already underway for repairs, restoration, and upgrades.

“We are at a critical junction in the state of Kleinhans Music Hall,” noted Dan Hart, executive director, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Kleinhans is a historic national landmark, built to provide acoustic perfection — one of the best in the world. 

A trip into the Hall's archive room and you learn it opened in 1940, named after the man who help fund it, Edward Kleinhans, who once operated the Kleinhans Men's Shop.

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Kleinhans archives of Kleinhans Men's Shop.

Kleinhans and his wife, Mary Seaton, had a dream to build a music hall. They died three months apart leaving a bulk of their estate to the city to create Kleinhans.

But after 82 years, the building is now getting roof repairs and other upgrades.

"And this campaign, the $21 million that we're doing is also represents a great public-private partnership, state, local, federal city, county — all these monies are going to help make this thing possible. And it couldn't have been possible without the strong support and the city,” remarked Hart.

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BPO Executive Director Dan Hart is joined by city, county & state leaders.

City, county, and state leaders gathered outside the building Wednesday to announce funding as part of a community campaign for Kleinhans titled “Keeping it Modern”.

“And so we're celebrating 82 years of this building, and we have to take care of this building here. and today, it's good to look out and see people on the roof repairing a roof,” declared David River, Niagara District Common Council member.

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Roof repairs are underway.

Hart was joined by Mayor Byron Brown, who says he is working with the Common Council to contribute more than $2.2 million toward the project.

“Which will safeguard this magnificent facility for future generations to enjoy,” stated Mayor Brown. 

Kleinhans is owned by the city.

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Inside Kleinhans Music Hall.

“It is a city building and the city has always been at the table with us on important projects,” explained Hart.

Erie County, which already provides hundreds of thousands of dollars to the BPO as part of cultural funding, is offering an additional $650,000 for this campaign.  

Empire State Development has also committed $1 million.

Hart says they've already raised $14 million of their $21 million capital campaign goal.

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Capital campaign for Kleinhans Music Hall.

$18 million will be spent on the repairs and restoration, which include roof repairs, a new boiler, and upgrades to heating and cooling. $3 million will be used to create an endowment.

“I guess most people in the community would know Kleinhans because of the high school graduations and college graduations. Sometimes we are ten or 12 a year here. 24,000 to 30,000 people come to these graduations and that’s more than coming to the classical series for BPO,” Hart stated. 

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Roof repairs underway at Kleinhans.

Hart noted last year was a “banner year” for events with shows by comedians, rock concerts, and outside rentals.  

But for more than eight decades Kleinhans has hosted civic events and celebrations leaving an impact on the Buffalo community. It served as the centerpiece of civic engagement — including appearances in 1964 by Robert Kennedy and in 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke on the Kleinhans stage. 

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BPO in rehearsal in Mary Seaton room.

The BPO’s education program serves about 40,000 students a year through youth concerts at Kleinhans including Buffalo Public School children in kindergarten through 6th grade.

“And they get to see the Hall and it's really great to see their faces when they walk in and they just look up and say — ‘wow' — if they're here for the first time, and then you got the cool cats who've been here three years — 'yeah, I've been here before’  — it's all good,” reflected Hart. 

Hart tells me they want to make the hall more accessible to community groups.