Concert Experience Recap – Morgan Hall, Bailey Performance Center, Kennesaw State University

Having lived in the Atlanta area during its growth spurt in the aftermath of the ’96 Olympic Games, I was familiar with Kennesaw State University (KSU). I learned of The Bailey Performance Art Center years later as the marketing manager for New York-based acoustic consulting firm, Acoustic Distinctions. The Center was less than 5 years old when I first started with the firm and the positive raves of the concert hall’s acoustics continued to roll in. Naturally, the project became a staple for qualification packages, and I re-spun its tale as a representative project on countless proposal responses. The Center’s story resonates on many levels; ‘A Build It and They Will Come’; ‘Excellence Can Be Achieved With-In Tight Budgets’, ‘Doing It Right the First Time Yields Sustainable Results’, etc.

As the author and spinner of words touting Hall’s acoustic ‘authenticity’ and the wonderful end-user experience it offered, I never had the privilege to experience a Morgan Concert Hall performance. That was until I happened to be plodding down I75 in Georgia and traffic slowed to signify the Northern outskirts of Metro Atlanta. My eyes caught sight of the sign announcing the approaching exit for the Bailey Center and KSU. This triggered the realization of a rare opportunity. I had time and means to afford myself ‘The Morgan Concert Hall experience.’

As luck would have it, double bassist Xavier Foley was scheduled to appear that upcoming Friday. What a perfect opportunity to see how the Hall performed for an instrument that is rarely presented as a solo instrument. I had written of the Hall’s musical clarity and the connectivity between artist and audience. Now, I had a chance to experience its immersion simply for my own curiosity.

Friday evening arrived. A beautiful salmon-colored sunset ignited campus as I parked the car. I found my way to the Center’s box office. People of various age

s were clustered around waiting for the Hall’s doors to open. Once seated, I recognized students there on assignment holding their programs up with the ticket stubs in front of the empty platform as the backdrop for a quick cell phone photo. A pair of octogenarians were irate over their tickets being ripped wrong. Middle-age / old-ish people, like me, milled about and the Hall buzzed with energy as it filled.

The overall environment was warm and comfortable. The décor was simple as to let the music do the talking. I did not hear any mechanical or electrical equipment noise (i.e. large fans). I looked for the Hall’s adjustable acoustic elements and noted that all absorptive curtains had been retracted to allow a more reverberant acoustic environment which is typical for chamber music performances.

The Hall was roughly 2/3 full when the lights dimmed. Foley played alone for roughly half the concert with intermittent pieces with accompaniment of either piano, cello or violin.  While I am not a musician, art critic, architect or even an acoustic consultant and my perspective might not be entirely ‘informed’, I do like the arts and getting swept into the moment. I found myself entranced during the performance. In Foley’s solo performance pieces that he also composed, I appreciated being able to actually hear the friction of his fingers on the strings. From my time working with David Kahn at Acoustic Distinctions, I know that this was possible ‘by design’. Silence enables a greater breadth of artistic expression. The design team’s conscious approach to achieving this aspect of silence was due largely in part due to utilizing high efficiency / low-noise operating HVAC systems.

The evening ended after three encores and a standing ovation. To me, it was an ovation for the concert hall too. 16 years after its opening, the Hall continues to be a place where passion is heard.


** This project is one highlighted in a session presented at last summer’s APPA conference. Centering on the selection process of specialty consultants for performing arts center projects, learn more about what made this project a success at


Kirsten Haas handles content development for Acoustic Distinctions. She also assists with special projects oriented to thought leadership, continuing education, outreach and development. Known for her creativity and taste for high performance, Haas writes, researches and explores the extraordinary. She resides in SE Ohio in a decommissioned Lock House on the Ohio River. She has an MBA in Arts Management from Binghamton University and has a fascination with nature, arts and culture.