Kutztown University unveils new Schaeffer Auditorium; renovation, expansion benefits community

Photos courtesy of Kutztown University Relations
Schaeffer Auditorium at Kutztown University.
Photos courtesy of Kutztown University Relations Schaeffer Auditorium at Kutztown University.

Kutztown University recently unveiled Schaeffer Auditorium’s face lift and addition.

The $20.1 million renovation and expansion project included restoration of architectural details and new seating, lighting, elevators, loading dock, and green room for the theatre.

Also, the 14,000 square foot expansion houses two large rehearsal halls, a recital lecture hall, practice rooms, music classrooms, chamber music rehearsal rooms, music library, instrument and uniform storage, lockers, lounge and new dressing rooms, to name a few elements.

“I’ve heard a lot of people talking about it in the community. We’re very excited to have a larger space in town,” said Amanda Keith Verrastro, Main Street Program Director for Kutztown Community Partnership, who joined a small group of those invited for a tour Aug. 13.


She said Schaeffer Auditorium was already a place in their backyard to see performances without even having to get in a car.

“We’re very excited to know that the University is investing more culture, time and energy into that,” said Verrastro.

Anything that brings people to Kutztown and celebrates what Kutztown has to offer is always a benefit, she said.

“It’s bringing in people from all over the world to share their talents with us but also with that comes the people who want to see their talents,” said Verrastro. “This will benefit everyone in the community from residents to students to strangers who live on the outskirts and want to be part of it.”

A highlight of the expansion is the large rehearsal hall named in honor of Richard G. Wells, professor emeritus of music who taught at KU for 29 years prior to his retirement in 1997.

“It will benefit the community in that we can bring in almost any type of performance,” said Wells, listing dance, bands, orchestras and musical shows. “With these events taking place, it’s also for the community as well as for the University. The community that supports our University is as important as our students majoring in education.”

Wells and professor emeritus of music Willis Rapp were instrumental during the rehearsal hall’s design and installation.

“This is really a legacy project,” said Rapp, former chairman of the music department. “This new construction and the renovation of Schaeffer Auditorium represent the physical facilities that will be here for generations to come. I’m so excited about the scores of music students who will follow to make great benefit and great use of these wonderful facilities.”

Both spoke very highly of the acoustics and the floating floor to contain sound, a band director’s dream.

“It’s a state-of-the-art acoustically well done,” said Wells, who spent 75 percent of his KU career performing and teaching in Schaeffer.

This room will also allow the entire marching band to practice together in one space, as apposed to their former rehearsal room in Old Main, which had a lack of space and had poor acoustics.

KU sixth year art major Amanda Manwiller, 23, Kutztown, was on campus helping with marching band camp during the reveal.

“It’s gorgeous. I can’t wait to get in here and play see what the sound sounds like. I’m excited to come here and work in here,” said Manwiller, 23, flute player.

The project was funded by $13.8 million from the Department of General Services, $1.4 million from the University Capital Budget, and $4.9 million in private donations.

Dating back to 1940, Schaeffer Auditorium was named after Dr. Nathan C. Schaeffer who was officially the first student of Kutztown State Normal School and eventually became its third president, serving 16 years. He then spent 26 years as superintendent of public school instruction for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.