A peek inside the Green Music Center, courtesy of two Sonoma Valley employees
Waldo Rohnert purchased 4,000 acres of rich loamy soil south of Santa Rosa in 1929 and founded the Rohnert Seed Farm. It was famous for its sweet peas, and people rode the Northwest Pacific Railroad from Sausalito just to catch a whiff of their sweetly scented blossoms.
The steady march of time now gives us Rohnert Park, “the Friendly City,” and Sonoma State University, home of the Green Music Center.
A tech pioneer from Sonoma County named Don Green had dreams of a music center and launched the planning process in 1997 with a $5 million gift. At a cost of $145 million, it ran way over the original projection. That amount was doubled later, yet the funding and actual construction was rife with trouble and controversy.
At a cost of $145 million, it ran way over the original projection. As with all good things, though, better angels won the battle.
Opening on Sept. 29, 2012, with a sold-out concert by famed pianist Lang Lang, the Green Music Center (GMC) is the pride of the North Bay’s music scene and a symbol of SSU’s commitment to the arts.
Sonoma residents Joan and Sanford Weill chipped in the final $15 million. “It will make Sonoma State a unique campus where people from all over the world will want to come. It is ambitious, but I think it’s doable,” Weill told the media at the time.
The finished Green Music Center consists of the main Weill Hall, the smaller 240-seat Schroeder Hall, meeting rooms, classrooms, Prelude Restaurant and Bar, and a stylish and light-drenched lobby that can be rented out for private events.
The classrooms were all paid for by the State of California, as they are used by SSU students. In fact, the entire center is used primarily as classroom space during the week. The events are generally held on the weekends.
While touring the facility and discussing the goals of the GMC, employee Gail Chadwin said, “Arts are for everybody.”
Chadwin is a 2004 graduate of Sonoma Valley High School. She works at the GMC in its development department.
“I’m not actually involved with the production of the musical events, but I do attend shows and host receptions in the donor lounges before shows and during intermissions,” said Chadwin.
Her early love of music can be traced back to her grandmother who was an accomplished singer. After high school, she attended the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she received a double major in community studies and sociology/Latin American Latino studies.
Chadwin now sings in the Valley of the Moon Chamber Ensemble and lives in Sonoma with her husband Jerardo, an information technology employee with the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, and their toddler, Diego.
Another Sonoma resident who is critical to the performance and success of the GMC is Kamen Nikolov, who has served as its director of production operations since 2011. He was hired before the project was even completed, he says.
Nikolov was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. He began playing the piano at the tender age of 4. His musical prowess took him to the National Music Conservatory to study audio recording and classical piano.
His role with the Green Music Center was designed to drum up business and support for the project. Nikolov’s warm friendly style, and supreme depth of knowledge about all aspects of classical music and its production, has been instrumental in the music center’s success.