A new Symphony Center in downtown Galesburg will remake history.

In May 2021, the Galesburg Symphony Society — the official entity that includes the Knox-Galesburg Symphony — bought properties at 95 and 107 North Seminary Street in downtown, and the organization held a groundbreaking Friday, Aug. 19, 2022 for the renovation project.

Members of the Galesburg Symphony Society and Estes Construction team break ground outside Symphony Center at 95 N. Seminary Street in downtown Galesburg, Aug. 19, 2022 (photo credit: Kent Kriegshauser)

95 N. Seminary was built in 1932 as the Knox County Farm Bureau building. The Oil Station next door was built at the same time and most recently was occupied by the Garden Gate.

Symphony Center is aimed to meet three objectives: learn, perform, and inspire. To achieve those goals, “we had to establish a physical presence in the community, we wanted a location to provide top-quality music instruction, a place for small rehearsals and performance, a space for people to gather to celebrate a shared love for classical music, and a space for the operations of the organization,” according to the plan summary. “Symphony Center was not designed as an orchestra concert venue because we already have wonderful options in our community.

“Instead, it will be a place where people of all backgrounds and experiences can come together to share music in new and inspiring ways through lessons, group learning, performances and more. This phase was designed with flexibility and adaptability at the forefront: this is a place that will grow as the community requires. We will be opening with four teaching and practice spaces, a large lesson studio, a classroom, a multipurpose and recital space, a snack area, and administrative offices designed for collaborative work.

“Symphony Center is a welcoming and inclusive space for all people to experience excellent music instruction, educational opportunities, and immersive experiences. This building will transform the Symphony into a sustainable and broad-reaching community partner, allowing us to adapt and grow to meet the needs of our region.”

Lucas Wood is executive director of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony.

Lucas Wood, executive director of Knox-Galesburg Symphony, said Tuesday the budget for the project is not public, but renovations to the first floor of 95 N. Seminary will start this fall and take approximately five months. They expect to be open for operations in the first quarter of 2023.

Endowment fundraising is a major component of the project campaign. Symphony Center will offer lesson tuition on a sliding scale and offer scholarships for other programs.

Support from Illinois Arts Council

At Friday’s event, Wood read a letter from Illinois Arts Council executive director Joshua Davis-Ruperto, which said: “…we believe the arts build communities AND make them stronger. Nonprofit arts organizations are also businesses. They attract audiences, spur business development, support jobs, generate government revenue, and are the cornerstone of tourism.

“This historic expansion will greatly benefit the people of Galesburg and its surrounding communities. The Galesburg Symphony is a great cultural ambassador and the IACA greatly values our partnership,” the letter says. “The IACA applauds you on your efforts developing the arts in your community. Through such efforts, we may continue to build a stronger creative sector in Illinois – together.”

A view of the North Seminary Street properties at the Symphony Center groundbreaking Aug. 19, 2022 (photo credit: Kent Kriegshauser).

Wood recognized Janet Kreig, a KGS patron who is serving as project manager for this “monumental undertaking,” he said.

“A native of this community with close personal ties to these buildings, Janet has more than 30 years of experience managing commercial construction and renovation projects for Fortune 100 companies around the world,” Wood said. “Without her experience, expertise, keen eye, and, most importantly, friendship, this project would not be where it is today.”

When they planned this project, “one of our main goals was to create a space where ALL people can come together to experience the life-changing qualities of classical music,” he said. “Music and music education aren’t luxuries. Music is at the core of humanity – a language that connects us all on a fundamentally emotional level.

“Many people have shared with me how excited they are that this project is making history for this organization, our community, and this region,” Wood said. “But to be honest, it’s been difficult for me to accept that fact because I see this project as an evolution for this organization; a way for us to give back to the people that have supported us for the last 75 years.

“Yes – we are making history, but more importantly, we’re making an impact on humanity. This project and the programs that will develop here will create a ripple that changes people’s lives for generations.”

To learn more about this project, email contact@kgsymphony.org or call 309-341-7268.