Staff of the Miller Theater’s Knox Music Institute open the venue. (Courtesy The Miller Theater)

The Symphony Orchestra Augusta raised $2 million to fund new venue

The Miller Theater in Augusta, Ga., celebrated the opening of its final phase, the Knox Music Institute, with a ribbon cutting on September 5. The adjacent 2,000-square-foot space was funded through $2 million in private donations raised by the Symphony Orchestra Augusta over the last 20 months.

“We always planned the institute to be part of the theater, which opened in 2018, but the fundraising took a while,” said Marty Elliott, the theater’s general manager.

The initial theater renovation plan was to divide parts of the space into educational classrooms.

“Fortunately, the building renovation came about in phases, which allowed us to get in there, work with the symphony and realize a design that would be more powerful than individual spaces,” said Elliott. “We now have a small performance space for music therapy and education during the day and special events, performances and receptions in the evenings.”

With a capacity of 250, the Knox Music Institute features vaulted ceilings designed for first-rate acoustics and recycled materials for a sustainable design.

The institute was named after the Knox family and local philanthropist Peter Knox, IV.

“Peter originally saved the theater from the wrecking ball by putting a new roof on it and gifting it to the symphony,” said Elliott. “The family also helped raise money for the restoration and contributed significantly to the project.”

The Knox Music Institute will house Community Chords, a licensed music therapy program that works with distinct populations, including veterans and seniors in assisted living programs.

“We’re excited to offer this program and see how it grows,” said Elliott.

Other evening events planned for the space include performances by the Berlin Philharmonic as well as community events, such as a local radio station running a six-week program in search of new talent.

“We’re focusing on programming diversity,” said Elliott. “We’re calling it our incubation space, because we can do creative things, such as jazz and comedy series tied back to the main theater.”

This past weekend, the institute was converted into a speakeasy with a 1920s theme.

“We have exciting things scheduled at the institute, but first and foremost is the educational component,” said Elliott.

A former movie palace built in 1940, the 1,300-seat Miller Theater’s $25 million restoration was completed in January 2018 and included a build out of the former department store next door that added restrooms, dressing rooms and modern amenities.

Season tickets for the Symphony Orchestra Augusta’s Pops series ranges from $135 to $349, with the family series tickets priced at $20 for students and $52 for adults.