In 2005, Atlanta-based Morehouse College hosted an official groundbreaking for the $20 million Ray Charles Performing Arts Center, which is the centerpiece of a larger complex, the Morehouse College Center for the Arts.
A previous Los Angeles fundraiser for the Center in Charles’ name was co-chaired by former President William J. “Bill” Clinton, filmmaker and Morehouse alumnus Spike Lee, music moguls, Quincy Jones and Clarence Avant, and Denzel and Pauletta Washington, and featured performances by Stevie Wonder, Michael McDonald, James Ingram, Ronnie Milsap, Brian McKnight, Billy Preston, Travis Tritt, and Patti Austin.
Charles’ relationship with Morehouse began a decade ago when he was invited to Atlanta to perform with the College’s jazz ensemble. Bill Cosby opened that performance and a special relationship between Morehouse, Cosby and Charles was born.
Charles, who received an honorary degree from Morehouse, was a long-time friend and supporter of Morehouse. In 2001, he gave the College two $1-million gifts to seal a mutual commitment to fund, educate and inspire the next generation of musical pioneers.
The Ray Charles Performing Arts Center will enable Morehouse College to train these students once they are found.
Dedicated in 2010, Morehouse College's Ray Charles Performing Arts Center is located at the edge of the historic West End district at the corner of Joseph P. Lowery Boulevard and West End Avenue.
The $20 million, 76,000-square-foot complex, designed by Atlanta-based R.L. Brown & Associates Inc., is anchored by the Emma and Joe Adams Concert Hall. Serving as the primary performance space for the Morehouse College Glee Club, the Jazz Ensemble and other smaller performance groups and productions, the 550-seat hall is equipped with a motorized orchestra pit that can be raised to provide additional seating, a digital/analog recording studio, and elevated left and right parterre.
Other elements of the center include an atrium/pre-event reception area, a two-story alcove featuring a floor-to-ceiling glass wall and upper-level balcony. The 25,134-square-foot Music Academic Building will be home to Morehouse’s music program.
The facility features 12 faculty studios; two electronic classrooms; nine practice rooms; dedicated storage areas for students’ instruments; a library for sheet music; three academic labs; and two rehearsal rooms, one each designed for the Morehouse College House of Funk Marching Band and the Morehouse College Glee Club, which can also accommodate small performances. By raising the rear wall of the band rehearsal room, the space can be transformed into a stage facing the Eugene Mitchell Performance lawn, which can seat approximately 200.
The complex is named for Ray Charles, the recording and performance artist from Albany, GA, who became a music legend through his ability to fuse elements of rhythm & blues, gospel and blues. Charles received an honorary degree from Morehouse in 2001 and, later that year, made two $1 million gifts to the college to seal a mutual commitment to find, educate and inspire the next generation of music pioneers. In designing the buildings that comprise the center, Brown & Associates’ goal was to have them blend in with what company founder and CEO Robert L. Brown Jr. calls “the eclectic nature” of existing architecture on campus.
The defining architectural element of the center is the way it provides an attractive and welcoming gateway to the south entrance of the Morehouse campus, with the columns at the facility entrance illustrating “that Morehouse men stand tall and proud,” Brown said.