‘A Diamond in the Shuck’


Crystal Clear Acoustics Make Recital Hall a Gem

Photo of the Robert and Gertrude Shuck Recital Hall

The space once used as the Seminary chapel at the former St. Vincent’s College and Seminary is now the state-of-the art Robert and Gertrude Shuck Recital Hall.


June 6, 2007 – “An acoustical diamond” is what Dr. Gary Miller calls the new Robert and Gertrude Shuck Recital Hall at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus.

The space once used as the Seminary chapel at the former St. Vincent’s College and Seminary is now a state-of-the art 205-seat recital hall that blends the best of the old with the new. The facility is destined to bring instrumental and vocal performances at Southeast to new heights of excellence.

“We are privileged to be in an old building that is a new building,” said Miller, director of Southeast’s School of Visual and Performing Arts, “and it is so beautiful.”

The Seminary chapel has been converted into an acoustically and aesthetically remarkable Music Recital Hall in the south wing of the original historic seminary structure, dating to 1845 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Donors and visitors got a sneak peek at the nearly completed facility May 11, when the Board of Regents approved the naming of the Earl and Marjorie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts, the Shuck Recital Hall and other public performance spaces at River Campus. The first official performance in the Shuck Recital Hall is planned for Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m. when Tyson Wunderlich will perform a piano recital. Wunderlich is a Southeast alumnus, adjunct music faculty member and music director at Saxony Lutheran High School.

The Recital Hall is located on the third floor of the historic structure. It features 2,600 square feet on the main level and 350 square feet in a balcony, with elevator access to both. The hall also is ADA compliant for both audience members and performers.

The hall features a sleek, maple hardwood floor, white walls accented with rich red oak panels and original stained glass windows from the Seminary chapel.

“Because we’ve got a lot of flat white surface contrasted with the wood panels, the stained glass windows infuse great color to the room,” Miller said. “They also provide natural shade.

“I’m a lover of stained glass,” he says. “These windows have a wonderful character. They define the room. They make that space absolutely unique. They cast an indelible mark that makes this a truly wonderful place.”

The windows were removed while the historic building has been undergoing renovation over the past couple of years and were reinstalled in the facility just last month. The old stained glass was remounted and placed on the inside of the chapel window frames, which are now sound insulated.

Adding to the historic ambiance of the room are three poplar beams in the ceiling which date from the original Seminary chapel and remain exposed above the recital hall floor. The ceiling, which rises 26 feet from the stage, retains its original arch shape commonly found in historic Italian architecture, Miller said.

He says Ove Arup, a California-based acoustics engineering firm, came to Cape Girardeau early in the development of River Campus. Using measurements of the room and combining them with the latest in technology-enhanced computer models, the firm determined the optimum reverberation time for the recital hall.

“We have every bit of three seconds now,” says Miller, who likens reverberation to the sound of a perfect bell. “You hear the beautiful ring of the bell, but then the bell continues to ring. You hear that sound after the original attack of the clapper.”

Miller says the acoustics make the recital hall a tremendous teaching tool in the formation of music students. He related it to the Center for Scholarship in Teaching and Learning (CSTL) on the main Southeast campus. The CSTL provides faculty with technology tools to enhance their teaching.

“This is our technology,” he says of the Recital Hall. “A good room that is well lit and acoustically handsome is a musician’s technology. It is a teaching enhancement.”

The recital hall, he said, will allow musicians to “get a return on their sound, even at a soft volume.” The Shuck Recital Hall will be used for mid-sized musical performances, including student degree recitals, faculty recitals and collaborative events performed by groups such as the Southeast Baroque Ensemble and the Southeast Brass Quintet. Until now, student and faculty recitals were performed in Brandt Hall of Music, and collaborative events were held in Old St. Vincent’s Church in downtown Cape Girardeau. Organ recitals will continue to be performed in Old St. Vincent’s Church, Miller said, because of the outstanding pipe organ in the church. The balcony in the new recital hall cannot  adequately accommodate a pipe organ, Miller said. “Sundays at Three,” a popular chamber music series, also will continue to be held at Old St. Vincent’s.  “Old St. Vincent’s is a cultural treasure of this community,” Miller said. “It has allowed people to enjoy beautiful music in a marvelous place.” Nonetheless, students are anticipating the opening of the Shuck Recital Hall since they will be able to perform in the new space; students were not permitted to perform in Old St. Vincent’s Church, Miller said. “Faculty and students feel like they are getting a place of their own,” he said, adding the University has used Old St. Vincent’s Church for a variety of events over the years under a lease arrangement between the University and the Church. The main floor of the Shuck Recital Hall has upper and lower level seating sections, with an aisle separating the two. The lower level will seat 132; the upper seats 55.  “It is a wonderful size,” Miller said, adding, “it’s intimate enough to accommodate students’ peers, family and faculty members at student recitals, but not so large that it seems like nobody is there.” Heating and air conditioning is provided in the recital hall via a plenum system. This is a space below the floor that facilitates air circulation. Heated or cooled air rises from ventilation holes strategically placed throughout the floor. “In the past, air blew from above and was very noisy,” Miller said. “The beauty of this system is that it is much quieter. The standing waves of a room are disturbed less. The temperature is also more even.”

The hall also features a balcony which can seat about 20 audience members. A small sound recording booth is located there. Miller says a recording assistant will sit in the balcony, monitoring sound levels from microphones suspended from the ceiling in front of the stage.

A permanent sound recording booth is a welcome addition in the recital hall, Miller said, adding that in the past, equipment was set up for each event and removed at its conclusion.

“This makes it so much easier and reliable,” he said. “The more mobile equipment is, the more likely something will go wrong. We will now have a standard setup for every recital.”

He says the balcony also could be used by antiphonal choirs, which were fashionable during the Renaissance. An antiphonal choir sings or chants in alternation with a choir on the main stage. A nine-foot grand piano will be permanently situated on the recital hall stage. The stage itself can be extended with a lift in the small orchestra pit. The stage will likely also house a harpsichord and rehearsal piano, which will be used daily as accompaniment for the University Choir. Also featured behind stage is a rack to be used for amplified sound. Lighting for performances will be designed by Jeffrey Lovett, the technical director for River Campus, and will include spotlights mounted on the side walls as well as spots for the stage. Just beneath the recital hall, is a “green room,” an area set aside to accommodate performers or musicians when they are not required on the stage. Until now, students and faculty members used public restrooms in Brandt Hall to prepare for their performances. “We had no place to get dressed for performances,” Miller said. “I’ve been here 27 years, and it hasn’t changed a bit. All of a sudden, having a ‘green room’ makes us normal.”   Performers can use a set of private stairs, taking them from the green room directly to the backstage area of the recital hall. The new music recital hall was made possible through the generosity of Robert “Bob” Shuck and was named for his parents, Robert F. and Gertrude L. Shuck.

The late Robert and Gertrude L. Shuck were married in 1935 in St. Louis and moved to Cape Girardeau in 1947. Robert worked for Brown Manufacturing Company in Quincy, Ill., and Shedd Brown Advertising for 15 and 32 years respectively. Mr. and Mrs. Shuck were members of Trinity Lutheran Church, and Mr. Shuck was a former Exchange Club and Rotary Club member. The Shucks had two sons; Bob and Jerry Shuck and four grandchildren.  Robert passed away in 2003, and was preceded in death by his wife, Gertrude, who died in 2000.

Bob Shuck graduated with honors from Southeast with a bachelor of science degree in accounting. He earned a master’s degree in business administration from Northwestern University and became a certified public accountant in Illinois and a Certified Financial Planner. Mr. Shuck is vice chairman and former director of Raymond James Financial, Inc., executive vice president of Raymond James and Associates, Inc., and a director of Raymond James Charitable Endowment Fund. He is a 1994 recipient of Southeast’s Alumni Merit Award.  He has served on the University Foundation Board of Directors since 1995, served as chair from 2004 to 2006 and is a member of the University President’s Council.

Mr. Shuck has served on the Sales and Marketing Committee of the Securities Industry Association, has been past director for the International Association for Financial Planning, and a former trustee and member of the executive committee of the National Endowment for Financial Education in Denver, Colo.  He is currently vice chairman of the Board of Directors of Bank of Florida, Tampa Bay, and a board member of Florida Genetics, LLC.

Mr. Shuck and his wife, Marcy, make their home in Clearwater, Fla., where he devotes time to many philanthropic organizations. He has served on the Board of Trustees for All Children’s Hospital, the Long Range Development Committee for the Florida Council on Economic Education, the Development Foundation of St. Petersburg College, the Mahaffey Theater Foundation, and the policy board of the Tampa Bay Partnership for Regional Economic Development. He currently serves on the finance committee of Christ The King Lutheran Church in Largo, Fla.

Photo of the stage of the recital hall.

A view of the stage of the Robert and Gertrude Shuck Recital Hall.