Unnamed woman donates $240,000 for new chairs at the university's music hall

ASHLAND — Squeaky chairs will no longer interrupt symphonies in the Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall after an anonymous patron donated $240,000 for improvements.

"She's a local music lover who wanted to make an impact on the department for many years with this very welcome donation," said Terry Longshore, SOU Music Department chairman.

With the funds, the music department was able to replace the stage floor, the carpeting in the hall and 440 seats that were more than 30 years old, multicolored and metal. Although the old seats were functional, they squeaked incessantly, Longshore said.

"It looked like a '70s movie theater," he said.

The new seats are more modern, one color and made from cherry wood.

The old seats were donated to Camelot Theatre in Talent and to a theater company in Weed, Calif.

"We were able to recycle the chairs instead of putting them in a landfill," said Stuart Corns, SOU capital projects manager.

In December, volunteers from Camelot Theatre made a daylong project of removing 200 of the old chairs and hauling them to storage.

"We had such a big volunteer group that it was fun," said Doug Warner, Camelot's producing director.

Camelot hopes to build a new theater by summer 2011, where it will use the chairs. Mistletoe Road Self-Storage in Ashland offered to store the seats in exchange for publicity in the theater's promotional materials.

Warner said that Camelot's current seats are in need of maintenance, so cast and crew were excited about the new seats.

"It saved us the expense of having to dispose of them," Longshore said.

The SOU Music Department also hopes to make improvements to the lighting and install video cameras in the hall.

"It just looks great and, of course, the squeaking is gone," Longshore said.