WHITE PLAINS, NY:An entrepreneur with a wide range of music business interests, Irwin Kornfeld has sparked new awareness for the eighty-year-old Westchester County Center. An adroit upgrade of the facility's acoustics, coupled with a state of the art sound system, has landed the WCC and its new "Pepe Infiniti Concert Series" on the radar of booking agents and performing artists seeking viable venues for tri-state concert dates. The series' launch featured The Beach Boys in concert in mid-May, nearly fifty years after their first WCC gig. The Johnny Winter Band and Edgar Winter Group, Boston, Il Volo, Whoopie Goldberg, Aretha Franklin and others are booked through November.
A long-time Pleasantville resident, Kornfeld recognized the need for a larger local performance venue. But, having seen shows at the WCC years ago, he knew the County Center couldn't attract discriminating artists (or audiences) until the acoustics and sound system were improved. "I approached the County with a carefully considered proposal," he says. "Our company, Westchester Media, Inc. would help improve the County Center's acoustics, and in return have a wonderful venue in which to present premier entertainment," he said.
Kornfeld's next move was to contact the Walters-Storyk Design Group, a NY-based architectural/acoustic design firm whose credits range from Jazz At Lincoln Center to such top NY clubs as Le Poisson Rouge and the just completed 54 Below. "A few years ago I read an interview with WSDG principal John Storyk in In Tune Monthly, a music education magazine we publish," Kornfeld says. "In addition to their high profile performance venue credits, WSDG has created recording studios for stars ranging from Jimi Hendrix to Alicia Keys. We were delighted when WSDG agreed to take on the Westchester County Center. After partner/project manager Joshua Morris provided us with their analysis and recommendations, we knew we could make this venue work for concerts and theatrical productions."
The WSDG proposal addressed a number of significant sound distortion problems, including poor intelligibility and a lack of acoustic accuracy. "The Westchester County Center had some acoustic work done in 1988, but the critical listening issues weren't adequately addressed," Joshua Morris reports. "Our modeling and measurement tests determined the problems could be ameliorated through a combination of electro-acoustic solutions. The 57' high curved ceiling and the truss cavity beneath needed to be treated with a total of 1,120 2'x4' 4" thick perforated PVC lapendary panels, providing almost 9,000 sq. ft. of broadband absorption. QuietStar Industries suspended these units from the ceiling with cables, which have greatly improved upon the existing ceiling reflector treatments that remained from the 1988 acoustic effort, reducing our reverberation time, especially in the lower frequencies, to manageable levels."
WSDG also recommended that 270 sq. ft. of Rosebrand Charisma velour curtains be hung on strategic sections of the balcony edge. Additionally, WSDG worked with pro audio expert Chuck Ballantine of Pleasant Valley-based, Ballantine Communications & Staging to select an package of 11 ElectroVoice subwoofer rows, two vertical stacks of four subwoofers each, and stereo line arrays to assure the best conceivable audio system for the WCC. "We've worked with WSDG on other projects, and I've worked shows in the WCC for years, so we were very familiar with the venue," Ballantine says. "ElectroVoice has a solid, product line and an excellent support team. This new sound system, coupled with WSDG's acoustic treatments makes the WCC a extremely viable performance option."
"We've been monitoring shifts in live performance trends, and felt the WCC had enormous potential for artists capable of filling halls with between three and five thousand seats," Kornfeld said. "Acts fall into three basic booking categories: Those who can fill a 200-300 seat club, megastars who can sell-out 35,000+ seat stadiums, and performers who can draw fans to convenient, competitively priced shows in mid-sized venues that offer great sound, a sense of intimacy and a clear site-line. There are only a handful of halls that meet those specs in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut," he adds. "The County Center sounds great now. Fans that have been attending events here for years commented on the marked improvement to the acoustics. After our Beach Boys sell-out, we know we can compete for the best shows that come to our area."
Commenting on the project John Storyk remarked, "Acoustic restoration is an art and science. Virtually everyone on our staff of designers and engineers started out as musicians, myself included. A wealth of products and options exist today, which are capable of ameliorating negative acoustic issues. The process of eliminating reverberation, enhancing sound and speech intelligibility, fine-tuning a hall like the Westchester Community Center requires precise measurements and the ability to make effective, reasonably priced recommendations. Our goal is to provide audiences with a high quality listening experience. We were delighted to be associated with this project, and we look forward to enjoying the benefits of our advice. We'll be there for Aretha!"
Photos: Four views of WSDG WCC Acoustic Upgrade. Please credit photos by: Andrew Stein Videography, www.Drewvideo.com
Walters-Storyk Design Group has designed over 3000 media production facilities in the U.S., Europe, the Far East and Latin America. WSDG credits range from the original Jimi Hendrix Electric Lady Studio in Greenwich Village to NYC's Jazz At Lincoln Center performance complex, broadcast facilities for The Food Network, CBS and WNET, over twenty teaching studios for The Art Institutes around the US, and corporate clients such as Hoffman La Roche. Recent credits include Jungle City, NY's major new destination studio; private studios for Green Day, Jay-Z, Timbaland's Tim Mosley, film composer Carter Burwell, Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen and Alicia Keys. WSDG principals John Storyk, Beth Walters, and Dirk Noy lecture frequently at universities and industry events, and contribute regularly to industry publications. WSDG is a seven-time winner of the prestigious TEC Award for outstanding achievement in Acoustics/Facility Design, including 2012 for Jungle City. WSDG maintains offices in NY, SF, Miami, Argentina, Brazil, Beijing, Germany, Mexico City, Spain and Switzerland.