HDR-designed Omaha Conservatory of Music Opens a New Home in Repurposed Space

The new home of the Omaha Conservatory of Music (OCM) opened in April to a community eager to take advantage of all that it has to offer. An adaptive reuse project, OCM will continue to make its mark, this time directly in the footprint of the former Temple Israel Synagogue, a beloved icon in the community for 50+ years. Designed by HDR, the 40,000-square-foot, entirely refurbished building strikes the delicate balance between establishing the new identity for the Conservatory and maintaining the character of the existing structure.

After occupying temporary space in various Omaha locations, the move to its permanent home in an ideal mid-city location solidifies the Conservatory's 15-year commitment to the arts in the city, providing private lessons in orchestral instruments and voice, as well as in conducting, music composition, and theory. Offering a significant community outreach with its String Sprouts program, it provides instruments and lessons to several hundred youth in the community at no cost to the student.

The former synagogue offered the perfect size for the OCM, but required a redesigned interior and specialized upgrades to the acoustical systems to accommodate the teaching studios and performance and recital venues, both large, and smaller, with more intimate seating.

As David Lempke, design principal, points out, "The bones of the existing building were good, and with adding a new roof and windows (configured the same as the original windows), the exterior shell of the building remained essentially the same. With the new use as a music conservatory, it meant that the interior of the building needed to include requirements for acoustic performance. In collaboration with Threshold Acoustics, state-of-the-art systems, including sound isolating partitions, proper room acoustics, and a new mechanical system were designed and installed." 

Explaining the design for the interior, David adds, "From the start, we understood OCM to be of a very high caliber. This helped to inform the way we redesigned the interior spaces. We were able to repurpose the existing classrooms by subdividing them into teaching studios, and converted the conference center into a contemporary café and lounge, while the chapel morphed into a recital hall. We transformed the sanctuary and social hall into a signature performance space—a 500-seat venue, with fixed seating for 200, and built in flexibility by adding retractable seating that can accommodate an additional 300 people. The resulting aesthetic is responsive to the goal of excellent acoustics, as well as providing a memorable, signature space unique to the Conservatory."

As one more in a series of community projects designed by HDR (Do Space digital library and UNO's Baxter Arena are both located within close proximity), the Omaha Conservatory of Music was completed in an accelerated four-month timeframe. With anticipated growth, the Conservatory site includes room to expand as needed. 

About Omaha Conservatory of Music
The Omaha Conservatory of Music is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) school that builds musical community through education and performance to enrich lives.