Make Music: St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

From the Gateway Arch to the Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park, St. Louis is a city with a rich architectural history, and Powell Hall has been a gem in its crown for almost 100 years. Originally built as a vaudeville and movie theater in 1925, the building became the home of the St. Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) in 1968. Ever since, as one of the nation’s most acoustically renowned concert halls, it has been the setting for countless world-class performances by the orchestra, allowing the community to experience the joy and power of music. Last year, the SLSO launched a expansion and renovation campaign for Powell Hall to ensure that legacy can continue.

“Powell Hall is not only a truly beautiful building, but it’s also acoustically unique,” SLSO president and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard says. “Very few symphonies own their concert halls, so the fact that we do makes it a wonderful asset for the community.” While Powell Hall is a vibrant part of St. Louis, its age has presented problems for the SLSO and its patrons. “There is a lack of accessibility that needs to be addressed to be able to reach more audiences of all ages,” Bernard notes. “The restoration project will ensure the hall is ADA-compliant while also adding more space for events. We want to create a music center where the community can gather.”

The initiative also will add a much-needed 65,000-square foot expansion to Powell Hall. The building previously had a limited backstage and dressing rooms, and it also lacked spaces for music education and practice. “Along with the symphony, we have a youth orchestra and two choruses that need space to rehearse and gather on a weekly basis,” Bernard says. “We want to support our artists as they serve the community. Education also is a core component of our programs, so we need spaces for teachers to be able to train the future generation of musicians.”

The restoration began in 2023, and the revitalized Powell Hall is planned to open to the public in 2025, just in time for its 100th anniversary. While construction has been underway, the SLSO has been performing at different locations throughout St. Louis, including Touhill Performing Arts Center at UMSL and Stifel Theatre. “It’s been quite the adventure,” Bernard notes. “It’s been a challenge operationally to pack and move our equipment, but it’s also been so rewarding to reach new audiences. We’re looking forward to being able to welcome everyone back to Powell Hall next September.”

The SLSO would be unable to undertake projects like the renovation of Powell Hall without the assistance of the community. The Music for All campaign invites the public to contribute to the initiative and champion for the concert hall to remain a civic asset for generations to come. “Community support is tremendously important—most of our funding comes from individuals and foundations,” Bernard says. “Powell Hall has a long history. Since its beginnings, it has engaged St. Louis through the arts. While this project updates the building, it will retain its unique character and everything we love about it.”

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is currently undertaking a major renovation and expansion of Powell Hall. The initiative will preserve and enhance the 99-year-old building while increasing the community’s access to world-class music. Pictured on the cover: A rendering of Powell Hall by the project’s lead architect firm Snøhetta. For more information, visit

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover Image courtesy of St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Pictured at top: Steve Finerty, Marie-Hélène Bernard, Stéphane Denève
Photo courtesy of St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

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