Sound Investments Project


Since 2004, PCMS has presented over 250 concerts at the American Philosophical Society (APS). Their historic Benjamin Franklin Hall has been visited by international recitalists and ensembles on our series, some of whom the APS counts among its eminent membership. This partnership with the APS was amplified during the pandemic, when they allowed us to continue presenting and livestreaming concerts there, helping to fulfill our mission of engaging our community in a life more beautiful when most other venues were shuttered. With major support provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, additional support from the Presser Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, and individual donors Susan Giesecke Bloom, A. Charles Winkelman, and Dot and Rick Nelson, a feasibility study was conducted to explore a variety of facility improvements that would provide more equitable experiences for artists and audiences and build long-term capacity. The study resulted in decisions to upgrade three key areas of the hall—improvements that were completed in summer 2022.

An expanded and reinforced stage (14 feet deep by 22 feet wide) allows greater flexibility in programming chamber ensembles and gives greater freedom of placement for the piano, improving the acoustical experience. Soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon remarked after her appearances this season that “it is so much more comfortable to perform in this space now, especially with larger ensembles and piano. I definitely think the acoustics are also better with a more solid reflective surface underneath you.” Another artist also noted that the expanded stage gives them “the platform to physically feel at peace, spatially, with each other and with ourselves. The audience is within reach, yet, we can escape to the space we need to get lost in the act of performing.”










Enlargement of the technical booth affords the full audio/video team space for livestreaming of all our concerts at the APS and newer technology for positioning audio equipment. These upgrades have increased the efficiency of productions by bringing all three engineers to the same space. The impact of these improvements have been noticed by those tuning in for concerts. Dot and Rick Nelson “revel in the intimate views of the artists – fingers on keyboard, bow across cello, eye contact among a quartet – afforded by the great camera work. That audio and video ‘magically’ improved from one season to the next.”

The American Philosophical Society staff has also benefited from the upgrades for their own programming and events. APS Assistant Facilities Supervisor Jeremy Schoenrock expressed how “the larger space has allowed us to move the equipment rack out of the way and add a permanent recording/streaming table that frees up work space.”

Finally, a new green room above the hall, with two dressing rooms, provides artists with private space for pre-concert activities. Prior to this, artists had only the backstage area, which doubles as a loading dock and storage room, to change and warm up. The new space now features a practice piano and area for eating and relaxing. After her appearance with PCMS in February, pianist Amy Yang exclaimed, “I love the new dressing room! The amenities are wonderful, and I especially appreciated the keyboard for warming up.”

Providing these accommodations for artists makes their experience more equitable relative to those at other halls, raising the quality and care that PCMS offers to everyone on the series, regardless of the venue at which they perform.

In addition to the facility improvements, the Sound Investments Project builds the Society’s capacity for bringing new artists to Benjamin Franklin Hall and reaching new audiences through the livestreams. PCMS also secured a ten-year contract rental agreement with the American Philosophical Society, ensuring an ongoing relationship with this long-standing partner. The feasibility study also explored ways to increase accessibility at the entrance to the hall. While the current options exceeded the scope of this project, Robert Hauser, the Executive Officer of the APS, said they are pursuing solutions that will “give everyone convenient and efficient access to Benjamin Franklin Hall.”

Major support for the Sound Investments Project has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the Presser Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, and individual donors Susan Giesecke Bloom, A. Charles Winkelman, and Dot and Rick Nelson.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage or The Pew Charitable Trusts.