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GVSU dedicates new black box theater in honor of renowned vocalist

  • The Keller family, along with members of the Grand Valley community, cutting the dedication ribbon for the Keller Theatre
  • President Thomas J. Haas welcomes Fred Keller, Linn's husband, to the podium.
  • Fred Keller speaking about Linn's desire to inspire young, aspiring musicians, especially vocalists.
  • GVSU student musicians performing
  • GVSU student musicians performing in the Keller Theatre
  • GVSU Opera Theatre students rehearsing "Saga of Jenny."

Posted on October 17, 2017

Grand Valley State University’s new Linn Maxwell Keller Black Box Theatre is providing students and faculty who are studying and teaching the performing arts with opportunities to tackle new types of productions.

The Grand Valley community celebrated the formal dedication of the Keller Theatre, located in the Thomas J. and Marcia J. Haas Center for Performing Arts, on October 17.

To honor Linn’s memory, the Keller family established the Linn Maxwell Keller Professional Vocalist Experience Endowment at Grand Valley in 2017. The fund provides enrichment opportunities for committed vocal performance students and will aim to encourage them in their professional career development. The Keller Theatre was named in appreciation for their generosity.

"The Linn Maxwell Keller Endowment will facilitate and empower our vocal students to move beyond their academic studies and ascend to distinguished achievement by providing needed resources to build artistic capability through advanced study, professional production and community outreach," said Danny Phipps, chair of the Music, Theatre, and Dance Department. "These experiences are critical to their success as they launch their professional careers as the next generation of performing artists."

Fred Keller, Linn's husband, said that the endowment supports her long-held desire to inspire young, aspiring musicians, especially vocalists.

"Linn was an incredible artist, and I'm so proud that we can have this space in her memory, and an endowment that is going to be inspiring students in the future," he said. "You'll never remember what somebody did or said, but you'll remember how they made you feel, and that's what Linn brought to the stage."

Linn Maxwell Keller was a dedicated professional singer who performed in 28 countries throughout her career. The only child of two musicians, Linn was a mezzo soprano, performing on many operatic and concert stages, from the Essen Opera House in Germany to Puerto Rico and Carnegie Hall. 

She went on to write and develop numerous original shows, including the critically acclaimed "Hildegard of Bingen and the Living Light," and "St. Hildegard, Trumpet of God," both of which were made into movies.

The dedication ceremony included an inaugural cabaret in the theater, including six vocal performances by multiple Grand Valley students and alumni from the Music, Theatre, and Dance Department.

A black box theater is an indoor performance space with plain black walls and a level floor, typically designed to provide flexibility in stage configuration and audience seating. Black box theaters gained popularity in the 1960s and the unique performance space creates a closer proximity between the audience and performers.

President Thomas J. Haas said the endowment and Keller Theatre align with Grand Valley's mission of encouraging students to reach their full potential.

"No matter what we do in the Linn Maxwell Black Box Theatre, we are going to be driven by sustained attention to excellence and quality," said Haas.