The Dayton Masonic Center is proving to be Dayton’s new go-to spot for live music.
Schiewetz Auditorium, a 1,698-seat venue within the center, has hosted live concerts in recent years but now organizers are turning up the heat.
“We are ramping up hard,” Brian Johnson, Dayton Masonic Live’s production and promotions manager, said. “This year we are going to throw 30 to 40 shows and my three-year goal is to throw 100 shows a year.”
Originally called the Dayton Masonic Temple, the historic eight-story structure built in Grecian architecture style, opened in 1928.
Major renovations to the auditorium in the last few years – new seating and carpeting, air conditioning, the addition of an elevator and stage lighting and audio upgrades – are just part of the draw.
The combination of soaring limestone walls, an Art Deco chandelier and lamps and hand-painted murals in the auditorium create a grand experience.
“For people who have never been in this space before the first time here they experience this sense of awe,” Johnson said. “It shows you a grandness that isn’t done these days. It’s a trip back in time.”
Musicians have also felt the reverence of the concert space.
The auditorium was designed for ambient amplification - voices carry from the stage to the outermost seats.
During recent concerts performers have impulsively hushed the audience and stepped away from the microphone to perform acoustically.
“It becomes a magical, intimate experience,” Johnson said. “In most spaces you couldn’t do that.”
The space, larger than Dayton’s Victoria Theatre but smaller than the Schuster Center, will focus heavily on national, contemporary, live music artists, Johnson said.
He also plans to showcase local musicians as opening acts for the national tours whenever possible.
Organizers want the Masonic Center “to be the fun venue to go to,” Johnson said. They are keeping concession prices low, free parking is available and a system to keep ticket fees low is in the works. “We don’t want people to have a nickel and dimed experience.”
Beer, wine and cocktails are available for purchase at the venue and the Pizza Bandit food truck has an auxiliary location set up inside.
Concert-goers are also enjoying the live music experience.
An Aaron Lewis concert in February drew Maggie Ossege of Dayton to the Masonic Center for the first time. Despite the nearly 1,700 seats surrounding her, she said the auditorium felt intimate.
“You feel like you are in an old timey place in a good way,” Ossege said. “It just feels so comfortable in there. It’s a place where you feel like you’re welcome.”
Upcoming concerts include Three Dog Night on Saturday, March 7, Hotel California – The Original Tribute to The Eagles on Friday, March 27 and The Miami Valley Legends of Bluegrass, Bobby Osborne & Larry Sparks on Saturday, April 18.
“We want people to say, ‘it’s at the Masonic so I’m definitely going because I love that venue,’” Johnson said. “It’s about bringing the community together.”
How to go?
The Dayton Masonic Center is located at 525 W. Riverview Ave. in Dayton.