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Petition filed by musicians

Justin Tardiff | Thursday, October 13, 2005

The thought of doing homework between a trumpet player and pianist would be enough to make any student cringe, yet that is the reality for music students who need to complete instrumental and vocal assignments, according to a letter written to the administration by two music minors.

Nearly 200 signatures have been collected in support for the letter from sophomore Reid Merryman and junior Ailis Tweed-Kent, which appeals to the University administration to address the lack of practice facilities for music majors, vocal students and band and orchestra members.

With the completion of the Debartolo Center for the Performing Arts (DPAC) and the University’s declaration that Notre Dame is in a “decade of the arts,” the letter urges the administration to implement that commitment on a daily scale.

Between 60 music majors, 30 music minors and approximately 1,200 students involved in music lessons and ensembles, current practice facilities are not adequate, the letter stated, and the completion of the DPAC did not alleviate the problem because it lacks practice rooms.

“We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to perform and attend concerts in the [DPAC]; however, music students use these performing venues at most once a week,” the letter said. “Daily individual practice is the lifeblood of ensemble success, and although the opportunities that DPAC provides are phenomenal, the University still lacks a facility that can meet student’s musical needs on a daily basis.”

Crowley Hall, the University’s music building, currently has 13 practice rooms. Any student may use seven of the rooms, while six are locked for piano majors only.

Smaller than an average single dormitory room, the rooms are adjacent and not soundproof, making the precise listening required for musical training difficult.

Furthermore, the building lacks climate control, which has required several yearly piano tunings, costing thousands of dollars, and damaged stored instruments.

Four years ago, the music department worked with the College of Arts and Letters to obtain modular soundproof rooms. They placed eight in the band building and five in dorms.

But a limited budget and the old age of many of the dorms created problems with space, utility connections and fire code problems, which restricted the extent of their effort, band director Kenneth Dye said.

The letter acknowledges that a new music building would solve the problem but calls for more immediate improvements – more modular practice rooms in residence halls, open rooms in non-music buildings and the renovation of current practice rooms.

“As Notre Dame continues to attract more intelligent and talented students, the need for adequate music practice facilities is imperative,” the letter states. “We personally know several students who stopped considering Notre Dame after touring Crowley Hall.”

While the effort is entirely student-initiated, the music faculty supports the effort.

“It’s like lab for science or a library for literature majors,” Dye said. “Music students need practice rooms because that’s where they do their homework.

“To go from some of the dorms to DeBartolo or the band building on a January night is a bit much,” Dye said.

He also encouraged more practice rooms in dorms.

“The music buildings are in three or more areas of campus that are quite a ways apart. It’s pretty easy to get around on a bike, but not if you play the cello.

Music professors now offer their studios to students, especially to duets and quartets who cannot fit in either the Crowley rooms or the soundproof boxes, said Karen Buranskas, director of Undergraduate Learning in the music department and cello professor.

Those who have been at Notre Dame for years lament the lack of progress of Crowley Hall but hope for near-future improvements.

“I have visited high schools in the Chicago suburbs that have better facilities than we have for students here,” Buranskas said. “After the demise of the graduate program, they said, ‘We want to concentrate on our undergraduate students.’ Let’s do it then.”

Tweed-Kent and Merryman hope to get at least 700 signatures before they present their letter to University President Father John Jenkins. The letter and petition sheets are located in Crowley Hall.