Music program gets new room
by Catherine Szabo
Students in the music diploma program at Mount Royal University take their craft seriously, often going long hours without venturing far from their practice area.
And until recently, those practice areas didn’t offer much natural light, leaving students completely oblivious to the goings-on of the outside world.
The completion of room U-111, however, gives students plenty of access to natural light – not to mention a bigger practice space that’s less cluttered than M-200, the old room, and offers cupboards for organization.
“M-200 just had an area to put things in, [it] didn’t have shelves or anything, so you had to fish your way through the back to get anything,” said Matt Foster, a second-year guitar student. “[The new space is] better laid out, as far as looking for smaller instruments.”
The roughly $300,000 addition to the hallway leading to the recreation centre replaced what was formerly a circular depression in the floor, with steps creating an area for students to sit, chat and study.
Now, a curvy-walled room occupies that space. The design wasn’t an aesthetic decision though. No two walls in the room join at a right angle or face another right angle – a feature found no less than four times in a normal square room – and allows for less reverberation.
“Primarily, [U-111 is] going to replace the space that jazz was using, [in M-200],” said Reid Spencer, an associate professor and the co-ordinator of credit music at MRU. “I looked at it when it was being constructed and [thought], ‘Oh. Chamber orchestra. Five years from now, but — chamber orchestra.’”
The amount of hard surfaces in the room surprised them when they first went in, Spencer said, but having ceilings high enough for sound reflection is beneficial. Certain components of the room, such as curtains to help with the acoustics and a soundproof door are still to be installed.
Both Spencer and Foster said they can’t wait to be rid of the fans in the room working to clear out any lingering construction fumes. Spencer compared the noise to being “in a wind tunnel.”
“I mean, you can’t hear [the fans] when all those horns are blowing,” Spencer said. “But if you try to run a class in there, it’s a significant noise factor.”
The room was supposed to be ready in September of last year, Spencer said, but students were given access to the Nickle Theatre instead. The completion date was then pushed back to Christmas, and finally, the doors of the new room opened to students upon their return from reading week.
“In terms of theatre giving up a teaching space and making accommodations around that so that we could do the things we did this year – [there was] fabulous support,” Spencer said. The expansion plans for the conservatory, which encompasses all the credit-free music classes, won’t really affect the spaces that the music diploma programs have access to, Spencer said.
“We need space, they need space – there’s only so much space on campus,” he said.
“The new facility will be dedicated solely to the conservatory’s community programming,” said Paul Dornian, director of the Mount Royal Conservatory.
The Leacock Theatre also underwent a quiet renovation during the summer, and now boasts refurbished seats, an extension to the stage, a new stage floor, and new technical consoles.