New music facilities sound good
by Bryan Weismiller
After spending more than a decade securing finances for the $70-million project, Mount Royal University has started looking for a construction company to build a new conservatory to house its well-known music, speech arts and theatre programs.
“The Conservatory has always been a huge part of Mount Royal, it’s one of our signature programs,” said Robin Fisher, Mount Royal provost and vice-president academic. “It’s the one entity within Mount Royal that’s been here constantly for 100 years.”
Construction on the building is expected to begin this spring. The facility will be built in the north end of short-term parking lot 8 and it will connect to the Roderick Mah Centre for Continuous Learning.
The new facility will benefit the 5,000 students currently enrolled in Conservatory programs by providing an additional 79 teaching studios, as well as six ensemble rooms and recording studios.
Sheldon Nadler, general and orchestral programs manager for the Conservatory, said that his biggest challenge over the past 15 years has been trying to grow the conservatory program within a limited space. As a result, the program has been forced to start up satellite operations throughout the city.
“This will alleviate that kind of pressure and allow for creative growth,” Nadler said. “We’ll have new programs and new ideas that we simply couldn’t implement, because we didn’t have the space.
“I look forward to implementing those new ideas and programs and seeing the Conservatory grow.” Nadler cited the need for larger rooms with better lighting and acoustical treatments. He’s looking to start a variety of new programs that range from adult jazz bands to programs for home-school children.
Kumiko Sakamoto, a second-year music performance student, attended meetings with architects and shared her ideas for designing a better facility. “Having students at the meetings was a great idea,” Sakamoto said in an email. “As students, we know what needs to be improved, what works and what needs to change in the new building.”
Sakamoto described the current Conservatory as “extremely limited,” and like Nadler, she said the new facility needs bigger rooms with improved lighting and acoustical treatments.
Mount Royal’s current Conservatory is located on the campus’ third floor. The Conservatory program currently caters to everyone from recreational to professional musicians and it is credit-free and separate from the music performance and theatre arts diploma programs.
Sakamoto said she’s disappointed that she will no longer be a student when the new facility is opened. However, she looks forward to coming back and performing in the future. “It is a very exciting change and I can’t wait to see the new building,” she said.
All three levels of government provided funding for the conservatory project. Calgarian Don Taylor also announced that he would donate $20-million on behalf of the Taylor family. Taylor’s contribution is the largest private donation that Mount Royal has ever received.
The new conservatory will include a 750-seat concert hall, which will be named The Bella Concert Hall after Don Taylor’s mother, Mary Belle Taylor. There will also be a choir loft that could provide an additional 50 seats if necessary. According to Nadler, it will fill Calgary’s pressing need for a medium-sized concert hall.
Mount Royal students will take priority in the new facility, but Nadler said that there will be many open days for public bookings. In fact, Nadler said he believes the facility could have 250-300 days worth of bookings the minute that it is opened.
“It’s really important that we be seen as a community resource,” Nadler said. “Where the building is and how it’s going to look is important, because it’s going to be one of the public faces of Mount Royal University.
“It may be the first thing that people see when they drive in.” Fisher added that it will be a “real cultural hub for the campus’ east side” once the proposed new library is completed.
The new conservatory is projected to be complete by the fall of 2013.