TFA Renovations, Recital Hall Aid Music Department

The academic year began on a high note for the NMU music department, with the major renovation of Thomas Fine Arts. The department is celebrating the use of its "new" facility and looking forward to its first performance in the recently completed Reynolds Recital Hall on Jan. 28.

“With the changes that have been made to TFA, Northern now has facilities to rival nearly any university music department in the state, and maybe in the Midwest,” said Don Grant (Music). “This will greatly enhance our ability to recruit the top-notch music students to NMU. In the past, our successful recruiting has been linked to students’ interest in studying under a faculty member, but now we have both outstanding faculty and facilities. That’s a powerful combination.”

Highlights of the renovation include 28 newly designed practice rooms. Sixteen are Wenger studios, named for the company that set the standard for music industry facilities. In fact, NMU's percussion ensemble room is the largest Wenger studio ever built. Two of the Wenger rooms are "V-ready," which means they have programmed capabilities to perfectly duplicate the acoustics of other venues. For instance, a student can simulate the Berry Events Center or St. Peter’s Cathedral and can practice with the exact acoustical setting they will experience when they perform in those facilities. According to Grant, NMU is the only state university in Michigan with V-ready rooms.

“A lot of thought and discussion went into the redesign of this building,” said Grant.

Grant points out that great effort was taken to integrate the university’s laptop program into all aspects of the redesign. The new music technology laboratory features 24 keyboard stations – each with an accompanying area for a student’s notebook computer. The former lab had 12 stations. There are also music technology trees designed by Brandon Sager (Engineering and Planning) in the practice rooms. Each holds a notebook computer and speakers and is detached from the wall, so as not to compromise the integrity of the acoustical panels on the wall. The panels are also installed in the practice rooms and classrooms along "vocal alley."

Other enhancements include a new music education classroom designed to simulate a public school setting for future teachers, and an improved storage area with floor-to-ceiling compartments of various sizes with humidity control to protect the instruments.

Reynolds Recital Hall in C.B. Hedgcock, with a seating capacity of 300, will be used for the first time Friday, Jan. 28, for a performance by Nancy Redfern (Music) on piano and Barbara Rhyneer (Music) on violin.

"This is a premier facility for our student and faculty recitals and the crowning jewel to this project," said Grant. "It is constructed of wood veneer because the cellular structure of wood acts sympathetically to sound. I had an opportunity to rehearse in here last week and it was like heaven. If you can ever imagine nirvana setting into your discipline, this was it for me."

Assets of the venue include curtains over the side wall panels that can be opened or closed to expand or dampen the sound; six different computerized lighting presets to accentuate various moods, from intimate chamber music to full-fledged orchestra; a humidity-controlled "safe room" for the two concert grand pianos; and high-backed seats of slightly varying widths with plenty of leg room for walking between the rows.

"We sacrificed on the number of seats in order to gain on comfort," he added.

A formal dedication of Reynolds Recital Hall is planned for April 19.



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Updated: October 26, 2005

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