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Music faculty, students favor downtown

BY DANNY VALENTINE | OCTOBER 14, 2009 7:30 AM

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Some UI music professors are frustrated.

In the months-long and oft-controversial discussion about where to locate future performing-arts facilities, the only talk faculty members seem to hear is about Hancher Auditorium, the faculty members said. Rarely do they hear about Voxman Music Building and Clapp Recital Hall. And it’s weighing them down like a flooded tuba.

Faculty members overwhelmingly support moving the School of Music downtown, said Kristin Thelander, the director of planning for the School of Music, who said professors took student opinions into account. She said the feeling is virtually unanimous.

Many others, however, are keen on keeping Hancher near its current location.

Up until Monday there were only two options on the table for relocating the buildings — keeping them near the original footprint or moving them downtown. A newly introduced third option would separate Hancher from the other music center.

The most recent proposal, introduced at the final public forum on the buildings’ relocation, would relocate Voxman and Clapp downtown while keeping Hancher on the West Side in a new location closer to the Levitt Center.

“I’m not interested in being involved in a dispute about where Hancher is located,” Thelander said.

However, she said, she would prefer that it be downtown because she thinks students would be more likely to attend performances.

“I think that that would clearly be better for students,” she said.

Several UI music students opposed the recently announced plan.

Both should be downtown, they said, and it would create an unnecessary burden on those hoping to work at Hancher, weaken the overall sense of community, and reduce student involvement at concerts.

“Personally, I feel that the music campus should be kept together as much as possible,” said UI junior Olivia Rose Muzzy, who plays the bass. “We have to build it right with the students in mind.”

UI senior and percussionist Scott Jennerjohn said dividing the buildings would be detrimental to students.

“Music is a very collaborative process,” he said. “You learn as much through watching as through playing.”

He said it seemed counterintuitive to separate the buildings.

Both Muzzy and Jennerjohn said placing the music campus downtown would be good from a practical standpoint — easier to transport heavy equipment — and integrate the group more closely with the rest of the university.

Rod Lehnertz, UI Facilities Management’s director of planning, design and construction, said he expects the decision will come from one of the three choices. But there is a possibility for more options, he said.

The UI presented the third solution after finding that most plans — placed on either the East or West Sides — would require two structures, Lehnertz said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency would also reimburse 90 percent of eligible costs for the location.

Each of the three plans comes with different price tags for parking, utility costs, site development, program displacement, and land acquisition. Parking costs, for example, vary between $7 million and $19.2 million to keep the facilities on the West Side of the river. However, moving the buildings to the East Side would result in no added parking costs, while splitting the buildings would cost $6.4 million in parking costs.

“There are pros and cons — opportunities and challenges— related to all three,” he said, noting that none of the choices had any “fatal flaws.”


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