Music Series: UI bands

BY MARISA WAY | JANUARY 27, 2010 7:30 AM

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Events in recent years on the local, state, and even national level have hardly been music to the UI band department’s ears.

First, the flood in the summer of 2008 irreparably damaged Voxman Music Building and Clapp Recital Hall. Then, budget cuts that hit the entire university in the fall of 2009 caused changes in the Hawkeye Marching Band. Now, the future location of the new music facilities is in limbo.

On Feb. 4, the state Board of Regents will either decide to build the new music facilities near the new location of Hancher or to relocate it to the downtown Iowa City area. Kevin Kastens, the associate director of bands, director of the Hawkeye Marching Band, and conductor of Concert Bands, said the biggest issue is not where the building should be built but when.

“I don’t have a strong opinion at the moment,” he said. “I’ve been on this side of campus since I’ve started teaching here, but my colleagues who work on the East Side really enjoy being downtown. What is most important is to just get the music building built.”

Richard Heidel, the director of bands, believes the best spot for the new music facilities would be downtown.

“It puts the students closer to a part of campus where they spend a lot of time,” he said. “There’s an increased sense of community among the staff and students being on a more centralized part of campus.”

Heidel believes that the university has done a good job providing temporary rehearsal and storage space in the Music West Interim Building, given the circumstances. He also gives credit to the students for their patience and flexibility in this time of transition.

There are three concert bands at the UI; the Symphony Band is most selective. The University Band does not require an audition; it is mostly composed of non-music majors. However, Heidel stressed that none of the bands are restricted to just music majors.

“All bands are open to any student, regardless of major,” he said.

Kastens says non-majors are an essential part of the Hawkeye Marching Band as well.

“The number of engineering majors is almost the same as the number of music majors,” he said. “Almost every major is represented.

Heidel said the band department was not greatly affected by the budget cuts this fall, but only because the department does not have a lot of extra funding to cut. The greatest adjustments that were made affected the Marching Band. Because of the budget cuts, officials changed the group’s away-game schedule.

“This year, we traveled to Iowa State,” Kastens said. “Normally, we travel to another Big Ten school, but with budget cuts, we stayed in-state.”

Despite the challenges, Heidel and Kastens agree that the support network present in the band department has not wavered.

“The students support one another, and the faculty support each other,” Heidel said. “There’s a healthy sense of community.”

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