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Bienen’s new building will replace the Music Administration Building

By Safiya Merchant

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Students living in the sorority quad may not wake up to sounds of trumpets blaring from the Music Administration Building much longer.

Construction of a new building for Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music will begin this spring, which promises to bring lakefront views and foster community.

And design for this new addition to NU will now include a fifth floor, which will house part of the School of Communication.

According to a December news release on the School of Communication’s website, the fifth floor will consist of offices for faculty from the theatre and performance studies departments. Because of the extra space left by the old faculty offices, black-box theaters, rehearsal spaces and a student lounge space will be constructed in the Theatre and Interpretation Center.

Once the building is completed, the department of radio, television and film can take advantage of the vacated space in Annie May Swift Hall.

Amy Kahn, the director of development for the School of Communication, said she believes the project will benefit NU students, especially in their extracurricular activities.

“It will enable us to enhance our facilities and the programming we can offer our students,” Kahn said. “We’re going to have some gorgeous new facilities, and that will enhance whatever goes on inside them.”

Communication junior Jeremy Fassler said he thinks the additions to the Theatre and Interpretation Center are a great idea.

“It means we wouldn’t have to rehearse in crappy Kresge rooms,” Fassler said. “Having real rehearsal space would be a great change.”

Currently, Bienen’s major buildings are the MAB and the Regenstein Hall of Music. Because these two buildings are located on separate sides of campus, it creates a deep gap in the music community, said Bienen Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery.

“It’s almost like having two separate schools,” she said. “(It would be) uniting the school for the first time in decades.”

Besides creating a gap in community, the conditions of the MAB are not up to par, Montgomery said. Since the building was originally a women’s college, it was not intended for music students. The practice rooms used to be dormitories, transmitting sound easily through the walls and floors. The building also lacks an elevator.

“The benefit will be (that) the school, which has excellent faculty and students, will finally have the facilities that will match the excellence of them,” Montgomery said.

Although Bienen senior Kathryn Crabb said she sees problems with the MAB, such as how the lack of an elevator does not allow the building to be handicap-accessible, she does enjoy practicing in the building.

“I love the character it has and the history that is in it,” Crabb said. “We practice music that is historical; it’s appropriate to play in an old building. The practice rooms are a lot bigger (than in other schools), which I like because I can hear myself better.”

One of the main features of the new music building will be a recital hall in which the back of the stage will be a glass wall. It will look out on Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. Since Chicago has multiple arts organizations, Montgomery said she thinks the skyline is symbolic.

She said it represents the “aspirational goal” Bienen students want to reach: achieving success in the arts.

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