Texas A&M University-Kingsville has begun preparing for the construction of a new, state-of-the-art music building, slated to be built on what is currently the Manning parking lot. The new building was announced back in 2015, when the state legislature promised $60 million in Tuition Bonds; $40 million is to be used explicitly on the new superstructure.
Dr. Paul Hageman, Chair of the Music Department and Professor of Jazz Studies, recently attended a 9-hour meeting with contractors and the construction team to discuss the final details of the development plan.
The building is going to be about 90,000 square-feet, for comparison the current music building stands at around 27,000 square-feet. Last year, foundation tests were completed on the parking lot to see if a building this size could indeed be built on the land. The tests revealed that the area was perfectly fine to begin construction.
The framework for the building was not the only thing discussed. Dr. Hageman provided details of what the inside will consist of, “Let me kind of give you a breakdown. We will have a new performance hall that is going to seat around 500. We will have a new lecture/recital hall that is going to seat about a hundred… And then we are going to have four rehearsal halls, one for the concert band, one for the orchestra and mariachi, one for the choir and opera, and one for the jazz program. Then we are going to have 32 faculty studios… and there are approximately 50 new practice rooms.”
The current music building stands as one of the oldest buildings on campus, erected in 1959 and was designed with a carrying capacity of only 100 students. TAMUK’s music program has grown to serve nearly 250 students and an additional 30 faculty members, causing not just a lack of space but a plethora of other, supplementary problems.
Professors have to share many classrooms together, losing class time constantly bringing in and removing equipment. With only 17 small, practice rooms available, students are always looking for an empty room to train. One obvious problem is the lack of insulated, sound-proofed walls. The Bellamah building was constructed with concrete cinder blocks; sound vibrates right through them.
Dr. Hageman even commented on the electrical problems with the building, “Our air conditioning system doesn’t even completely cover the whole building, so a few years ago I bought four room air conditioners that are in these four classrooms. The problem is that these two classrooms here on the first floor are on the same circuit. So, if you turn both air conditioners on at the same time, the circuit breaker blows.”
Students need not worry long, the new building is set to be made complete with 21st century technology. Practice rooms are set to have recording devices as well as speakers you can set up and play music out of; for instance, a student can play solo piano with a recorded accompaniment. Due to the fact that all music majors learn piano, a new electronic keyboard lab is being included in the building plans. The lab will allow the professor to “tune-in” to any keyboard instantly and adjust that student accordingly.
A recording studio will be included in the new building, with major improvements compared to the current generation. The studio will have two, separate isolation booths and a control booth for editing. At first, the recording studios will be used to record the individual groups within the music programs. Down the road, the studio will be free to students and possibly developing a sound recording program, perfect for the “behind-the-scene” student. Also, the building will be completely sound proofed, equipped with extra thick, non-concrete, walls to absorb the sound.
The current Bellamah building will have some construction of its own. Walls will be taken down and rooms renovated to convert the music building into strictly classrooms and perhaps faculty office space. The performance hall will be converted into a lecture hall, Dr. Hageman implied it could possibly become two.
The architectural firm in charge of the design is BRW Architects, a Dallas based company that have designed music buildings in the past. An important factor as the building needs to be built with acoustical properties, including those thick walls. The architect team will work in correspondence with the construction team, Spaw Glass, to keep the building within budget.
These teams will break ground at the end of the semester, sometime in May or June. It is estimated that the construction time will be two years, hopefully the building can debut come 2019.
Dr. Hageman hopes that they can expand the current programs while creating new ones. He hopes to allow for more recitals and chances for non-music majors to get involved as well. “I think it’s going to really help the quality of all our programs,” Dr. Hageman said, “because having good facilities allows us to be more efficient, more effective in our teaching. And our students will be able to learn easier and quicker… Honestly we are getting into the twenty-first century finally.”
The building itself seems a major victory for the university and all our music majors. The only problem is that it does raise the question, with construction by the end of the semester, and the building going on top of a major parking lot, what is to be done with parking?