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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

$35.6 million Weitz expansion will house music department, performance spaces

<ir="ltr">On May 11th, a groundbreaking ceremony led by President Steven Poskanzer will mark the start of construction on the Music and Performance Commons addition to the Weitz Center for Creativity. The $35.6 million addition will be the new home of the music department in fall 2017.

The main lobby of the Weitz will also serve as the main lobby for the Music and Performance Commons. The Commons will be on the southeast side of the Weitz, adjacent to the city playground. Music faculty hope that sharing the Weitz space with theater, CAMs and dance will allow for greater collaboration among the departments. Around 700 students each year register for courses or lessons  in music, resulting in increased Weitz traffic flow.

“I think everybody’s happy with it,” said assistant professor of music Andy Flory. “We really wanted to integrate music into the other creative aspects going on at the Weitz, it seems like there’s an energy there.”

The new concert hall in the Music Commons will be Carleton’s second largest performance space, next to the chapel. If acoustics are important to an event, the new concert hall will be the College’s main venue. The concert hall will have improved features such as increased accessibility and a built-in sound system that the current concert hall lacks.

“The lighting and the sound is going to be wonderful,” said Flory. “Major, huge loud rock bands will be able to play and to use our sound.” The Commons will be “acoustically proper,” meaning sound will not travel from practice rooms into other areas. Practice rooms and teaching studios will surround the three-story concert hall. A secondary performance space will be on the first floor for comps presentations and recitals.

Although several building sites were considered, the Weitz area was chosen because it was large enough to hold the entire department. Many students currently involved in music do not go into the main music hall because the buildings are split. “It’s always been the dream of a lot of us in the department to be under one roof,” said professor of music Ron Rodman. “We’re all separated. We really stuck to our guns, saying we need to be under one roof.”

Construction of the addition will happen in stages with the heaviest demolition over academic breaks. Some neighbors have shared concerns over the noise of construction and size of the building. The southeast location means the noise from construction will be most noticeable for the CAMs department on the south side of the Weitz.

“Construction is noisy,” said Steve Spehn, director of facilities and capital planning. “We’ve been trying to pay attention to what the classes are on the south side. People will see and hear it.” Once completed, the commons will be around 50 thousand square feet. It will have air conditioning and humidity control, which the music hall lacks.

The Music and Performance Commons is a part of Poskanzer’s 2014 Strategic Facilities Plan. Although upgrades to the music facilities have been discussed for two decades, a gift from the Weitz family provided necessary funding. The Weitz family also provided large donations for the Weitz Center for Creativity constructed in 2011. The updates were seen as necessary because the current concert halls leaks and has poor accessibility.

“We resurrected talks when President Poskanzer came on board, and decided that there would be fundraising, in part, for a new music facility,” said Music Professor Rodman. “It was driven by the very bad concert hall situation.” When the current concert hall was built in 1972, it already had structural damage. An issue with the seal in the wall allowed flooding in the basement area connecting the concern hall and arena theater. Nice instruments were not kept in the basement. When it rained, people used buckets to clear out the water.

“I think the college was spending an ungodly amount of money each year to maintain it, and it felt like wasting the money,” said Rodman. The only way to fix these issues was to take out the interior walls and insert a vapor barrier, which was estimated to cost millions of dollars. According to, there was a point when vice president Fred Rodgers decided that no more money would be spent on the current concert hall.

As a result, the music faculty began to work with a design firm on needs for the new building. During the planning process, faculty examined usage and ways to combine schedules. According to Flory, the faculty was concerned the space next to the Weitz would be too small. The large concert hall requires the classrooms and teaching rooms to strategically wrap around the hall. Yet, faculty are confident that the space will work.

“It seems very reasonable in terms of space. You never really know until you get in,” said Professor Flory. Due to the proximity of all the practice and teaching rooms, there are still concerns about sound travelling throughout the building. The College has hired acousticians to ensure sound separation. For additional space, Flory is working to get practice rooms in residential spaces around campus.

It was challenging to convince some music faculty that the move would be beneficial. According to Rodman, who helped lead the project, some faculty were satisfied with their current teaching space.

“We live in these places,” said Professor Flory. “So we don’t take that lightly, that we’re moving out of this place that so many have called home. It’s going to be kind of hard.”

When the music department moves in fall 2017, the current concert hall will become a temporary home for the chemistry and geology departments, while Mudd is renovated.

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