Coral Gables (February 08, 2013) —
Despite being nearly a foot shorter than her double bass, University of Miami freshman Lauren Gamiel wields the instrument with incredible prowess, playing in recitals and performances at UM’s Frost School of Music.
For Gamiel, the challenge is in finding a practice room at UM’s Frost School of Music that’s big enough to accommodate her. “There are only a couple of rooms I fit into comfortably with my instrument,” says the 18-year-old native of White Plains, New York, “and usually there’s another musician using it.”
By the time Gamiel becomes a college junior she’ll have all the adequate practice space she needs.
In a ceremony filled with music, the Frost School broke ground February 8 on its new Patricia Louise Frost Music Studios, a structure that will include some 82 chamber music and teaching studios large enough that Gamiel will not have to worry about adjusting the endpin of her double bass to fit through the door.
When completed, the new building, which is just one component in the school’s ambitious expansion plans, will not only help the school to continue luring top student-musicians but also “attract new faculty,” said Shelton “Shelly” Berg, dean of the Frost School.
The school’s original practice rooms in the Foster Building had become antiquated, and more than half of them were not being used as practice space at all—but for teaching. In fact, of Foster’s 90 existing studios, only 35 were in use as practice rooms, leaving more than 700 music students to vie for precious space.
“On top of that,” Berg explained, “we created the experiential music curriculum that’s based around chamber music and learning in small ensembles rather than sitting in lecture demonstrations. The practice rooms in Foster aren’t large enough for chamber music rehearsals. But the new teaching studios that our faculty will move into are large enough and have high enough ceilings that we can have virtually our whole school in chamber music rehearsals and adequate space to accommodate this new learning paradigm.”
On a fast track for completion, the Frost Music Studios complex is made possible by the generosity of longtime UM philanthropists Patricia Louise and Phillip Frost, the latter a UM trustee.
Both were in attendance at Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony, an event that serenaded guests with songs performed by the student-musicians who will benefit most from the project, which is part of UM’s $1.6 billion Momentum2 campaign.
“Students and professors have been sitting in these classrooms that have needed, since the ’70s, an updating,” said Patricia Louise Frost. “Well, we’re doing more than updating…and I’m proud to have my name on your educational building.”
Among the other features the building will boast: a new entrance to the Frost School, better acoustics and state-of-the-art recording capabilities, a new reception and information center, a furnished breezeway terrace, and box office kiosks.
“Historic and overwhelming” is how Santiago Rodriguez, professor and chair of Keyboard Performance, describes the project.
“Students aren’t attracted to a school only by the instructors with whom they want to study but also by the facilities,” he said. “And that’s the case for any discipline, whether you’re talking about football players or piano players. This is momentous for us in that we’re finally going to get the up-to-date building that will cater to the needs of these wonderful kids. We have a tremendous amount of talent here, and they deserve the best.”
The practice rooms will be soundproof, capturing and containing music so that it doesn’t filter into surrounding studios—a capability the current Foster practice rooms don’t have.
“In [music] performance you need to hear what you’re playing, and you need to hear it in very small scale—pianissimo, very soft,” Rodriguez explained. “In the old practice rooms, sometimes the very soft gets drowned out by the guy playing saxophone next door.”
Having studios capable of isolating and trapping sound is critical, especially at the end of the semester, “when everyone’s in there practicing at the same time,” said Rey Sanchez, director of the Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music Program.
But it’s the collaboration among students the new studio music building will foster that is most important, said Sanchez, who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the UM music school. “Our kids will get to work in a collaborative environment far better than they possibly can in our current [practice room] facilities,” he said. “Right now we have students working together in rooms that were really designed for one person.” Some of the new studio practice rooms will accommodate groups of up to five student musicians comfortably, he added.
Sustainable features throughout the building will make it LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certified, the highest rating obtainable.
“Design is not trying to make something beautiful,” said Yann R. Weymouth, senior vice president and director of design for HOK Architects, the firm that designed the studios. “Form follows performance.”
Photovoltaic roof panels will convert sunlight into electricity. Rainwater will be collected and used inside the building for all needs except drinking. Serving as the equivalent of planting 320 trees, the amount of titanium dioxide mixed into the concrete will remove air pollutants. And windows will automatically adjust to bright or overcast conditions outside.
“It’s a groundbreaking building,” Weymouth said, noting that it will save $100,000 a year in electricity costs over a structure built with conventional materials.
As for freshman Gamiel, she’s excited about the practice rooms, which Weymouth says are being “tuned” to accommodate the sound of certain instruments.
“This shows that we’re serious about music,” Gamiel said.
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