School of Music seeks funding for new performance space

The proposed building would be at the intersection of Hitt Street and University Avenue.
Students practice painting in a classroom in the Fine Arts Building. Students and faculty members have raised concerns regarding the conditions of the facilities in the Fine Arts Building.

The MU School of Music continues to seek funding for more adequate facilities for the upcoming fiscal year.

Earlier this year, the UM system Board of Curators included the School of Music’s proposed Performing Arts Center in their funding request. Administrators for the School of Music have reiterated the value of suitable practice and performance space.

University Singers Director Paul Crabb said he has taught at schools in five other states but that MU’s facilities are the most deficient.

“We probably have the worst facilities of any place I have taught,” he said. “For a major university not to have a designated performance space is unheard of.”

He explained the importance of suitable practice spaces in a field where listening is key.

“Not having a place that is not acoustically supportive makes it very difficult for the students to reach their potential,” Crabb said. “In music, you learn from listening to one another, so acoustics are very important.”

Crabb said he hasn’t heard about the choir’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, but he doesn’t expect the choir program’s budget to be increased due to deficits in MU’s budget as a whole.

“Probably in the spring, we’ll either hear ‘brace yourself’ or the budget will stay the same,” he said.

Crabb explained most programs within the School of Music have small budgets to begin with.

“With my budget you really have to make dollars stretch and that’s tough,” he said.

Crabb said although the Performing Arts Center has been talked about for years, he doubts action will be taken to build it any time soon.

“We were cut back a little this year which was expected,” he said.

Crabb said the university’s budget as a whole is in a dire state and they don’t expect funding to increase.

“The rehearsal space we have currently is inadequate and causes dangerous sound levels,” Marching Mizzou Director Brad Snow said. “As there is not a room to accommodate the whole band, we are always forced to practice outdoors.”

Snow explained the lack of space affects both current students and prospective band members.

“It makes it hard to recruit students when their high school had nice facilities and we are practicing in an old dining hall,” he said. “Honestly, it’s kind of embarrassing.”

Besides the proposed Performing Arts Center, Snow said he hopes to see funding for travel and instrument upkeep.

“We’d love to take the band on a full band trip because the students love that,” he said. “We bought all new piccolos this year, and we’d like to continue to identify one section to outfit with new instruments each year.”

Snow explained although he sees a great need for improvement in Marching Mizzou’s budget, but doesn’t know when the school will be able to recognize that need.

“Marching Mizzou is one of the lowest funded bands in the Big 12,” He said, “We’d love to see that change, but I don’t know if it will any time soon.”

Robert Shay, School of Music director for the past three years, said the Performing Arts Center has been talked about since before he came to MU.

“We know that it’s a multi-year process,” he said. “What we have mostly been doing the last few years is raising awareness of the needs of not only the school of music but all fine arts programs.”

He said the School of Music is seeking funding not just from the state, but also from individual donors.

“We are contacting people and raising money,” he said. “We are probably looking at a several year process to get the funding to get this project moving.”

He identifies with the frustration of students and professors within the School of Music.

“We really don’t have adequate or decent facilities,” he said. “The fine arts building was built in the 1960s for smaller ensembles and performances and does not accommodate the big ensembles we have.”

Although MU is struggling with its budget, Shay said he has faith the building will be completed someday.

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