If you've been at Brown longer than, say, three days, you've probably noticed that there is always a significant amount of construction on campus. Indeed, wherever one turns, there are tarp-covered fences labeled "Building Brown" — the undeniable sign of all sorts of construction, from new science buildings to the future Faunce student center. There's only one constant to these construction projects — if you're in a hurry to get somewhere fast, they're probably in your way and bound to make you grumble a little.
Recently, a new construction site sprang up on what I thought to be the finished Pembroke Walk. Those hurrying around the tarp-covered fence will notice a sign proclaiming the current pile of dirt to be the site of the future Creative Arts Center, an exciting-looking glass building that will feature a recording studio, multimedia lab and recital hall.
While the CAC is sure to be a boon to Brown's artistic community, there are more urgent needs than a new recital hall. The University already has a beautiful and acoustically sound space for recitals and small concerts: Grant Recital Hall. What Brown doesn't have — and sorely needs — is a concert hall.
"What's a concert hall?" you may ask. "Why do we need another performing space? Don't we already have Sayles Hall, Stuart Theatre, Alumnae Hall and Grant Recital Hall?"
Well, yes. But these spaces are far from adequate. Brown is blessed with a vibrant community of musical groups but cursed by its lack of performance space. Those spaces that do exist are, as a rule, either acoustically unsound or overbooked.
Because Sayles, the orchestra's typical performance space, is almost always in use, the 80-plus member musical group must practice in the acoustically poor interior of Alumnae Hall and then switch to Sayles the week before. The 40-plus member Wind Symphony frequently has to squeeze onto the tiny Grant stage. And I've attended more than one a capella concert in Salomon 001 where the solos have been trumped by the noise from concerts upstairs. A real concert hall would be acoustically sound, significantly larger than a recital hall, and accommodate groups of all sizes and instrumentations.
Lest those of you who dislike hour-and-a-half-long Mahler symphonies dismiss the plight of Brown's small but mighty music community, let me assure you that a concert hall on campus would benefit more than just those who love music. Brown's administration recognizes this; the Plan for Academic Enrichment calls for concert halls as one element of its goal for "improved infrastructure."
It's not only Brown's music groups that are suffering for lack of performance space. Since the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies closed Ashamu to use by student groups, the University's many student dance groups have struggled to find appropriate practice spaces on campus. Solution: Build a concert hall with a sprung floor and acoustic dampening panels and you automatically have another safe stage that Impulse, Fusion, Badmaash and all the rest can use for practice and performance.
Even those students who avoid artistic performances at Brown would benefit from the construction of a concert hall. Every time an influential or interesting leader comes to speak, hundreds of students are shut out of the speech for simple lack of facilities. But if architects outfit the concert hall's spacious interior with a projector, retractable screen and moveable podium, it could also accommodate the inevitable massive crowds the next time John Krasinski and Barack Obama come to give a dual comedy routine/speech together.
There is, of course, the question as to whether there is room for such a sizeable building on Brown's campus. My purely unscientific assessment is this: Since Brown seems to be able to conjure up space for other buildings where it doesn't exist, they should be able to do the same thing for a concert hall, even if it involves moving a couple dozen houses around. After all, they've done it before.
Even if the concert hall did have to be built on the outskirts of campus, there would be an added benefit to this scenario. A new concert hall would attract nearby residents to productions, thus encouraging greater community involvement and cooperation with the University.
Building a concert hall is an initiative that would benefit everyone at Brown and in the surrounding community. Whether or not students even enter the doors of the concert hall, they would undoubtedly benefit from the prestige such a building would impart on our school.
I will graduate this spring, long before the University will probably even consider erecting those tarp-covered fences around a concert hall construction site, and as a rule, I'll be happy to leave those Building Brown roadblocks behind. Still, I'd gladly celebrate rather than grumble about a concert hall construction site, even if it was on my way to class — its benefits would far outweigh the minor inconvenience of changing one's daily routine.
Adrienne Langlois '10 advises you not to knock hour-and-a-half-long Mahler symphonies until you've tried them.