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Editorial: A University out of tune

Though Brown’s music program began in 1895 and generates musicians of all types — conductors, performers, rappers, producers, audio-engineers — the University remains the only school in the Ivy League that lacks a suitable large-scale concert hall.

Over the past few years, the Department of Music has strongly advocated for a space designated to the performing arts at Brown. While both students and faculty members endorse this mission, the University has continued to overlook the need for an appropriate concert space. Last year, the Committee on Reimagining the Brown Campus and Community recognized the need to build a concert hall in its interim report, but no progress has been made since.

This lack of action reflects a misguided financial agenda. As the administration works to expand Brown’s campus, it nonetheless continues to discount the needs of both the music department and the other students involved in performance groups. Earlier this year, the Corporation announced plans to build two new buildings for the School of Engineering and the Division of Applied Mathematics, and two years ago, the University opened the Nelson Fitness Center to provide the space needed for general recreational use in order to relieve the strain on training areas for varsity athletes. If science students have spaces devoted to their laboratory work and athletes have facilities in which to train, that musicians have no proper performance space points to an incongruity in the University’s policies and an ill-considered prioritization of student and faculty needs.

As the campus stands today, the orchestra and chorus perform in Sayles Hall, a building donated to the University in 1861 to be “forever devoted to lectures and recitations, and to meetings on academic occasions.” It lacks both suitable acoustics and appropriate seating for concert performances. The many smaller performance spaces available on campus like Leeds Theater, Grant Recital Hall and the Martinos Auditorium in the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts serve smaller ensembles well, but fail to provide for larger-scale performances of the music and theater arts and performance studies departments.

A performance space would also serve as an invaluable addition to campus for Brown community members who are not directly involved in music. In the past, events like the Dalai Lama’s speech, the annual Folk Festival and President Christina Paxson’s inauguration have had to be held downtown or outdoors to accommodate the large number of attendees.

Support for music and performing arts programs should be inherent to any liberal academic institution, especially one like Brown, which is home to a faculty and a student body that values creativity, innovation and interdisciplinary learning. Without the appropriate space, these principles cannot properly be celebrated or absorbed by both musicians and the broader campus community.

 

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16, Baxter DiFabrizio ’15, Manuel Monti-Nussbaum ’15, Katherine Pollock ’16 and Himani Sood ’15. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.



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