TAMPA — University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft always had mixed feelings when she heard students from the School of Music practicing outdoors on campus. "As lovely as it was to listen to, I knew they were playing outside because there was no place else for them to do it," Genshaft said Thursday morning, speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the school's $46.6 million music building.
USF's music education facilities used to be a farce, exemplified by a recital hall that was little more than a glorified classroom. Everyone had to share one rehearsal hall. Music students will now enjoy superb facilities. The new building has 49 practice rooms, instrumental, choral and jazz rehearsal halls and a percussion suite. High-tech features abound. There is a 116-seat recital hall.
The centerpiece of the 113,535-square-foot facility is the concert hall, which seats 485 and is dominated by a huge acoustic "cloud" above the bamboo stage. "What's really great about the hall is that the acoustics are flexible," said William Wiedrich, associate professor of conducting. "The cloud is adjustable, and we can adjust a system of acoustical curtains for every performance."
This weekend, Wiedrich leads the USF Symphony and Choral Ensemble in concerts to celebrate the opening. The program includes the premiere of Flash, a lightning-inspired work by composer Augusta Read Thomas.
The building's architects were Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas and Co. of Tampa and Performance Architecture of New Orleans. The acoustician was BAI of Austin, Texas. The lobby has two murals, called Forest Spirits, by Janaina Tschape.
"This building took a long time," said Ron Jones, dean of the College of the Arts, who led the effort to get a new music building. "But it's opening in the worst of economic times, so I think we can really stand proud."
Jones is leaving to become president of the Memphis College of Art. Barton Lee, associate dean of the arts college, will be interim dean. He first has to find an interim director of the music school to replace Bill Hipp, whose one-year appointment is done in July. USF plans to search for an arts dean first, then a director for the music school, which has 400 students and 30 full-time faculty members.
Genshaft thinks the building will be a great recruiting tool. "Can you think of a better opportunity?" she asked. "To show that this school cares so much about the arts is phenomenal."
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716.