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USF's new music center in Tampa will have A+ acoustics

A new music building is going up at the University of South Florida, set to open in February. The 113,535-square-foot complex, including a 485-seat concert hall and a 116-seat recital hall, is about 70 percent completed, with construction crews working away just north of the College of the Arts on the Tampa campus.

At a cost of $46.6 million, the School of Music's building has been a long time coming. Barton Lee, associate dean of the college, remembers joining the faculty in 1982 and being told then that a new music building would soon be on the drawing board. Not until 2006, after a generation or two of arts administrators and faculty members tried to win approval for it, did the Legislature finally allocate money for the project.

The new building is desperately needed. The facilities of the music school wouldn't pass muster at many an elementary school, with the recital hall being little more than a glorified classroom and small stage.

"It is going to be a qualitative leap for the music school," said Ron Jones, dean of the College of the Arts. The school has about 400 undergraduate and graduate students in music.

Bill Hipp, longtime dean of the University of Miami's school of music, is interim director of the USF music school. He took over in July from Wade Weast, who resigned to become dean of music at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

"Acoustics was the No. 1 thing we wanted out of the building," Jones told me on a tour last week. The acoustician on the project is Charles Bonner, president of BAI, an Austin, Texas, consultant that has provided acoustical, audio-visual and information technology services for performing arts halls at George Mason University, Central Washington University, the University of Oklahoma and other schools.

The reverberation time could be as high as 2.5 seconds in the USF concert hall, depending on how adjustable acoustical reflectors and curtains are deployed. "Our mission was to have a high degree of acoustical flexibility for the various kinds of music that will be heard here," Bonner said.

The acoustics are important not only in the concert and recital hall but also in the rehearsal spaces, faculty studios and student practice rooms in the three-story music building linked to the concert hall.

In April, USF announced that it was going to be an All-Steinway School. Donations are being sought to help buy 97 Steinway and Boston pianos from the venerated manufacturer's New York and Hamburg, Germany, factories for the new building. This will put the school in an elite group that includes the Juilliard, Curtis and Cincinnati conservatories. See music.arts.usf.edu.

•••

A Couple of Blaguards returns to American Stage this week. Written by brothers Frank and Malachy McCourt, their stage remembrances of growing up in Limerick, Ireland, and emigrating to New York came before Frank's 1996 memoir, Angela's Ashes, which won a Pulitzer Prize, and Malachy's bestseller, A Monk Swimming.

The McCourts' play, which includes tales from the books, was a hit at the St. Petersburg theater in 2001 and 2004. This time around it stars Howard Platt, who was in the previous productions, and Jarlath Conroy.

Shows are at 7:30 p.m. today, Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. $24. Pay what you can today. (727) 823-7529; americanstage.org.

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8716. He blogs on Critics Circle at tampabay.com/blogs/critics.

USF's new music center in Tampa will have A+ acoustics 08/23/10 [Last modified: Monday, August 23, 2010 9:52pm]

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