Sunday, May 14, 2017

Walking by Hanson Hall

     One of the small pleasures about teaching at North Park University is walking past Hanson Hall.  As Hanson Hall is part of our school of music, I can often count on hearing some lovely music wafting out of the practice rooms.  It could as routine as someone just practicing scales.  It might be a soprano voice working on an aria, a violinist practicing a sonata, or a clarinet learning a symphonic piece.  I have heard trombones, trumpets, and oboes.  It is always a treat as our music students are quite talented. As I never think about it until I hear the music, it is always a pleasant surprise.
      I think of it as a culture break in my day.  Most of the time it is just a matter of seconds as I walk by.  Sometimes, when I hear something especially intriguing or lovely, I might stop listen even more. It is part of the campus ambiance.   But it will soon be no more.
     The University is planning a renovation of Hanson Hall that will last from June through the end of the year.  The renovation will include improved climate control, an elevator, and acoustic treatment of all rooms.  When I first heard about, it seemed like a great thing to do.  Then it struck me, acoustic treatment of all rooms means they were soundproofing the place.  After the renovation, I could still walk by but... there would be no more music to be heard.  Oh no.
     Well, the next time I saw Craig Johnson, the Dean of the School of Music.  I brought this up to him.  He confirmed my fears.  Yes, they were sound proofing all the practice rooms and performing spaces.  I would no longer hear beautiful music when I walked by Hanson Hall.  I made my case, tongue in cheek, for why I thought this was not a good idea.  As expected, I was not successful in changing any of the plans for Hanson Hall but he did understand.  Dr. Johnson went on to point out that a student practicing in one room could hear the students practicing in other rooms.  That could be distracting for sure.  He also said that if I could hear the students practicing outside the building, they could hear all the street nows.  Yes, I could see how this could also be distracting to the musicians.  There are a fair number of ambulances, sirens blaring, on Foster Avenue en route to Swedish Covenant Hospital a few blocks away.
     Hmmm... what might be done? What would be a win-win here?
     They should set the rooms up for recording.  Students could then listen to their practice sessions and have a better idea of what to work on to improve.  Given that they would have to mic each room, they could then provide a feed from a random room to a speaker system mounted on the outside of the building to keep the ambience going.
     Seems like a great and not terribly expensive idea to me.

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