Music practice rooms overcrowded due to growing programs

Music practice rooms in Brady Educational Center have seemed more crowded this semester, according to some music students.

Music practice rooms in Brady Educational Center are usually full during the day. As program enrollment increases, questions about the department's facilities have been raised. (Theresa Malloy/TommieMedia)
Music practice rooms in Brady Educational Center are usually full during the day. As program enrollment increases, questions about the department's facilities have been raised. (Theresa Malloy/TommieMedia)

Freshman Rachel Siteman, a music business major, said it can be difficult to find a practice room during the day.

“I find myself waiting outside and standing here looking through the windows, trying to see who is in there and when they will be done,” she said.

The music program is growing, music department director Matthew George said. He estimates that collectively there are about 50 to 60 more student participants.

“The number of people who auditioned for scholarship this year who accepted them and are here is significantly more than we’ve had in the past,” George said. “We’re probably talking about at least an additional 10 to 12 majors.”

The music department’s graduate musical education program is growing as well, George said. He attributes the growth to increasing popularity and “a concerted effort in recruitment.”

Siteman came to St. Thomas because it had the program she wanted and it was “well-established.” Siteman is a saxophone player in both the jazz and wind ensembles. She said she thinks BEC is not built for music.

“I mean this is a great building,” she said, “but it lacks so much that an actual music building would need. Music is just an afterthought at this school, just the way the building was set up.”

Doug Hennes, vice president of university relations, said the university’s concern with BEC is also that it is not built for music.

George said students complain every year about the limited space.

“It’s nothing new,” he said. “We’re hopeful things are getting seriously addressed in that front and that we’ll get something that will happen sooner or later.”

Siteman said she and other music majors have discussed “how we wish they could have something new. … We’ve been speculating for a while as to whether or not something will change.”

Hennes said the current Opening Doors campaign at St. Thomas “does have a priority to establish a school for the arts.”

With a $20 million price tag, the university could establish a facility for the music department on the Minneapolis campus, Hennes said. The problem is that the money is not there.

“The idea for the school of arts was pinned on a successful pitch on one donor, and it was not successful,” Hennes said.

As of Dec. 1, only $2,095 has been raised. There is still time because the campaign does not end until 2012. But, Hennes said the idea is “dormant right now.”

“If another donor stepped up, it would be another possibility,” he said. “At this point, it has not advanced.”

Hennes said “everyone is well aware of the issues.” He said something new with BEC could be an option.

Siteman said a new facility would be “amazing. It’s a fantastic idea.”

Until that happens, the music department is trying to make the best of its facilities. Some modest improvements are being considered such as improving the “the visibility of the space,” George said.

“We’re looking at re-configuring our locker storage area so we can create more,” George said. He said some sound-proofing can be re-done and classrooms can be overhauled. The BEC auditorium might be renovated in the summer so it’s more “music-friendly,” he added.

In January, cosmetic improvements such as carpeting and painting are possible, but the final decision has not been made yet, Hennes said.

“I’m hopeful a lot of these other things are going to take place,” George said. But he does not know what will happen.

“So it’s not ideal, but it’s better than where we are right now,” he said.

Hennes said the university is taking the music department’s increased enrollment into account, and improving the music facilities remains a high priority.

“We know we need better facilities for music,” Hennes said.

Theresa Malloy can be reached at

16 Replies to “Music practice rooms overcrowded due to growing programs”

  1. Good thing for the dept. that we’re getting a lot of people–bad thing for the dept. that the University at large doesn’t care to fund it accordingly.
    We have capital campaigns for new gyms, student centers, and football field additions–in other words, non-educational aspects of the university. Ironic that in boosting our University’s image, we neglect its true purpose and essence. And by “ironic” I mean “disgusting”. For a period of unprecedented (financial) “growth”, it’s mighty curious that the library budget is being cut, leading to decreased hours of availability for the Music Resource Center (mere hearsay, I know, but it rightfully arouses suspicion) and we centralize musical education in an embarrassingly small building whose auditorium is roughly as nice as that of an underfunded high school. When you toured the St. Thomas campus, did they even show you BEC? They didn’t show me, and I don’t blame them.

  2. I’m so happy to see that someone is finally posting about the awful quarters of the BEC!

    What upsets me the most is that they continue pouring so much time, money, and effort into the extra-curricular athletics, whereas the music department is full of students who MAJOR IN MUSIC and they continue to neglect our NECESSARY needs to succeed in this field. This is a major that we chose because of our passion, as well as the incredible instructors that are known nation-wide… some internationally known! When I was touring the campus, they didn’t even MENTION the music department, so I had no idea the facilities were this unkept and I definitely didn’t think the UNIVERSITY of ST. THOMAS’s priorities would put us at the bottom of the list.

  3. Becca and Sean, If Facilities were important to you,,,,,,,,,,,why not check them out on your H.S. visit? Help find a donor like the AARC did. I’m sure if you help raise twenty million, you would not have to dream. I do respect your passion for the Arts at St.Thomas.

  4. I am so glad you wrote this article! This issue is a big one for those of us who are in the BEC almost every day. For my Freshman year I went to St. Ben’s/St. John’s and their music and performance facilities are wonderful. The choirs practice in real choir rooms with great acoustics, there are nice performance facilities, the bands have a wonderful space to practice in and there are plenty of practice rooms. I love UST but I knew that these were things that I would no longer have access to when I transferred. As a singer and dancer who participates in both here at UST it is disappointing the priority the arts get here. The choirs have to rehearse in a terrible basement room with horrible acoustics and there is no good performance space for either dance or music. The only thing good for the arts I can say about the new athletic facility is that they have real dance studios in it, which is great. But UST needs a good performance hall/theater for music and dance. The dance clubs have to dance on the horrible stage in the BEC and whenever there is a performance of any kind whether it be dance or music related the place is packed. There are never enough seats. The arts are popular here at UST with students and the music department is widely known and is becoming more so every year

  5. continued…. with our choir and band Christmas concert televised for the past two years and again this year, the Chamber Singers being chosen to sing this year at the ACDA national convention, singing at alumni lunches, being chosen to sing at the MN Choral Festival etc. etc. we deserve and need a better facility. The BEC is embarrassing, not having a proper performance space is embarrassing. People actually major and minor in music, they don’t major or minor in athletics. I am not saying I don’t love athletics because I do and I do think that our athletic facilities needed updating but I think the music and arts needed a new and better facility more and should have gotten one before athletics did. We have an amazing music program here at UST that is becoming well known and it should have the kind of space it needs and deserves. 

  6. If we keep griping about the problems in BEC, that information gets collected by the development office, right? And that information is then taken to donors when the idea is pitched to them? And lots of students griping about BEC might persuade donors to donate to its replacement or repair?

    Wow. It suddenly feels like TommieMedia commenting might actually be a little tiny bit useful.

  7. The more I learn about acoustics, practice spaces, and what it is to be a successful and professional musician in my classes, the more I realize how awfully crafted the BEC and our practice spaces are. I had no idea it was this bad on my tour! Even if I had, I would have expected a prestigious school as St. Thomas to get on the ball and start fixing it… they haven’t done one thing to try to improve the building in the past 3 years I’ve been hear. Oh, I’m sorry… they painted like half of a WALL purple. I think we used up the funding we received this year by buying those two buckets of paint…

    What disgusts me the most is when I walk into the building after Thanksgiving break and it smells like someone took a dump in one of the garbage cans. That is just the natural smell of the building… yuck!

  8. TJ,

    I think I can speak for myself, Becca, and Sean when I say that we’re at this University for the people in the department.  This is no different for the people who came here to play athletics before the new fancy stuff was built…they came for the PEOPLE in the athletic department.  The point here is that the Music Department has world class faculty, high quality ensembles, and huge non-major participation, but we do not have room to continue to grow even more.  If the department is going to continue to grow and thrive, adequate, up to date facilities are necessary.  

  9. The comments above are excellent, Brianna and other fine arts students.  This has been a problem since your grandfather went to school at UST; someone should have found a way to finance a real music building in the fifty-two years that have passed since then.  It is a matter of priorities.  The fine arts are always the last thing to be considered.  It is so frustrating.  Smaller Twin Cities than St Thomas have better facilities for music, because they consider them important.  Let’s hope the administration at UST will give this some serious thought.  There are plenty of alumni that could help with this.  Get busy.

  10. It is all a matter of priorities! One  can tell what is important to an institution by taking a look at its  programs and facilities. The University of St. Thomas now has the state of the art Science and Business buildings, a huge new athletic complex and student union, but has no fine arts performing venue, does not have a studio arts, theatre, nor serious dance program, and has a rehabilitated music building that is wholly inadequate. The Brady Education Center was not designed to house a music department. There are insufficient and poorly designed practice rooms. The vocal and instrumental rehearsal halls  are totally inadequate. Most Junior High Schools have better! The auditorium was not designed for music performances and thus  the acoustics are very poor. I can not understand how other colleges and universities can find funding for their fine arts programs and St. Thomas cannot. St. Catherine’s University, Hamline University, Bethel College, Concordia University, St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict all have facilities for the Fine Arts far superior to that of St. Thomas. Mcalester College is now in the process of updating their extensive Janet Wallace Fine Arts buildings. Why not St. Thomas?In the original building plan for St. Thomas of a few…

  11. (cont.) years ago a Fine arts building was included but it was the first to be cut! I also heard that there was a plan to renovate the McPhail Center in downtown Minneapolis and move the UST Music program there, bad idea. There was a reason that McPhail built a new  building in the first place. The old building had long ago been found wanting for many reasons. Why does the Fine Arts  at the UST deserve such a second hand building? Why move the Music Department off campus? Should not the Fine Arts be an integral part of life on the main campus?I am sure that when major donors come forth wanting to support the University of St. Thomas with major funding, they would find the Fine Arts an attractive option. If only they were  asked!The music performing groups at UST are wonderful! The teaching staff is excellent!!How long do you think they will stay woking under such dismal conditions? The answer lies in the hands of the school administration…….Yes, I repeat, it is all a matter of priorities!R.J. Paulson,  CST, BS in Music Ed. ’58, MEd. “65

  12. Thanks to everyone for their commenting on this!
    This is a very important thing for us music majors because our practice time, and therefor grades, could ultimately suffer because of this – especially if the number of music majors here at UST continues to grow exponentially!

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