Earlier this month, Susan Haven stood inside the brand new music activity center designed for the more than 1,300 student musicians at Texas A&M University. Just outside, the approximately 370 members of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band played Noble Men of Kyle on the artificial turf field north of the facility.
“I couldn’t hear a thing,” Haven, the administrative assistant for university bands, recalled Tuesday afternoon from inside the 55-foot-high, 4,000-square-foot Motheral Aggie Band Rehearsal Hall, one part of the just-completed 70,000-square-foot John D. White ’70 – Robert L. Walker ’58 Music Activities Center.
Student musicians participating in 14 orchestras, bands and choral groups have begun their work inside the center, which formally opens with a ceremony Friday.
On Tuesday afternoon, students and staff said that the new facility, with its emphasis on soundproof spaces, allows for large bands and individual singers alike to practice without noise interruptions.
“If you were going to build a building for a musical purpose, that would be number one on the list, to have it be acoustically appropriate,” Russell Tipton, associate director of bands at A&M, said Tuesday.
Tipton said the Motheral Aggie Band Rehearsal Hall was built not only to keep the band’s sound from reverberating throughout the facility, but also to absorb sound from within the hall. Motheral is one of four rehearsal halls in the center.
Tipton said that the facility makes it much easier to schedule practices, rehearsals and other sessions. He said that the center will help all of the university’s student musicians have the space and support needed to thrive.
“What’s important about this new space is that it gives everybody a home,” Tipton said. “Every group has its own dedicated space, which allows for greater flexibility and allows us to serve the students better.
“I think the greatest thing about this program is that there’s a place for everybody. You don’t have to be interested in the marching band to come make music. You get to come, cherry pick and design exactly what you want to do musically. Any student who is looking to come make music can do that here.”
The center includes 32 soundproof individual practice rooms, a sharp increase from the four practice rooms in the 50-year-old E.V. Adams Band Hall. Six of the rooms have pianos inside, Haven said. Large artistic renderings of sheet music from Texas A&M songs adorn some of the walls inside the center.
The Aggie Band has access to the facility’s outdoor 100-yard artificial turf practice field, which closely resembles the surface at Kyle Field. Other amenities include 484 lockers of varying sizes for students to store equipment and instruments.
According to a university release, the project cost more than $40 million, more than half of which was funded by donors and fundraising efforts. Texas A&M broke ground on the music center in September 2017.
Jonathan Nguyen and Jack Mason, both of whom are upperclassman members of the Century Singers, said while inside the new student lounge that the center’s creation was an indicator to them that the university is invested in all of the students’ musical and academic journeys.
“I absolutely love that we’ve finally got our own building. It makes it feel like the university really cares about the program as a whole,” Nguyen said. “Now that we have something for all of us, for all the choirs, it shows that they care about all of us.”
Mason said that it is beneficial to have music students in one place instead of being spread throughout campus, and said it may allow for impromptu musical collaborations between students that would have been tougher previously.
Shawn Keene, a junior clarinet player in the A&M Concert Band, said he is excited to play in the new facility.
“It’s awesome, because we just came from a smaller space. The band hall before wasn’t really soundproof, so it just didn’t sound like it would in an auditorium,” he said. “Over here, you can hear everything. It sounds great, and it is a whole new experience.”