By Shannon Rainey, COM 250 Reporter
Edited by Joseph Miller, COM 303 Editor
Video story by Alyssa Freyman and Phillip Walker, Videographers
Video story edited by Noah Beck, Studio Assistant
Construction on the Ford Auditorium is nearing completion, but it has also caused the restructuring and relocation of many music classes and performances this semester.
The renovations began in June with a plan to be completed by Dec. 31, 2019. The multi-million-dollar renovation plan includes changes to the structure of the ceiling and the heating and air in the building, as well as an expansion of the stage.
“It’s a seven-month job, as planned,” Mark Hopkins, director of physical plant, said. “We’re probably a couple weeks ahead of schedule.”
Mark Hopkins said that the changes are designed to improve the room’s acoustics. Berry College has hired Kirkegaard Associates, a Chicago-based acoustic design firm, to assist with the renovation.
“When you hire Kirkegaard out of Chicago, you get the best of the best,” Hopkins said. “They did the ceiling design and all of the acoustic design. The intent is that every seat in the house gets an equal amount of sound. Every seat is a good seat.”
But many music students and professors have been left without a good seat this semester. Several ensemble classes have been relocated, student parking near the Ford auditorium has been closed and other classes must contend with construction noise.
“We’ve been moved to the Ford Dining Hall,” Dr. Lauren Denney Wright, director of the wind ensemble, said. “That room, acoustically, is very different than the auditorium was. It’s a completely different sound and that really affects the performance. It’s also going to affect where our concert is, because we’re going to have to do our concert in Ford Dining Hall this semester.”
The relocations have also affected the student performers, many of whom are in multiple ensembles.
“For students who have to drive across campus or students who commute, parking has become a terrific issue,” junior Matthew Wall, a music education major, said. “We either have to park in the Clara dorm parking, which takes parking away from them, or down in the West Mary lot by softball fields and baseball fields.”
Other students have faced difficulty transporting larger instruments from parking lots farther away.
“Getting to ensembles is hard,” Colby Francis, a junior music education student, said. “I carry a big instrument and usually two instruments and having to walk about three minutes just to play my instrument is a little bit hard.”
Rehearsal schedules have also changed. Because the Ford Dining Hall is often needed for weekend events, Friday rehearsals have been cancelled for some groups such as the orchestra.
“The class is scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 on Monday, and 3:00 to 3:50 on Friday,” junior Allie Sinatra said. “But we can’t have Friday rehearsals anymore, so he [the professor] extended Monday rehearsals from 6:30 to 9:00, which, honestly, is pretty brutal. We’re suffering for this semester to have a great space next semester.
Despite the construction chaos this semester, many students and professors alike remain optimistic and excited for the new space.
“I’m really excited about the renovations,” Wright said. “I think they’re going to bring a lot of great qualities, especially to the performing arts hall. It’s going to be more attractive to prospective students. It’s going to look nicer; it’s going to sound nicer.”
On the other hand, Dr. Eric Hanson, who directs the orchestra, is unconcerned with this semester’s struggles.
“In the big picture, it really hasn’t affected this semester,” Hanson said. “We still have a place to play our concert. We could complain about all of it; the end product is what’s important. That hall is going to be fantastic. It’s worth the semester of any inconveniences we might have.”