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Published:May 3rd, 2007 06:35 EST

New Performing Arts Building at UCF

By Mary-Elizabeth Hittel

The performing arts at the University of Central Florida have suffered and will continue to suffer unless construction on a new building begins soon, music students and professors say. Without a building, the music department has lost prospective students and faculty. 

UCF administration declined to comment on the issue.

A lack of classrooms, soundproof practice rooms and a large performance space make up part of the problem. Other challenges include: cramped locker room (for instrument storage), inadequate rehearsal space, insufficient offices for music professors and poor acoustics in performance spaces.

"It`s odd that UCF is such a big school, and yet we don`t have a facility big enough for all of the performing arts students," music major Erin Stilson, 19, said. "It`s frustrating for teachers and students alike to be crammed into such small spaces and to be distracted by numerous things during classes, like practice rooms next door that aren`t soundproof."
"UCF students think the old facilities are preventing the growth of the program. Plans have been in the works for quite some time, and every time nothing gets done about it (a new performing arts building)," music major Danny Maldonado said. "It disturbs me that certain things take precedence over education at this university.  For example, we`ll build a new softball stadium, football stadium or arena over a new building for academics."
The lack of space has forced students to practice their instruments outside of Colbourn Hall. Students find it difficult to concentrate on what they are playing and get distracted by the outside noise.  
Another problem is sound. The classrooms and practice rooms on the bottom floor of Colbourn Hall are not soundproof. This makes it difficult for classes to concentrate on their work and for other students to study and practice.  
"During a voice lesson of mine, my voice teacher stopped playing piano because she was so distracted by a tuba player," said Angela Corallo, an Orlando Opera singer. "Not to mention it is horrible when people have to take an ear training
test and have to concentrate on a pitch, or on trying to sight read something, or dictate something and have to hear another melody or music playing somewhere else nearby.  It is not fair to students whose grades depend on such tests that are already difficult tasks. My high school music facilities were nicer, and I went to an Orange County public school!"
Non music students have noticed the lack of space and the noise as well. "The performing arts are an important part of our heritage as a university and if something is not done to help them thrive, then they will eventually die off," accounting major Jennifer Patterson, 20, said. "A new, better performing arts building will aid in the preservation of the arts, which we desperately need to hold on to for as long as possible."
"The faculty also wants a new building. More and more of our large ensemble concerts must be scheduled off campus in churches, community colleges
and even high schools because the on-campus facilities at UCF are poor or unavailable," music chair Johnny Pherigo said.     
Professors Lazlo Marosi, conductor of the UCF symphony orchestra, and Robert Thornton, music theory, agree. "I tend to feel constrained in my
teaching, not wanting to disrupt surrounding classes (especially the non-music classes)," Thornton said.  "As a result, I am unable to utilize certain louder teaching methods that are beneficial to students." 

Marosi added that space was his biggest issue. "We have no space," he said. "I would love to have a beautiful auditorium. We need a nice, large space to perform in."

"A new performing arts building has been planned for more than 15 years. It has been delayed many times due to lack of funding and other construction priorities," Pherigo said. "Instead the university has constructed new engineering buildings, nursing buildings and dorms, provided funding for the medical school and constructed a new stadium and convocation center. The sports facilities will attract athletes and help to boost the university`s revenue through more on-campus sporting events."

The UCF Planning Office said that there were other priorities for funding and construction and a greater need for people to be trained in fields other than music. They added that there was not enough space or funding to provide for everyone`s needs. The projected date for the finished building is 2012, and plans already exist. 

Some features include: a recital hall that would seat 500 to 600 people, a recording studio and soundproof rehearsal space and classrooms. 

"All great universities have dynamic programs in the performing arts, and just as dynamic programs in engineering and computer science require appropriate facilities, so do the performing arts," Pherigo said. "UCF has the ambition and potential to become a great university. The arts are integral to that vision for UCF."
He added that students could help get the new performing arts building constructed by lobbying the upper administration to make it a priority. "The music and theater faculty and administration are doing all we can to move the project forward, but the university needs to understand that this facility is a priority for students, and not just music and theater students, because all UCF students will benefit from an on-campus performing arts facility," Pherigo said.