Students vie for music practice space

For student musicians, waiting in line for practice rooms, kicking other students out of rooms they have reserved, rescheduling rehearsals or conceding defeat and settling for out-of-tune pianos are all familiar ordeals.

There are currently about 30 music practice rooms in residential colleges, Hendrie Hall, William L. Harkness Hall and 320 Temple St. open to all students. Another 13 rooms in Sprague Hall are open only to graduate students in the School of Music and undergraduates enrolled in music lessons for credit. For the hundreds of students who take music lessons, play in undergraduate orchestras, sing a cappella or just practice an instrument on their own time, Yale does not have enough music spaces, six students interviewed said.

Graduate students always have priority for practice spaces provided by the School of Music — the superior rooms, students said. And the schools’ spokesperson, Vincent Oneppo, said the school is not involved with practice space availability for undergraduates.

“It’s not our responsibility to provide for the whole University,” Oneppo said.

That leaves undergraduates with tough competition for the remaining spaces.

Tuesday night, when the Duke’s Men arrived at the WLH practice room they had booked from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., a Chinese class was having a film screening in the room, said Micah Hendler ’11, the musical director of the group. Because the room was the only practice space available at that time slot, the group had to “kick the class out” with just a 20 minutes of the movie to go.

“It’s something that I’ve always dealt with,” Hendler said, adding that he always has trouble securing a practice space with a piano.

“Not knowing whether I’m going to have a piano or access to a room with a piano makes planning rehearsals very difficult,” Hendler said. “I’ve had to bring my keyboard from my room to rehearsal.”

Though students interviewed said they can find a space if they persevere, the unpredictability of available rooms makes the whole process a hassle, they said.

“It depends on when you go,” Andi Zhou ’13 said. “If I’m going at two in the afternoon, I can get something, but if I go at seven in the evening it gets a lot tougher.”

Rhiannon Bronstein ’11 said she and her chamber orchestra “just kind of walk around and try places” because finding a free room depends on luck more than anything else.

And not finding a practice facility is not the only problem. Many students said residential college and Hendrie Hall pianos are out-of-tune. School of Music students have priority over the well-tuned pianos in Sprague Hall.

“There’s always somewhere to use as a last resort. I have a key to the JE practice rooms, for example,” Zhou said. “ [But] they have really crappy pianos.”

But Associate Dean of Yale College and Jonathan Edwards College Master Penelope Laurans wrote in an e-mail that she has not heard of any problems about practice spaces or piano tuning.

“I have not heard any complaints; at least none have come my way,” Laurans wrote.” I certainly will be displeased if people complain who have never come forward!”

Michael Yaffe, the School of Music associate dean of administrative affairs, said the University recognized that the lack of sufficient practice space is a problem. He said the planned renovation of Hendrie Hall will help students to find more and better places to practice their instruments.

The renovation will involve a four-story addition to the back of the building that will replace part of the parking lot, but the administration has yet to set a date for the construction project’s groundbreaking, which was delayed, along with most all campus construction, because of the endowment’s 24.6 percent plunge.

Hendrie Hall currently houses six practice modules on its top floor, which are open to all students at the college. Yaffe said 24 new practice rooms will be built in the basement after the renovation is completed. The additions will create room for a student lounge and a state-of-the-art practice space for the Yale Symphony Orchestra will occupy the top two floors. For now, the Yale Symphony Orchestra, the Yale Band and the Yale Glee Club share the building’s two larger practice rooms.

“I think that people are being responsive [to the demand for practice rooms], but the problem is that it’s not getting built,” Yaffe said.

For the time being, Yaffe said students should try to be flexible about the times that they choose to rehearse their music.

“At low-demand times such as Saturday and Sunday mornings, practice spaces in Hendrie are always available,” Yaffe said.

Comments

  • Jennifer L. Julier

    I have an excellent 1912 Steinway grand piano, always in tune and in need of playing. If a serious piano student, either undergraduate or graduate, is interested in using it for practice, please contact me at jennifer.julier@yale.edu. I live in Hamden, but we can discuss transportation.

  • dsimon

    Some things never change. I’m class of ’85 and finding practice rooms was a problem back in my day too.

  • DonVito

    I know a place that might be able to accomodate the occasional a cappella rehearsal. Just off campus, close to Peabody. ugctenor@yahoo.com