Now that renovations have begun on Sprague Hall, there will probably be concrete barriers and chain-link fences on the College Street sidewalk for the coming year. But Yale School of Music professor Paul Hawkshaw says the project is well worth the hassle.

“It’s one of the great concert halls on the East Coast,” he said.

The refurbishment of Sprague Hall, which is slated to be finished December 2002, will add practice rooms and office space while modernizing the main concert hall. It is one step in a larger plan to renovate the entire Music School.

“Sprague will be an updated and modern center for music performance right in the center of campus,” said Hawkshaw, who chairs the Music School building committee.

The overall renovation is being handled by the architecture firm Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg, a Toronto-based firm that designed part of the Canadian embassy in Berlin.

The concert hall itself will not substantially change, though contractors will install air conditioning and more comfortable seats and improve soundproofing. Hawkshaw said the din of buses and sirens sometimes disrupts daytime recordings.

On the ground floor of the building will be administrative quarters and a box office, as well as dressing rooms and a green room for performers.

Hawkshaw said the new practice rooms might be open to undergraduate performers. Robert Honstein ’03, pitch pipe for the Duke’s Men of Yale a cappella group, described a campus crunch for practice rooms, particularly for pianists.

“The situation [for pianists] is pathetic,” he said. “There is something, but it’s very limited.”

The basement, which once housed the Music Library — and now contains rows of empty bookshelves and an abandoned circulation desk — will be home to a computer music studio.

To make sure that the project does not change the acoustics of the hall, Yale has also hired Kirkegaard Associates, an internationally respected acoustics firm that has worked on Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

“They’re probably the leading people for acoustics,” said Lawrence Regan, a senior architect at Yale’s project management facilities.

Before the renovations began, Sprague Hall was the most heavily used music venue on campus. Hawkshaw estimated that the hall was booked for 18 to 20 hours each day and said that although the Music Department has been “scrambling” to find new recital halls, they have been successful.

“We’re doing everything humanly possible and so far we have not had problems,” Hawkshaw said.

Recitals and concerts that would normally have been scheduled in Sprague Hall have been held in Battell Chapel, Woolsey Hall and the Trinity Lutheran Church on the New Haven Green.

After the Sprague Hall renovations are finished, many Music School administrative offices will move into the revamped concert hall, allowing a new wave of renovations.

“There’s a bowling pin effect here,” Hawkshaw said.

While Yale’s 2002 budget allocates $15 million to the project, Regan said the estimated cost is “more than that now.” The University said in April that it will spend $300 million on capital projects in the coming year.