Students Sing Praises of New Space

Musicians-in-training give their (high note) impressions of the new USF School of Music building.


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Apr. 27, 2011) – USF’s School of Music, part of the College of The Arts, has held onto the promise of a new building since it was first approved in 1982. Everyone’s patience has been rewarded with a spectacular 113,535-square-foot work of art and students at all levels are reaping the benefits.


Among them the words “amazing” and “incredible” are getting quite a workout these days but it’s nearly impossible to find better ones to describe the new building, its acoustics and the world of difference between it and the school’s previous 45-year-old clunker of a home. 


What does 22-year-old University of South Florida senior Paul Keesling love about the new building? “Everything. The acoustics are incredible, and as a percussionist, the numerous storage rooms and our own percussion suite with large practice rooms for our many instruments.”


Both of his parents studied music in the old building and he looked upon it as an honor to be studying there as well.  But he says he’ll manage, in part because of one thing he won’t miss – having to dismantle the marimbas before they could be moved from room to room in the old building. The doors in the new building are wide enough.


Trombonist Eli Ponder, a freshman majoring in music education has the highest praise for the acoustics of the new halls and rehearsal rooms, but also sees USF’s location as a big plus with so many opportunities to play and hear music. “Being from a small town in northern Alabama, living in a place like Tampa is very exciting for educational and other reasons, but I came primarily because of the outstanding trombone studio.”


Paul Gavin, another percussionist, is among several students who mentioned one thing they will miss, playing outside, of necessity. Practice rooms’ competing sounds in the old building made it difficult to concentrate and so many students headed outside to hear themselves.  With Florida’s great weather, it wasn’t such a bad thing. 


“It’s nice to practice and play in nature,” Gavin, a 19-year-old freshman, said. “Inside it will be less organic in feeling but it will be the highest quality sound with the highest quality equipment.”


22-year-old Fausto Miro said, “I will miss how close we were to the small pond and the breeze way,” but, “Musically, I miss nothing. Our new building is such an upgrade!”


 Students, however, can still play outside. The designers purposely created an outdoor green amphitheatre for concerts and smaller niches along the outside “lyrical wall” where students and small audiences can enjoy the pleasure of making and listening to music in the open air, by choice. 


More than likely, Gavin and Miro as well as Alan Bonko, a music education major and sophomore who says he’ll miss the sounds of the trumpets that used to fill the air around the pond, will be among those who venture outside for old times’ sake. But more than anything else, Bonko expressed something all the students share, feeling privileged at having access to the new building right from the beginning. 


“I like that I had the opportunity to be in the first group of students to use the facilities,” he said. “Everyone is motivated to practice and excited to excel as musicians with the help of all of the wonderful new resources.”


Keesling agrees. “There is no better opportunity to play and learn in an amazing environment.  There is such a new energy here among my friends.  Everyone’s in the mood to practice and work really hard together.”


Miro, a flute and voice performance major says, “Personally, I love our new building. I feel a real sense of pride to be a music major at USF. We finally have a facility that matches the caliber of students and faculty. The new building has brought a new sense of pride and higher expectation to our school.”


He has also noticed that the building produces a whole new atmosphere. 


“Everyone's so happy. I remember our first week in the new building. Everyone was in such a great mood, lots of exploring and smiling.” 


Miro isn’t alone in catching the excitement.


“I feel that the vibe and overall energy of everything and everyone makes it a place that you love to go to because everyone is so proud,” said 20-year-old Elise Gonzalez, a junior majoring in music education. 


Given that the other building had so many flaws, primarily due to its age and design limitations, why did music students come to study at USF from all over the country and the world? 


 “The faculty,” Miro, a senior, explained, in a word. “There are great teachers at USF, and it's been such a wonderful learning experience.” 


Keesling agrees, “I chose USF for undergraduate work over a scholarship offer to Boston University’s music program. One main reason, Bob McCormick, the most influential and knowledgeable musician.” 


USF’s music program does come highly recommended. Gavin said, “My teacher in high school, Todd Betz, principal percussionist at the Southwest Florida Symphony, advised me to come here.” 


Bonko said he chose USF, “because of the standard of excellence that its School of Music is known for.”


The school’s stellar reputation was built on the skill, talent and dedication that held things together until a suitable home could be built and in some way the timing has turned out to be perfect.


“The students have taken to the new building without hesitation and we couldn’t be happier to see them in the environment we’ve always wanted for them,” said USF College of The Arts Dean Ron Jones. “They and the faculty have made themselves at home in a way that makes me feel it was well worth the wait because we now have a building that is state-of-the-art and will work for a long time to come.”


Violinist Angela Ruffino, a new transfer student from Hillsborough County Community College, helped conduct tours of the new building for guests and visitors and sums up the building’s basics. “The amount of practice rooms and rehearsal halls is amazing, also the acoustics and the concert hall are incredible,” she said. “And it’s beautiful.” 


See for yourself.  Visitors are welcome.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.