Practice Rooms Designed to be Music to the Ears of Students

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

Oct. 15, 2007 – Music students returning to practice rooms this fall are finding themselves wondering where the familiar cacophony of sounds has gone. Southeast Missouri State University’s new River Campus features 11 soundproof spaces where music majors can concentrate on their music – and only their music.

Dr. Gary Miller, director of Southeast’s School of Visual and Performing Arts, said the Seminary building’s new student practice rooms and instructor studios have layers of soundproof insulation installed in the walls and ceiling.

“We’ve got a lot of faith in this insulation. For example, the staff piano accompanist’s studio is right next to the classical guitar instructor’s studio. These rooms will be a quiet place to work with very little sound spillage,” said Miller.

Brandt Hall of Music, which formerly housed the Department of Music, also has insulation in the walls of its practice rooms and instructor studios, but its doors are not soundproof. Music students know there is nothing more distracting than hearing two or three other musicians practicing in neighboring rooms, but the biggest source of noise pollution – the Power Plant – will no longer be an issue.

Not only do the new practice rooms each have a window with a view, but the windows are double-paned to prevent noise from trains and barges. In fact, the insulation is so extensive that the practice rooms sit lower than the hall to make room for all of it. The rooms also are temperature-controlled, keeping down energy costs and fees for piano tuners. 

“In Brandt, you could hear everything going on,” said Miller. “These practice rooms aren’t overly spacious, but the students will have fewer distractions. Every room has natural light and a view of the river.”

The Department of Music has retained the practice rooms in Brandt for students who live in the residence halls, giving musicians approximately 30 practice rooms from which to choose between the two campuses.

“We are employing practice room signup sheets, which is a very standard practice in music departments and conservatories,” said Miller.

The Seminary building’s instructor studios were formerly dormitory rooms and are not uniform in size. However, careful consideration for the individual instructor’s craft led to room compatibility.

“We had to give some thought as to who would go where,” said Miller. “We considered what kind of space they would need. For instance, some studios have lower ceilings than others. We had to place the violin instructor in a studio with a high ceiling because the bowing would poke holes in a low ceiling.”

Faculty studios also were matched by the size of instrumentation, said Bob Cerchio, assistant director of the School of Visual and Performing Arts.  

“Not all faculty need a piano in their studio,” he said. “Those that do, naturally got a larger space to accommodate the piano.”

He said the studio of string Professor Sara Edgerton, who also conducts the Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra, had to be large enough to accommodate a small string ensemble.  It also had to be carpeted since bass and cello spikes can leave holes in wood or tile floors. 

“Matching facilities to needs was quite challenging,” he said. “But we feel we don’t have any square pegs in round holes.”

There are individual studios for every instructor as well as three extra studios for adjunct instructors who commute to Southeast once or twice a week. While the studios are not necessarily more spacious than those in Brandt Hall of Music, they are furnished with stereo and recording equipment thanks to a Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant. The recording equipment will allow students to hear their own progress as they mature as musicians.

In addition, the Seminary building features a Smart Music Studio where students can simulate a live performance through CD accompaniment.