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Sense of Place

Mary B. McMahan Hall at Stetson University

Cramped quarters prompt new School of Music facility
University Business, May 2009

STUDYING AND TEACHING MUSIC at Stetson University (Fla.) are now more melodious experiences, thanks to a new School of Music facility.

? FUNCTION: Rehearsal and teaching space

? CHALLENGES: The existing music facility, Presser Hall, opened in 1969 to serve 16 music faculty and 140 students. In recent years it became jam-packed, as the school grew to 46 full- and part-time faculty and 220 music majors. The studios and practice rooms were booked from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Two faculty members shared studio spaces built for one. The largest rehearsal room had become too small for Choral Union rehearsals, which took place in another facility, with the conductor standing on the stage and the singers standing in the audience. For any big group rehearsing in Presser, the acoustics aren’t pedagogically sound.

? SOLUTIONS: A new music building “had been on the capital projects list for a while,” says Jim Beasley, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Stetson. “As with most of these cases, it takes a champion, and we found one with Richard McMahan”?a university trustee whose wife, Mary, has been instrumental in supporting the arts regionally and who serves on the School of Music Board of Advisors. They made the lead gift, and Stetson’s development team raised additional funds by offering named spaces in the building.

Mary B. McMahan Hall now provides space for the school to spread out. Half of the 8,000-square-foot facility is a large rehearsal hall with a 25-foot ceiling to be used by large instrumental ensembles and the Choral Union. Acoustics in the rehearsal hall, studios, and practice rooms were designed in consultation with Professor Doug Jones at Columbia College in Chicago. McMahan Hall includes five studios for faculty who give lessons on large instruments such as tuba, percussion, and string bass. Other academic spaces are a percussion studio, a percussion practice room, a band library, and instrument/equipment storage space. The most up-to-date recording and playback equipment is available for use.

“Mary B. McMahan Hall gives our program new options and valuable spaces for teaching and rehearsal,” says Dean of Music Jean West. “The building increases the sophistication and flexibility of our program overall.” She calls the hall a “beautiful and striking space, with wonderful use of light,” adding that the windows are reminiscent of ancient musical symbols. The building’s dedication ceremony was shared with two other new buildings?an arts center and a science center.

? Cost: $2.15 million

? Completed: March 2009

? Project Team: SchenkelShultz Architects, Orlando, Fla.; R.A. Rogers Construction Co., Altamonte Springs, Fla.

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