Last week, music could be heard across campus as a Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music student played his marimba on the quad to protest the lack of adequate practice rooms available to music students.
Conservatory students have struggled with inadequate rooms in Whitman and Roosevelt for several years, and now with repairs and asbestos removals pushing them out of Whitman, students have been forced to find new places to practice.
One of these students is senior percussionist Allan Randall. Randall has started playing the marimba, a large instrument resembling an oversized xylophone outside “out of necessity and to protest” the lack of adequate practice rooms available to conservatory students.
Many of the rooms are without air conditioning, as well as other necessities, including soundproofed walls and the mirrors musicians need to see their physical movements while playing. Many of the rooms are small and cramped, one with a trash can collecting a leak from the ceiling.
“I can’t be in these rooms for more than an hour,” said Randall.
According to Randall, there is a total of 20 practice rooms in Roosevelt Hall, which according to Brooklyn College, students use for upwards of 20,000 hours per semester. Five of these rooms are reserved for classes and lessons, while four are specifically for percussion, leaving only 11 rooms for independent practice for the whole conservatory. Of these 11 rooms, only three have air conditioning and mirrors.
“Everyone generally fights over the practice rooms that have AC or some sort of cooling system, which results in people hogging some of the rooms,” said Evelyn Tu, a junior in the conservatory and representative on the Performing Arts Student Association (PAStA).
Part of the issue with the number of rooms is that generally some of the students, particularly those who play in large ensemble groups, would use practice rooms in the basement of Whitman Hall, which are currently closed due to an asbestos removal.
The students were told to move all their equipment out to make way for the necessary removal. A representative from DASNY (Dormitory Authority of the State of New York), who is handling the removal, said the process would occur sometime in the next few months, hopefully in November. This removal process is on top of the ongoing repairs in the building going on until next year, leading to the question of when students will be able to move back into the rooms.
The rooms in Whitman are in even worse condition than the ones in Roosevelt. While the rooms are bigger, they also lack air conditioning, with chipped paint and exposed, deteriorating walls.
Students could find some relief from these conditions with the completion of the new, state of the art Leonard and Claire Tow Center for the Performing Arts building currently being constructed behind the library. The building has been promised to the students since 2014. Brooklyn College said the building should be completed by winter. Students are skeptical of this claim.
“Students will joke with professors about how bad it is and how everything will be solved once the new building is open. Yet every semester, the same narrative of ‘the new building will open next semester’, keeps repeating till the point where it itself becomes a joke,” Tu explained. saying that the problem has existed even before she entered the conservatory.
Until the conditions are fixed however, students like Randall will continue to spend their practice time out on the quad or in the hallways of Roosevelt.
“It’s nice playing outside, actually,” Randall said about his new practice spot. “People come and listen.”