Kimbrough salutes new era

As you enter Kimbrough lobby, the noise of the outside campus falls away, and your ears are brushed with a background serenade of near-muted music from students and faculty honing their talent inside the hall’s many rooms. The bittersweet struggle of learning and excelling at the art is easier in this modern educational facility.

If it’s worth doing…

Built in 1965, Kimbrough was intended to have six floors, but the top two were not completed. According to Erich Lear, director of the School of Music and Theatre Arts from 1989 to 2000, several people got together in 1970 and decided to finish the rest of the project. From 1970 until 1990, the building went up and down the university’s capital project priority list.

“In the spring of my first year, John Pierce, former dean of the College of Liberal Arts, asked me if I wanted to try to get the Kimbrough addition project going again,” Lear said.

“The content of the project changed. The university wanted to put in a general education classroom and find space for a computer lab,” Lear continued. “That’s the way I inherited it in 1990.”

The process began and a committee proposed a predesign in 1992. In 1995, design funding was approved and construction started in 1997.

In short, the building was nearly complete in ‘65; it just took an additional 35 years to fulfill the plan and the funding. All that remains now is completion of the recording studio.

It’s worth doing well

The ‘70s and ‘80s were not easy times for the university, recalls James Schoepflin, current director of the School of Music and Theatre Arts. “Budget reductions happened nearly every year. University priorities did not focus on the performing arts to the level which presently exists.”

A fluctuating music enrollment finally saw a steady climb in the 1990s. Enrollment today stands at about 190.

Schoepflin believes the cause of this increase is a widening reputation for excellence in music at WSU. Changes to the program include better classrooms, the new recording studio and better faculty studios, all of which involve Kimbrough.

For example, the new piano lab boasts 16 student stations and a teacher station with Clavinova keyboards, all hooked to G4 Macintosh computers. This lab allows students to write music, learn basic piano skills and theory, and hear their work in electronic sequencing.

Another major advance is the development and expansion of the music library. This previously cramped facility has been doubled in size, and now features computer-driven keyboards that can manipulate sound and compose music, listening stations and general computer stations.

Studios were designed to the highest standards for sound; faculty can hold private lessons and not bother surrounding rooms. Each studio is big enough to hold at least one, if not two, concert grand pianos.

“Although they are not like a concert hall, the sound in these studios is much better, the acoustic separation in the building is much better and the doors are heavy. It’s amazing,” Lear exclaims. “Fire marshals determined you could not hear the alarm system well enough in the studios or in some of the practice rooms because of the improvements in acoustic separation. So we spent $80,000 in the last 30 days of the project to put a fire alarm in every room.”

One critical, and expensive, phase of this project remains to be completed — the recording studio. Schoepflin estimates that this facility, fully equipped, will total out at more than $350,000. Currently, the department has only $90,000 in its account. Schoepflin says the department is determined to do it right and will wait to receive the additional funding. Efforts focusing on private donors and endowments are already underway.

At press time, it was announced that a sizeable pledge to the WSU School of Music and Theatre Arts was being negotiated. If successful it would allow for the completion of the recording studio.

A stronger incentive

After all this construction, and $8 million later, the music department has one thing on its mind — enrolling higher quality students.

“Such students are interested in what our music program can offer,” Schoepflin said. “If you roll it all into one package, that really defines a student’s idea of the best school. They are going to pick the school where they can get the best experience, best faculty, best equipment to perform on and the best space to study and work in.”

“Our future growth will be primarily qualitative,” Schoepflin asserts. “Competition for acceptance to the program will become more keen.”

A fitting rededication

The official rededication of Kimbrough will take place at 11 a.m. Thursday, April 4. The ceremony will feature a new composition by Charles Arger-singer, professor of music. His inspiration came from three sonnets by Shakespeare.

“Each sonnet refers to music in some fashion,” Argersinger said. “I assumed it would be appropriate to write a piece that would end with a celebratory character.”

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