Kilbourn Hall, a historic performance space at the Eastman School of Music, was forced to close its doors to students this semester while it undergoes asbestos abatement, causing faculty to relocate an estimated 40 student degree recitals, the fall opera production and various guest performances.
Dean of the Eastman School of Music Douglas Lowry officially notified students of the hall’s closure on Aug. 15. Originally discovered on June 25 by UR Facilities in a three-foot space above the ceiling that is not easily or regularly traversed, the asbestos has likely existed since the hall’s construction in the early 1920s.
Though tests conducted by third-party professionals concluded that there is not, nor ever was, any danger to Kilbourn patrons, Lowry began the asbestos removal process immediately in order to preempt a potential outbreak.
According to Dean for Administration and Finance at Eastman Michele Gibson, the process is a lengthy one, beginning with extensive planning and followed by bidding to construction companies that specialize in asbestos removal. The Pike Construction Company, which was picked for the task, is currently preparing for the project and has already erected scaffolding so they can access the ceiling.
Kilbourn hosted its first concert on March 4, 1922 and has since served as a performance space for students, faculty and guests. With 435 seats, near impeccable acoustics and a distinctively Venetian Renaissance style, the hall has led many students to feel that playing in the hall connects them to the countless artists who have performed there throughout history.
“The rails … literally vibrate,” hornist and senior Kelly Suthers said about performances in Kilbourn. “It’s like I’m touching the past music that has been played there.”
Though much of the overflow caused by Kilbourn’s closing has been smoothed over by the availability of Hatch Hall — which was built only two years ago — students have observed its smaller capacity of 220 seats and noticeably different acoustics.
Trumpeter and Eastman senior Kevin Fitzgerald planned to have his Sept. 30 senior degree recital in Kilbourn but was relocated to Hatch. “Kilbourn is much more accommodating for the trumpet … Hatch will make it a little louder for the audience,” he said.
Gibson praised the Eastman School Concert Office’s handling of the situation, specifically relocating student performances. About 30 degree recitals could be moved one for one to the same day and time in Hatch, forcing 10 to be held at a different time or on a different day.
Violinist and Eastman senior Christy Greer emailed the Concert Office immediately after Lowry’s announcement, requesting that her mid-September recital remain the same time. Though it was rescheduled to the afternoon when a majority of her peers have mandatory ensemble, Greer said she felt good about the turnout and her performance, but that she “wish[ed] we had known sooner,” about the hall’s closure.
Eastman’s fall opera, Benjamin Britten’s “The Rape of Lucretia,” was scheduled for Kilbourn but ultimately moved off campus. At the time of the rescheduling, the set had already been constructed and logistics assessed. The change in venue necessitated a complete re-imagination of the opera.
Additional events have been canceled, such as the popular Virtuosi chamber music concerts given by faculty. The Ranlet and Kilbourn Hall series, including a concert by the Ying Quartet, has relocated to Hatch and will be split into two performances to compensate for the smaller room capacity.
Kilbourn is expected to reopen for the spring semester — more than enough time for the abatement process, Gibson said. She also expressed her hope that the closure will not impede Eastman’s core mission, which is “the education of students,” and the promotion of “arts in Rochester.”
Chudy is a member of the class of 2013.