Eastman students have dealt with it long enough. It’s time to speak out about a problem that has long plagued the Eastman School of Music. The practice room doors in the Annex are dangerous and do not shut.
So what does it take keep a room closed? Of 50 doors I examined between floors 2 and 6 of the Annex, more than 20 required some combination of Superman arm strength, paper, gum, the right touch, pure luck, optimal weather conditions or the guarantee that no doors along the same wall would be opened or closed.
Needless to say, these conditions rarely exist together at Eastman. We’ve all heard that ominous “boom” in the middle of a phrase, followed by the whine of our own practice room door swinging open.
Freshman cellist Sunny Yang described her first experience with this as “frightening.” For some supernatural reason, after the first opening, the door never closes again.
This does not even include more than five rooms with doors that don’t close at all. These include such infamous rooms as numbers 320, 321, 327, 335 and 430. Of course, the list changes hourly depending upon weather, movement of the aging paper jammed in door latches or other unseen, unexplained forces.
For example, upon my return to Rochester in muggy August, ridiculously few doors would close. Or maybe I was out of shape.
I also witnessed handles threatening to fall off, large gashes in the walls and strange hissing sounds of varying volumes.
Other rooms greeted me with a curious, smelly heat wave that made it difficult for me to breathe. For example, don’t even try to practice in any room near 413.
And if you like the room’s sauna effects, don’t limit yourself to the Annex ? there are saunas in some off-campus apartments.
To be fair, there are 20 rooms with very nice doors in the basement. However, this area is not open to everyone, and is mostly used by pianists.
Down here, the climate is dramatically different from that of other Annex floors or the main building. This makes it an unwise choice for players of temperamental reed instruments, as well as an unwelcome one for many others.
The doors are a very real issue for the Eastman community. When almost 50 percent of the available practice rooms are unusable or, as in many cases, the cause of mental and physical stress, how are students able to practice effectively?
Furthermore, with so many students and so few practice rooms, the majority of students are stuck without a decent place to practice.
“I don’t like the doors even when they shut because they hurt my hands,” freshman violist Jennifer Volmer said. The enormous force needed to close the doors increases the number of unusable rooms to 50, or almost 75 percent.
According to senior cellist Zach Sweet, there are “a lot of people who have been injured by practice room doors.” No one should be surprised by this.
The sheer weight of the doors, the force needed to close them, the resulting frustration from being unable to close the doors and the regularity with which doors randomly swing open, all make it a rather fertile breeding ground for physical problems.
Many students also complained that doors swinging ajar, either from their practice room or from others in down the hallway, regularly disrupt their practice sessions.
Let’s not forget that we play musical instruments. This already puts us at risk for injuries and turns any physical stress into an educational and professional issue.
When there are such unique performance opportunities and distinguished professors at the Eastman School, why are we being held back by a simple building problem?
As senior pianist Jason Peterson said, “When a door doesn’t shut properly, not only is it a maintenance concern, but it affects [everyone’s] concentration.”
Because it is less than ideal to practice in the basement, forbidden to practice in the dorms, and because off-campus apartments have restrictions on practice hours, it is clear that these decrepit Annex rooms badly need repair.
After all, the practice space is essential to Eastman students being able to maintain and improve their playing level and musicianship.
Imagine a university that doesn’t have working chairs or tables in the library and forbids students from reading, writing and using computers in their dormitories.
Obviously, students would complain, break the rules, fight for the chairs and tables that were safer and sturdier, and also worry on a regular basis about where to find a computer to use or a place to study.
Parents would not send their children to such a university, especially when paying a tuition comparable to that of Eastman, and would demand immediate action.
But this is difficult to imagine. Why? Because it’s a ridiculous picture ? where would you find such a university? Why have we been working in a frustrating and dangerous area for so long? Let’s bring the Annex into the modern world ? one with new doors or, at least, latches.
Caltvedt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.