On Monday afternoon, Eastman School of Music Dean Douglas Lowry held a press conference in the parking lot behind the Eastman Theatre to announce the University’s plan to construct a new building on the lot that will house teaching and performance spaces.

“It was space that was desperately needed for the Eastman School,” UR President Joel Seligman said at the conference. “We’re going to get ‘wow’ space, as people like to say. We’re going to get a building that is going to make this city proud.”

The highlight of the project is a 200-seat recital hall that gives students an additional practice and performance area. There will also be a number of faculty studios as well as a new recording studio. Additionally, a new entrance and atrium will be built facing East Main St.

“The new facility will address the needs of Eastman students and faculty, but it also reaffirms our commitment to maintaining and developing Rochester’s urban core as an artistic and cultural center,” Lowry said.

Seligman, UR Board of Trustees member Roger Friedlander, Senior Executive Associate Dean of Eastman School of Music Jamal Rossi, Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy, State Assemblyman Joseph Morelle and Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik spoke to the crowd of about 100 people. Assemblywoman Susan John and Craig Jensen of Chaintreuil, Jensen, Stark Architects, who designed the project, were also in attendance, but did not speak.

The new building completes the area that George Eastman had originally intended for the school almost 90 years ago. He wanted a recital hall to be built in the space around East Main St. and Swan St. At the time, however, the site was not available as another building was occupying the area.

“It’s taken many, many years to get here,” Rossi said. “I remember, as a student here in the 1980’s, talking then about the need for a recital hall, and ‘wouldn’t this parking lot be an ideal place for it?'”

The project will cost an estimated $35 million, $18.5 million of which has already been secured. Most recently, a $5 million grant from the state was secured with the help of Morelle and Assemblyman David Gantt. The school is pursuing a number of funding options and expects more money to come in from the private sector in the future.

The legislators were praised numerous times for their pursuit of these funds. Morelle said that it’s all part of the job.

“Our delegation has worked so tirelessly to try to make profound impacts where we can, and this is one of the great projects that we have had the privilege of helping to bring to Rochester,” he said.

Duffy spoke about the continuing revitalization of the city and its cultural image.

“The city echoes the University,” he said. “I think we’re all on the move. I think it’s about one block at a time, it’s planting a garden for the future and this is going to be part of that garden. We’re planting a seed right here and it’s going to be fabulous when it finishes. It’s a great day for arts and culture.”

The past months have been a whirlwind for Eastman. Lowry was named to his current position on Aug. 1, and the 2008 Newsweek College Guide recently named Eastman the “Hottest Music School” in the country.

Friedlander acknowledged this as he praised the construction plan.

“The fact that the Eastman is the hottest school of music in the country, it deserves a facility to continue to attract the distinguished faculty and continue to be the destination school for students.”

Moeller is a member of the class of 2009.

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