While the Eastman School of Music is often regarded as the touchstone of music education, the same cannot be said of the River Campus. With limited practice space and access to only a single guitar amp designated for general use — that is, for students not part of music programs — guitarists at the River Campus cannot help but feel underwhelmed.
The River Campus currently houses a total of 20 practice rooms for general use: 17 in Spurrier Gymnasium and three in Lower Strong. The Spurrier spaces each offer an upright piano, bench, and music stand. The largest practice room, dubbed the “Jam Room,” includes a guitar amp, bass amp, and drum kit. The practice rooms in Strong do not have any amps altogether. While there are additional practice spaces, such as those used by No Jackets Required, they require special permission and are not readily available to non-members.
Citing the National Association for Music Education, which recommends that colleges provide a minimum 1:40 ratio of practice rooms to students, Manager of Music Performance Programs Josef Hanson said, “Given the size of the River Campus, we ought to have 100 practice rooms. And that’s not counting anything at Eastman.”Hanson, who has worked at UR for 11 years, added, “It has always been a matter of space and the University’s priorities.”
While a lack of space may have hindered the University in the past, Music Professor John Covach believes change may come this summer when the music department moves from its current home in Todd Union to the “much more spacious” Dewey Hall. Though the University has yet to approve such a proposal, Covach added that the Ronald Rettner Hall for Media Arts and Innovation, which is scheduled to open in the fall, could also be “a perfect place” for additional practice rooms.
Despite the increased potential for theft were UR to furnish additional guitar amps, such a risk is actually minimal, with the most recent theft occurring “sometime in 2006,” Hanson said.
If UR is to rightfully tout itself as a place for the arts, it should begin by demonstrating a commitment to student musicians not just at Eastman, but on the River Campus as well.