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Music Dept. Shuts Out A Capella Groups

By Beckett W. Sterner


MIT’s a capella groups may have to find new practice space.

Starting this spring, the three music practice rooms on the first floor of Building 4 will be open to non-department groups Monday through Thursday only after 9 p.m. All but one of the MIT a capella groups use these rooms to practice, often before the new starting time.

The Music Department needed the extra time because the Chamber Music Society, run by the department, had expanded and the groups were having trouble getting in, said John H. Lyons, administrative officer for the department.

“We’ve done our best to let [a capella groups] use this space,” Lyons said, but “we have to take care of the music department first.”

Few other spaces are available for the groups to practice in, as most rooms are either too small or don’t have a piano. Some groups are looking into space in the Student Center, dormitories or the Walker Memorial Building, but none are as appropriate as the Building 4 rooms.

“The trouble is, our program is growing,” Lyons said, referring to the Chamber Music Society.

The Symphony Orchestra and Concert Choir have also held section practices in the music rooms, Lyons said.

The change was “not one we did lightly, nor one we like to do,” Lyons said. He said that in the past, student groups could reserve the rooms at the Music Department’s discretion, but the department had no obligation to make them available.

Although non-department groups will not be able to check out keys for the rooms until after 9 on Monday through Thursday, the rooms will be open all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Groups look for new space

With the change going into effect this spring semester, the a capella groups have had to move quickly to find alternatives. The groups chose Julia P. Patriarco ’05, a member of Resonance, to bring their concerns to Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict.

The change will have “a big impact in a bad way on our rehearsal schedules,” Patriarco said. “Basically, we’re just going to have to scramble to get rooms.”

“It’s tough,” said Michael M. Yang ’05, director and member of the Logarhythms. He said that the Logs are currently looking for alternative spaces in the Student Center or Walker.

Patriarco said she was currently compiling a list of the times during which the groups use the rooms to practice and that she intended to send it to Dean Benedict as evidence of the change’s effect.

A capella groups currently use almost all available time in the Building 4 rooms, Lyons said. Only the Muses currently practice elsewhere. Weifang Sun ’04, a member of the Muses, said that even though they don’t use the rooms, they are actively supporting the other groups “in case we would ever need it.”

New spaces possible

Lyons said the Music Department was looking into the possibility of a new rehearsal space in the next five years, but until then they have no plans for expanding.

While it may be possible to put pianos into other departments’ classrooms, they would have to get permission and the departments are often just as short on space as the music department, Lyons said.

Although the Chamber Music Society’s membership fluctuates from year to year, Lyons said he anticipates that “it will stay as it is, or it will grow.”

The Music Department has 11 rooms for rehearsals in all, including the three at issue, which are used by about 400 to 500 people. In general, he said, “space such as this is almost nonexistent.”