USF Music Building officially opens

Though it’s been full of music students since February, USF celebrated the official opening of the new Music Building on Thursday and Sunday.

USF School of Music students moved into the 113,535-square-foot building Feb. 21, but Director William Hipp said parts of the construction – such as acoustically fine-tuning the rehearsal and concert halls – were still being finalized, and equipment and instruments, including the new Steinway pianos, were still being moved in.

Thursday’s symbolic ribbon cutting and art dedication and Sunday’s opening gala performance marked the building’s official completion and opening, he said, though they will “continue to acquire pianos over a period of time.”

USF President Judy Genshaft presided over the ribbon cutting, at which Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, College of the Arts Dean Ron Jones and a student representative for USF music students spoke. The event was opened by the pep band and moved indoors after being threatened by severe weather. Inside, students gave tours of the building and the choir performed a special arrangement.

The art dedication celebrated the new building and the installation of fresco pieces by Janaina Tschpe. The pieces, which span entire walls of the building, are entitled “Forest Spirits” and were chosen by a committee as the most recent addition to the University’s public art collection.

Jones said the installation is “one of the most successful public art projects to date at USF.”

Tschpe, who has previously worked with the art department, spent a month constructing the works – her largest to date – directly on the wall with the help of an arial lift and other artists.

“There is a funny mixture of the composition between my thoughts and my memory of painting and music that I hear,” Tschpe said during the dedication. “So when I heard that it was a concert hall, it seemed … natural to let those elements flow into each other and … that could become interesting in terms of … the viewer that comes to the concert hall expecting music to see something that corresponds to composition but in a painterly way.”

Paul Reller, a music professor at USF since 1990, composed a piece of music, “Readied Maxima,” in response to Tschpe’s work. His students performed it during the dedication’s champagne reception.

“I imagined a piece being done around a mural that you could walk around,” Reller said. “This (mural) is just all curvy lines to it, which you can hear in the middle (of ‘Readied Maxima.’) I just have this trombone sliding around, and I just try to get that aspect of it.”

Using the beats and distance between the bells early in the composition, Reller also hid the art’s dedication date: 3-31-11.

The building held its first public concert Sunday night, with performances by the USF Symphony Orchestra and Choral Ensembles with Maestros William W. Wiedrich and James K. Bass. Hipp said it was the world premiere for two pieces – “FLASH” and “Bound Away.”

The same concert was held Saturday for invited guests, which included donors invited by the USF Foundation.

The gala performance kicks off the performance lineup for the month of April, during which the building hosts more than 15 concerts, a mix of highlight concerts and student and faculty recitals.

The new building has 49 practice rooms and dedicated studios, as well as two music libraries, computer labs and three smart classrooms.

Hipp said student reaction to the building has been overwhelmingly positive.

“It’s really a pretty profound impact for the students because the whole environment is changed for them,” he said. “For their practice, for their rehearsals (and) for their performances.”

When they resided in the Fine Arts Hall, it wasn’t uncommon to see music students practicing outside. Now, Hipp said, with ample inside rehearsal space, that doesn’t happen. In fact, the building has brought a greater sense of community to the department.

“There are, in this building, some wonderful gathering places where students just gravitate … and they can bring their computers … You’ll see a lot of that,” he said. “We didn’t have anything like that before.”