Major investment propels music facilities at MSU

A bold transformation is underway for music at Michigan State University as plans for a major new addition and significant facility renovations to the College of Music were announced in late June.

The preliminary plans detail a $35 million project that includes a 35,000-square-foot expansion and 8,500-square feet of renovated space to the Music Building on Circle Drive. The project was approved the MSU Board of Trustees and is made possible by more than $7 million in initial gift commitments from several donors.

“This will be an important and strategic piece of our vision for the future,” says James Forger, dean of the College of Music. “This state-of-the-art addition and renovation to the Music Building, following the world-class renovation of performance spaces including recently completed Cook Recital Hall and Fairchild Theatre, will make it a premier destination for students and faculty from around the globe. It will support the work of an exceptional faculty that is second to none.”

The initial impetus for the project came from MSU alumnus James Billman, Jr. who provided the lead gift for an expansion and refurbishment of the original 1939 Music Building. Alumni Byron and Dolores Cook and the late Ruth Charles joined Billman in setting the project in motion with major support of their own.

“Spartan musicians regularly thrill audiences with their professional performances, and their performance venues, classrooms and practice areas should reflect that,” said Billman, a 1969 graduate of the College of Natural Science.

The renovation and expansion plan includes acoustically advanced rehearsal spaces, additional practice rooms, a modern and high-tech lecture center, faculty studios and offices, a recording and multimedia room and a public gathering space with a café.

Climate control and excellent acoustical design will enhance all work in the new spaces. Larger, flexible rehearsal and performance spaces will accommodate various ensembles including bands, choirs, jazz bands and combos, new music, opera, orchestras and percussion. Significantly expanded spaces will be developed for individual practice locations as well as chamber music rehearsal space.

“This will facilitate the work of faculty and students in extraordinary ways,” says Forger. “It is gratifying that alumni and friends have stepped forward with cornerstone gifts that will transform the College.”

Forger added that improved music facilities have long been on the University's list of needs. The College has outgrown current spaces, Forger explains, with 550 students working toward music degrees and more than 2,000 additional students participating in ensembles and classes.

“Expanding and enhancing the Music Building is the next step in transforming the learning environment for scores of students and providing outstanding musical experiences for audiences,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “We are grateful to Jim Billman and other donors for leading the way in investing in a new chapter for music at MSU.”

A thorough study conducted with faculty, students, architects and planners helped identify key spaces for critically needed improvements and strategic opportunities for innovation at the College. Michigan State will provide 50 percent of $35 million needed for the renovation and expansion. The College will proceed with additional fundraising efforts for the remaining $10.5 million in gifts, and will provide opportunities for donors to name spaces in the expanded and renovated facility.

Source: Michael Sundermann, Communications Director, MSU College of Music
Writer/Editor: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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