Modern Music

May 23, 2016
By Meleah Maynard
An addition to the Weitz Center for Creativity brings the music department under one roof with other creative disciplines, ensuring endless possibilities for collaboration

Concert Hall

Not long ago, liberal arts education could be considered a success if a student graduated with the ability to go out into the world as a curious, critical thinker. That’s not enough anymore. In the 21st century, graduates must also be able to think creatively, connecting ideas that cross multiple disciplines while learning and expressing ideas in visual and technological ways.

Carleton acknowledged this need in 2011 when it opened the Weitz Center for Creativity, which was funded in part by a $15 million gift from Wally Weitz ’70 and Barbara Veach Weitz ’70 and their family—Katie Weitz ’96; Roger Weitz ’99 and his wife, Kate; and Drew Weitz ’02 and his wife, Meredith Doerr Weitz ’02. The center—which includes performance, exhibition, and multimedia spaces, as well as state-of-the-art classroom technology—is a place where students and faculty members collaborate on a wide range of interdisciplinary projects. In May, with an additional gift from the Weitz family, Carleton will bring music into the fold by breaking ground on an addition to the center.

Known as the Music and Performance Commons, the addition was designed by Minneapolis-based HGA Architects. When it opens in 2017 it will house the majority of Carleton’s music program, including teaching studios, rehearsal rooms of varying sizes, a music resource library, and offices for full-time music faculty members. A 400-seat, acoustically excellent performance hall with a larger stage will replace the Concert Hall, which eventually will be demolished.

An innovative design will allow the new performance hall to be easily transformed to accommodate theater, dance, and other nonmusical performances. “It’s a fantastic design, especially for dance,” says theater professor Roger Bechtel. “You can turn acoustic panels to create entrances and exits for dancers, and the lighting grid has a huge array of LED lights that can be any color.”

Bringing music, theater, dance, cinema, media studies, and art together under one roof has been a longtime goal, says dean of the college Bev Nagel ’75, who notes that Carleton is committed to building a “consciously creative campus,” where innovation and cross-discipline collaboration are an integral part of the curriculum and campus life. “This addition will allow us to build interdisciplinary teaching into many of our academic programs, not just in the arts but in, say, classics and theater or computer science and media studies,” she says. “The boundaries between art and teaching and communication are becoming increasingly porous. We are broadening the ways we prepare students to communicate.”

Adding music teaching and performance to the Weitz Center is particularly important, Nagel says, because the majority of Carleton students participate in music in one way or another. For example, 84 percent of students in the Class of 2015 enrolled in at least one curricular offering in the music department (classes, lessons, or participating in ensembles such as choir or orchestra) during their four years at Carleton. Many students also participate in music-related cocurricular activities, attend musical performances, or sing in campus groups. “Virtually every student will be affected by this addition,” she continues. “Our existing facilities are inadequate, but now we’ll be able to offer what students need: better instructional facilities, places for groups to practice other than the concert stage, and more opportunities for students and faculty members to work together creatively.”

The addition to the Weitz Center further places Carleton at the forefront of encouraging liberal arts students to work between disciplines and bring technology into their work, says Bechtel. In his live performance and digital media class, Bechtel’s students are already creating all kinds of multimedia projects. One computer science major recently designed a fully immersive experience by hooking a network of computer sensors to a stationary bike facing a 180-degree curved screen. “The faster you pedal, the faster you move through the video landscape,” says Bechtel. “It brings together performance, cinema, media studies, and computer studies—and that’s liberal arts education in the best possible sense.”

Having so many artistic disciplines under one roof will only enhance the possibilities for creative collaboration, says Steve Richardson ’86, Carleton’s Puzak Family Director of the Arts and project manager for the Weitz Center addition. “It sounds too simple, but it’s true that interaction leads to collaboration. With this addition, cinema and media studies professors and students will see music students and professors in the halls every day and have conversations,” he says, adding that the Weitz Center was intentionally designed to include popular classes from outside the arts, such as English and history, so that students and faculty members from wide-ranging backgrounds will cross paths routinely.  

From its inception, the Weitz Center’s interdisciplinary focus has been evidenced by its name, which intentionally designates the facility
as a place for creativity rather than the arts. The addition builds on that original intention.

Says Bechtel: “It will be exciting to see how students use the new space to come together and do truly interdisciplinary and experimental work.”  

 

Northeast view of proposed Weitz addition

View of the addition from Central Park

 

proposed Music Commons

Lobby outside the performance hall

 

Proposed concert hall

The performance hall stage can accommodate both the choir and the orchestra

 

Proposed large rehearsal room

The sound-isolated rehearsal hall can be used concurrently with other practice and performance spaces

 

Weitz Center addition site plan

The addition will be located on the southeast corner of the Weitz Center for Creativity

 

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