According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the University of Wisconsin Hamel Center, which has been in the works for over a decade now, is scheduled to open this month.
According to the WSJ, the Hamel Center, located on the corner of North Lake St. and University Ave., has had many delays due to funding issues and design changes among other things.
The building is meant for the School of Music. However, according to the UW School of Music Director Susan Cook, it is currently only partially taking the place of the old Humanities building.
“This was simply phase one, which was to replace the performance centers. Phase two would be to replace studios and classrooms but that requires a combination of state and private funding,” Cook said.
Many performing arts students, including Shelby Zang, a sophomore at UW with a vocal performance major, are somewhat upset that they don’t get to spend a lot of time in the new building.
Zang, who spends a lot of time in the Humanities building, says it’s frustrating that UW is advertising the building as a great space for students, yet students rarely get to use it.
“I think the concept is amazing and if the school actually follows through with the plans to let students use the space it will be much more beneficial. It seems like they’re advertising to the public that this is a great space for students to use but we aren’t even able to use it right now,” Zang said.
Currently, classrooms and practice rooms remain in the old Humanities building and Zang said that this is a bit of a struggle.
The practice rooms in Humanities don’t carry sound very well, she said. She added that there are lots of areas in the rooms where the sound is able to escape and where background noise from other classrooms comes in.
UW Director of News and Media Relations Meredith McGlone said that there are reasons students cannot engage with the new space yet.
“It’s important to note that students are already using this space even though it’s not officially open yet. Students in the School of Music are rehearsing there and large ensembles are beginning to use it for performances,” McGlone said in an email to The Badger Herald. “Once the center officially opens, all School of Music student recitals will take place in the center.”
McGlone added that going forward, there will still be need to use spaces in buildings besides the School of Music as “no single building can accommodate all of the musical activity on campus.”
Despite the fact that students still have to make use of the old practice rooms, Zang is still thrilled about the new and improved performance centers.
“The sounds in the new building will most definitely improve. One thing that I love is the green rooms. They are soundproof which allows us to fully warm up and we weren’t really allowed to do that in the Humanities building. There is also a bigger lobby area so after the performance we’re able to come out and talk to the people who came to our show,” Zang said.
According to Zang, the two performance centers in Humanities — Morphy and Mills — are hard to book and are always in high demand. She hopes with another performance center available, they will be easier to book and less chaotic.
On the other hand, some students like Ella Wolle, a sophomore at UW majoring in political science and English, are completely on board with the Hamel Center. Wolle, who plays the Cello and spends 5-6 days a week in the Humanities building isn’t bothered by the fact that she still has to use the old classrooms.
“I actually don’t think it’s that much of a problem — I think it’s cool that we have a separate performance center. It seems a lot more professional,” Wolle said.
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Despite some polarizing viewpoints regarding the Hamel Center, Cook emphasized that the funding for this portion of the project was mainly dedicated to the construction of new performance centers and that classrooms and practice rooms are to follow in the near future.
Cook said that UW should spend some time celebrating both the major and minor donors that made this project possible in the first place. Those include the Hamel family, the Mead Witter Foundation, the Vilas Trust Estate and Paul Collins.