MISSOULA – Three families, including University of Montana alumni and longtime supporters, have donated $3 million to fund the first phase of extensive renovations to the UM Music Building that began May 3. The building is home to the School of Music, part of the College of the Arts and Media, which serves hundreds of students and thousands of community members each year.
The phase one upgrades to the building, constructed in 1953, will transform the facility’s two largest ensemble rehearsal rooms, as well as a portion of a basement-level suite of practice rooms. The work is expected to finish before students return in the fall.
Reconstruction of the largest rehearsal room will improve accessibility, lighting and acoustic design to make the much-used space more functional and aesthetically inviting. It also will improve ventilation for band, orchestra, percussion ensembles and composition students.
The choir rehearsal room will receive similar upgrades, with the addition of portable riser systems to increase the room’s versatility and accommodate general teaching, vocal juries and various layouts for different choral ensembles, including musical theatre training and community choir rehearsals. The floor level also will be raised to allow universal access.
The renovations will elevate the Music Building to align with the quality of academic and performing arts programs that draw undergraduate and graduate students and faculty members to UM. The facilities host statewide competitions, festivals and music camps held at UM for nearly 2,000 junior high and high school students each year. The reconstruction also will help the School of Music accommodate the many professional community musicians who use the facility throughout the year, including the Missoula Symphony, the String Orchestra of the Rockies and the Montana State Music Teachers Association.
“Our Music Building serves as the front entrance to the University for so many in our community,” said College of the Arts and Media Dean Laurie Baefsky. “The long-anticipated renovation of the Music Building will not only benefit all music-loving Montanans but will reflect the nationally acclaimed programs and faculty within our renowned UM School of Music.”
The updates will support the school’s mission to prepare students for wide-ranging careers in music industries – from traditional and contemporary performance and music education, to commercial music, recording arts and arts administration. Updating these two large rehearsal venues to meet professional and academic standards will provide a safe and inspiring working space for students, and will help maintain the school’s accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music in 2022, which indicates that a school is preparing students for a professional future and meets specialized service and operational standards, among other quality assurance distinctions.
The School of Music serves the state of Montana as a hub for music education, with its Music Education Program boasting a 100% graduate job placement rate. Many of these alumni go on to serve and teach in rural Montana communities, providing K-12 vocal and instrumental music instruction statewide.
School of Music Director James Randall explained that the renovations will have a far-reaching impact beyond the UM academic experience.
“Our graduates serve as K-12 educators, directors of community music groups and performers in venues throughout Montana,” Randall said. “Fresh spaces with state-of-the-art technology will allow us to continue this important service to our community and the state for years to come.”
During the 67th Montana legislative session that concluded in April, lawmakers provided UM with authority to procure outside financial resources to support future renovations to the Music Building. A fundraising committee chaired by Don McCammon, an alumnus and College of the Arts and Media Advisory Council member, will lead efforts to inspire the needed private support for future phases of the building upgrades.
Future donor investment will ensure subsequent renovation work, including updating classrooms with integrated audio/video systems, flexible furnishings that support individual or collaborative work, new lighting fixtures and windows, and increased sound isolation between floor levels. Additional upgrades to 20 student practice rooms will improve soundproofing, safety and accessibility.
Upgrades to the UM School of Music’s Recital Hall will be addressed in future renovation phases to improve overall hall acoustics, make performance operations easier and enhance accessibility while maintaining its historic character. This performance venue also is used extensively by UM music students and professional faculty, as well as by regional ensembles – often in tandem with the two large rehearsal rooms. In the Recital Hall, new audio and video systems will be installed, as well as new performance lighting equipment to support live performances, lectures, presentations, teaching, and amplified and recorded music. The lobby will be expanded and receive aesthetic enhancements.
Such improvements will be transformative for anyone who uses the many dynamic spaces in the building, especially students, said Noah Durnell, a senior music performance student from Great Falls who has advocated for improvements to the building.
“For many students, the Music Building is more than an academic facility. It’s a second home,” said Durnell, who also is president of the Student Music Union and incoming president of the Associated Students of UM. “If donors get behind this project, they’re not just funding renovations; they’re supporting students, creating a more conducive learning environment and helping foster a more vibrant, inclusive campus culture.”
To make a gift to the UM Foundation in support of the School of Music or learn about naming opportunities within the Music Building, email Cate Sundeen, director of development at the College of the Arts and Media, at email@example.com or call 406-214-6270.
The UM Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization that has inspired philanthropic support to enhance excellence and opportunity at UM since 1950.
Contact: Elizabeth Willy, director of communications, UM Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org.