While no one could have predicted the college’s spot of financial trouble, it could not have come at a worse time for a music department suffering from growing pains.
Many students felt Irion Hall’s facilities were inadequate, including senior saxophonist Austin O’Brien.
O’Brien believes that even though the music department is staffed by teachers of such high calibur, students are limited by the department’s facilities.
“I’ve had to micromanage my schedule and look for specific times when the practice rooms are open and it incurs with my scheduling,” O’Brien said. “I can’t always practice when I want to because there aren’t always available practice rooms. Other times I can’t schedule rehearsals because all the rooms have already been reserved or the pianos are out of tune.”
With a current budget deficit of $3.1 million, administration was forced to dip into the college’s endowment to cover for certain expenses.
This past fall, the music department saw a total of 85 incoming students – the largest in recent years – making the total number of music majors around 220 (with 40 minors). The department fielded four Music Theory I classes for the first time ever, with one being taught in Buik Recital hall. Bursting at the seams, faculty needed to find ways to accommodate for the building’s physical shortcomings.
Peter Griffin, the chair of the music department, expressed his gratitude towards the administration for finding places outside of Irion Hall that department faculty could access and use as storage facilities. He also revealed the college had recently funded a soundproofing project which now allows for use of the band room (located in the basement) and Buik Recital Hall (one floor above) simultaneously with less sonic interference.
However, some students, like senior vocalist Mary Thompson, do not believe the college has done an adequate job supporting the department.
“A lot of top music schools have really incredible performance facilities and recital halls,” says Thompson. “Even for those who are just music education or music business majors who are uninterested in performance, it’s still an important experience for them so they can properly give their students advice on performing or learning how to correctly record in a live setting.”
Director of music education, Ross Kellan, revealed that the department is receiving more and more transfer students because of the quality of education, whether it is for performance, education, or business. Harper, College of Dupage, Triton, Dockton, Lincoln College, and Morraine Valley are all sending students to the EC music department with regularity.
Kellan, while impressed with the college’s efforts not to cut from the music department’s budget, suggested that perhaps it would be beneficial for them to seek out financial support from corporate entities. Citing the recent $70,000 pumped into the Gretsch Recording Studio from Fred Gretsch himself (an alumnus of the college), more opportunities like this could accommodate the department’s explosive growth until the college’s financial troubles are over.
“We’re staffed by world renowned faculty,” said Thompson, “and I don’t understand why we don’t get the funding we need – we have the cred for that.”
Photos by Emily Mohney