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The Daily Tar Heel

Hill Hall renovations don't address real problems

The back of Hill Hall fenced off from the public due to construction.
The back of Hill Hall fenced off from the public due to construction.

But it’s not what the students have been longing for.

“It’s great that they are renovating the auditorium, but I really wish they were focusing more on the practice rooms,” said Leah Moore, a first-year music major who has recently been hired as a reporter for The Daily Tar Heel.

The $15 million budget is covering the cost of adding heat, hot water and air conditioning to the building — amenities it never had. The performance hall will also be updated with better acoustics and will feature a reception rotunda modeled after the early 1900s design.

Jeffrey Fuchs, the director of University Bands, has worked in Hill Hall since 1995 and is on the building committee that helped plan the renovations.

“When I started here, there was no hot water in the building. Later, they put individual water heaters on the sinks, but we still didn’t have central heat or air conditioning,” he said.

While the end result will be worth it, Fuchs said the upgrades come with a cost.

Twenty-four office spaces and classrooms have been relocated, forcing 12 faculty members and most classes to move to Kenan Music Building.

“It’s a jigsaw puzzle to find a place for everyone,” Fuchs said. “But with a lot of planning, we’re making it work.”

Fuchs is one of the few faculty members to remain working in Hill Hall. But that, too, has come at a price.

“Noise, odor and temperature,” he said. “And probably in that order.”

Walking to his office, Fuchs passes a sign that reads “Caution Laser Being Used.” Dust floats through the air and covers every flat surface as a jackhammer breaks the silence. Chemical fumes have cut work days short.

“Some days we’ll be without electricity or the water will go out,” Fuchs said. “There were some days we left because of the fumes.”

But Hill Hall’s basement practice rooms remain open and untouched.

“They are dirty and not very soundproof,” Moore said.

Moore said students spend more time in the practice rooms than the auditorium.

“Lots of music majors, like me, spend most of our time in the practice rooms preparing,” she said. “So while it’s great to have the new space, they aren’t improving the aspect of life that most affects the students.”

Now, students are flooding Kenan Music Building.

“There’s just a lot more people here,” said Tonu Kalam, the orchestra conductor who has an office and classes are in Kenan. “Every classroom is booked.”

The classrooms aren’t the only things that are spread out. Equipment and music have been stored in various places, including Kenan Music Building and a storage unit in Carrboro.

“If we need a piece of music, we have to go to Carrboro,” Fuchs said. “And that’s also where the trucks load all the marching band instruments. So, if you need a clarinet, you can’t just run downstairs — you have to run to Carrboro.”

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Not only instruments have been displaced. Concerts typically held in Hill Hall have also been relocated. Memorial Hall, Gerrard Hall, Kenan Music Building and PlayMakers Theater have housed department performances, but they, too, are costly.

“A typical show in Memorial Hall can cost anywhere between $3,000 to $4,000,” Fuchs said.

Accounting for 10 to 12 shows per semester, the bill quickly climbs to between $30,000 and $50,000 just to rent the spaces. Renting PlayMakers Theater is also $3,000 to $4,000 and Gerrard Hall costs roughly $1,000 per show.

The department has saved money by moving some performances to free spaces like Kenan Music Building, the University United Methodist Church and Person Hall.

While these moves are costly to the department, Moore views them as compensation for dealing with construction.

“I had a Carolina Choir concert in Memorial Hall last semester, which is unusual for that kind of performance. But I was really excited because I wouldn’t normally get to perform in such a cool place.”

While there are currently no plans to renovate the practice rooms, Fuchs said he is still looking forward to the updated building in the fall.

“Whatever inconveniences we face now will be well worth it when the building is finished.”