Blagojevich denies music school funding

By Gus Bode

$800000 for new equipment helf until FY2005

“We’re stuck with the same equipment that my father had when he went here 30 years ago,” Biby said. Pull Quote One or Two below.

“Because the poor quality of our instruments alone is, believe it or not, enough to disqualify them in some cases,” Williams said.

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Music students and faculty have mixed emotions as they step into the newly renovated Altgeld Hall.

They can finally enjoy the $10 million renovations made to the facility, but they have to use the same equipment SIUC music students have been using for decades.

Hopes were high that new equipment would fill Altgeld Hall, but they were dashed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s refusal to release $800,000 budgeted for equipment and furnishings.

University Engineer Scott Weber said the University expected the moveable equipment fund to be released in 2004, but that date is now set for fiscal year 2005. The original fund was set at $1 million but because of state budget cuts, was reduced to $800,000.

Despite multiple calls, the governor’s office did not provide a response by press time.

Plans to purchase equipment for the School of Music cannot move forward until the governor releases the money which Weber said could be as early as October or as late as spring.

Philip Brown, coordinator of music business, is upset the money was not released but he is not surprised.

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“It’s a little disappointing and the only hope we hang on to is it’s gonna happen,” Brown said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

Although the faculty and students are extremely proud of their newly renovated building, moving back in to Altgeld Hall with worn-out equipment and furniture was a letdown.

“I don’t think anyone, students or faculty, is actually demoralized by it,” Brown said. “We’re of course disappointed. Here we have this state-of-the-art facility and all this 1950s furniture and equipment.”

Will Biby, a sophomore in music education, said he and other students are aware new equipment cannot be purchased until the money is released.

“We’re stuck with the same equipment that my father had when he went here 30 years ago,” Biby said.

Not only are desks and equipment in short supply, Biby said, but, desks are falling apart and are completely covered in ink.

To help fix some of the problem, Weiss said some new desks will be purchased with a local campus fund. But even with some new desks, there is still a major need for equipment such as pianos and recording studio equipment.

This is the first time in history, the School of Music has its own recording studio, but the room currently sits empty because the equipment cannot be purchased.

“The room is down there, but it has no equipment in it,” Brown said. “Virtually every piece of equipment that was to be purchased for the studio is still not purchased.”

Another long-standing need for the school is new pianos.

According to Heidi Louise Williams, assistant professor of piano, the last new grand piano purchased was in 1971.

“I have repeatedly urged my advanced piano students to find a venue in St. Louis with a high-quality instrument to record performances that they wish to use for auditions for graduate schools, competitions or prestigious festivals,” Williams said. “Because the poor quality of our instruments alone is, believe it or not, enough to disqualify them in some cases.”

An inventory, completed in 2001 by piano technician Larry Reynolds, showed that “radical humidity and temperature fluctuations” of the old building, had aged the school’s pianos prematurely.

Although the need for new equipment and furniture is an issue for the School of Music, faculty will remain waiting patiently and do what they have learned to do over the years- make the best our of what they have.

“We were really looking forward to having, first of all, a first class facility for students to train in,” Brown said. “And we still are looking forward to that. “

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