Locked out of practice

Now that the School of Music is enforcing a policy on how it rents ensemble rooms, some groups are without a space.

Doctor of Musical Arts first year students Carson Rose Schneider and Courtney Van Cleef rehearse in a practice room at Ferguson Hall on Monday.  Ferguson Hall recently began prohibiting non-music majors from reserving classrooms and ensemble rooms.

Holly Peterson

Doctor of Musical Arts first year students Carson Rose Schneider and Courtney Van Cleef rehearse in a practice room at Ferguson Hall on Monday. Ferguson Hall recently began prohibiting non-music majors from reserving classrooms and ensemble rooms.

Parker Lemke

After several years of rehearsing twice a week in University of Minnesota music classrooms, the 13 members of the all-women a cappella choir the Enchantments now practice wherever they can find room.

The School of Music no longer allows groups that don’t have any members enrolled in its programs to reserve classrooms or ensemble rooms in Ferguson Hall, leaving some groups, like the Enchantments, without a reliable practice space.

Chrissy Taylor, a member of the Enchantments and a theater and economics sophomore, said the group has settled for inconvenient gathering sites, including couches in the Rarig Center’s basement and one member’s apartment.

“We don’t really know what to do,” she said. “If we had a music major in our group that would be great, but we don’t.”

Before this semester, the school already had a policy in place prohibiting non-majors from reserving rooms, though it wasn’t strictly enforced. But because of demands for space, the school began enforcing the rule, said Tim Brock, the School of Music’s undergraduate adviser and course scheduler.

The school also prevents non-music majors from using open practice rooms between the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“In the past, we have tried and have been able to accommodate requests [from non-majors] if they’re not in those peak hours,” Brock said.

Though they can’t reserve large spaces, he said non-music majors can still use open rooms if they buy a practice room card and come outside peak hours.

Because of space limitations, Brock said, the school needs to prioritize music majors and students enrolled in the department’s courses.

“We do sort of have to keep that technicality there present in the policy,” he said, “so that we can make sure that our majors and the school’s events are accommodated first.”

Brock said he wasn’t aware of the specific reasons for the enforcement shift.

Having seen the limited space in Ferguson Hall in the past, Dante Lundberg, a member of the men’s a cappella choir Basses Wild, said he isn’t surprised that the music department would need to prioritize its majors.

“It’s certainly frustrating for other groups,” he said, “but it makes sense to me.”

Although Basses Wild has a music major among its current membership, the group quit practicing in Ferguson Hall a few years ago when a former member who reserved space for them graduated.

“He could do it pretty easily,” Lundberg said. “After he left, we figured it wasn’t worth the hassle trying to get the rooms.”

Since then, he said Basses Wild has primarily met up in empty classrooms around campus to prepare for its performances.

But for the 18 members of 7Days A Cappella, Ferguson Hall offers the most convenient facilities, said Shreya Ramanujan, a member of the ensemble.

“If we need to split up into sectionals, then we can use other rooms with pianos that are open,” she said.

The group recently gained three music majors, Ramanujan said, allowing it to continue reserving rooms.

And to her, the policy makes sense.

“It’s a music building, so it’s kind of like how there’s science buildings that … you can only have restricted access to,” Ramanujan said. “We’re pretty flexible with it.”

Freshman piano performance major Inés Guanchez said with crowded space at the school, it makes sense to prioritize music students.

“I think it’s not fair [for non-majors], but I do think that people that come here for the major should have priority,” she said. “The majors are paying to come to the ‘U’ for the music.”

Passion for music, however, can run just as strongly for those who don’t study it full-time, the Enchantments member Chrissy Taylor said, adding that the school should increase access to practice spaces for theater students and musical groups.

“One of the best parts of the Enchantments is that there aren’t any music majors or people who are trying to make a career out of music in the group,” she said.