Hopkins Center fails to address student needs

While the Hopkins Center’s 50th Anniversary and the College’s Year of the Arts initiative have drawn attention to the arts on campus, some students in the performing arts feel that their needs for rehearsal and performance space have not been met. The influx of professional artists has also cut down on student performance opportunities and left some students with the impression that the College’s resources could have been put to better use.

Student ensembles often struggle to find available practice spaces, according to Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra co-manager Damaris Altomerianos ’13. DSO, which does not have a set practice space, must alternate between open locations.

“If we’re going to focus on the arts at Dartmouth, that starts with the day-to-day work the practicing and rehearsing,” she said. “If we don’t enhance our space on those things, then how can we expect to allow the arts to continue to flourish at Dartmouth?”

The shortage of rehearsal space is not a new issue, according to Hopkins Center Director Jeffrey James. Students and faculty have expressed a need for more practice rooms for over a decade, he said.

Currently, the music department is located in the basement of the Hopkins Center and includes six rehearsal rooms that are open to all students. Music major Bailey Hoar ’13 said that this number represents a clear shortage, as there are 17 music majors in the Class of 2013 alone.

Particularly during busy hours, these rooms fill quickly, and there are no available alternative spaces, music major Sarah Wang ’14 said.

Given the lack of sound-proof space, the Handel Society often holds sectional rehearsals in Wilson Hall, the building adjacent to the Hopkins Center.

“It’s not really ideal,” Handel Society student manager Kristen Colwell ’13 said. “I think the music department often feels kind of shunted off in the basement and ignored.”

Students and faculty hope that the three Hopkins Center studios that were vacated with the opening of the Black Family Visual Arts Center will become rehearsal spaces in the future, but it is unlikely that these rooms will be properly sound-proofed during the 2012-2013 academic year, according to music professor and department chair Michael Casey.

The Hopkins Center’s recent focus on attracting professional guest artists has also pushed student performers to the side, according to Hoar, who said the College should devote resources to updating College facilities and sponsoring student projects.

“We’re seeing so many guest artists and so little funding and confidence in our own projects,” she said. “I wish there were a greater push for an opportunity for us to spearhead an initiative to show everyone what we can do.”

Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra music director and conductor Anthony Princiotti said that after 50 years, the Hopkins Center’s music facilities are physically insufficient and outdated. Princiotti said he also worries that bringing top-level acts to the College diminished potential funds for music education.

“When people walk around and see beautiful things, they think there is a thriving artistic enterprise here,” he said. “On a nuts-and-bolts, educational level, the situation is much more challenging than that.”

Many students are frustrated by the lack of “back-and-forth discussion” with Hopkins Center administrators, Colwell said.

“It sometimes just doesn’t feel like the students are on their list of priorities,” she said.

The Hopkins Center’s year-long focus on the arts will generate momentum on campus and also helps draw attention to student work, according to James.

“The visibility that has been provided to the arts on campus this year is like nothing that has ever occurred before,” he said. “We’re so glad to be receiving so much support from the College.”

Top Stories