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A music school poised for the future

Rochester Business Journal
December 3, 2010

In a few months, students from the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music will start working with master professors from the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo-over a high-speed Internet connection.

Separated by thousands of miles and six time zones, students will perform and teachers will evaluate and offer real-time feedback in regular sessions.

Expansion into a former parking lot next door, creating the Eastman East Wing-containing Hatch Recital Hall, a rehearsal hall, faculty studios and a recording/control room-is bringing new opportunities like this one for students and faculty of the school.

The addition is equipped with $750,000 worth of technology that brings the school to the forefront of music recording and Internet streaming technology. Douglas Lowry, the Eastman School's dean, says technology is a pivotal part of the school's strategic vision.

"Musicians in this generation are looking for ways to connect music with more than just the concert hall, and their relationship with technology, especially as it applies to how they create and re-create music, is evident in all of our lives," he said.

Upgrades will enable the school to send live video and audio streams from the theater to the Internet. Musicians will record music from virtually any performing venue in the theater, thanks to new recording technology. Not all of the equipment will be operating by Dec. 6, when the East Wing opens-some of the physical hardware is still being installed-but it should be ready soon after, Lowry said.

These advancements will further entrench the Eastman School among leading music educators and link it more closely to the future of music-a future that will be shaped by technology, Lowry said.

"We use iPhones or iPads as listening devices, and in the same respect technology allows (students) to create new venues to listen, like websites or online portfolios," he noted. "We need to make sure we're up to speed on those trends."

The Eastman School will be connected in real time to the entire music world, said Ralph Kuncl, UR provost and executive vice president of academic affairs. Supporters around the globe will see and hear new work coming out of the school.

Live-streaming technology could have practical applications for students who come from far away, Lowry added. Parents who live in another state or country will be able to see their children performing capstone recitals in real time, giving the school-which consistently ranks among the top music schools in the country-an important advantage in recruiting.

Not only the state-of-the-art technology will aid recruiting, Kuncl said; looks matter too. Students choose where to attend college on a visceral level, often basing their decisions on immediate reactions while visiting a campus.

The new performance and recital spaces, and the amenities of the new wing itself, leave a strong first impression, he said.

"We certainly attract an enormous number of applicants now, but we're always interested in snagging applicants of the highest quality, not just sheer numbers," Kuncl said. "These are students who want to know not just who their coaches would be or what the studio experience looks like at the school, but also what kind of performance spaces they have and what they look like.

"I can assure you when a student visits in a tour and stands on the stage of the new hall, they're going to be snagged."

The expansion's mix of cutting-edge technology and attractive and useful recital and rehearsal spaces "will add a jolt of creative energy to all we're doing," Lowry said. "This is a visually stunning expansion, and we're extremely proud of that.

"Anytime we walk someone through here, it takes their breath away. All of a sudden you feel this new sense of energy and excitement-and not just about the Eastman School of Music, but about downtown Rochester and all that is happening here."

The project will help shape the future of Rochester itself, Kuncl said. From the beginning, it has been a community project-with the support of the local Assembly delegation and a $10 million donation from Eastman Kodak Co.-and the whole community will feel its benefits.

"It is emblematic for us to be thinking about how we see ourselves as a community, so a place of gathering is truly what it will be," Kuncl said. "This really will help create a sense of community."

12/3/10 (c) 2010 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail


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