As this whirlwind of a semester draws to a close, Longhorns are desperately trying to find ways to manage their anxiety. For many, playing a musical instrument or singing has been a way to relieve stress.
However, finding areas to practice on campus is not an easy task, especially for non-music majors. Due to concerns over COVID-19, the Butler School of Music has closed its practice rooms to non-music majors.
As a result, non-music majors on campus have been unable to utilize music as a way to cope with the stress surrounding the upcoming finals season and COVID-19.
To help non-music major students nurture their artistic talents and relieve anxiety, Butler School of Music needs to consider ways to open up more practice rooms to the whole student body.
Since the closure of the practice rooms, government sophomore Cecilia Garcia has been practicing her instrument out of her closet to avoid disturbing her three other roommates in their online classes.
“Originally, I would go to the practice rooms,” Garcia said. “But I can’t go to the practice rooms at school anymore because it’s very limited capacity. My closet was the smallest, most condensed space so (noise) wouldn’t echo as much.”
The difficulty in finding practice areas on campus is compounded by the fact that Butler only has one in four practice clusters open because the ventilation systems exchange air between practice rooms. Russell Podgorsek, Butler building manager and composition lecturer, explained that there were concerns over exchanged air flow, especially due to the fact that practicing instruments or singing may produce the respiratory droplets that could spread COVID-19.
“Almost every activity we do is potentially more dangerous than a normal class atmosphere,” Podgorsek said. “This year, we’re really not allowing non-majors in the building at all, let alone access to a practice room — again, as a safety precaution.”
While this is an understandable decision, it alienates both music and non-music majors who are running out of areas to practice. In addition, the scramble to find practice areas on campus existed even before the pandemic.
Public health sophomore Simran Shah said that finding practice areas was a problem last year as well.
“Trying to find a place to practice was a bit of a hassle, because there are so many talented people and music students,” Shah said. “All the practice rooms were full most of the time.”
The evident solution to the problem would be to create more practice rooms in the building, and reserve some of those specifically for non-music majors. Of course, constructing more practice rooms requires funding.
“The question of funding is where is it coming from,” Podgorsek said. “With COVID now, we’re all tightening the belt, and are not sure what our funding will be like.”
With the recent approval for a $1.25 million salary for UT President Jay Hartzell, the idea of “tightening the belt” is called into question. Additionally, most students saw their tuition payments increase this year. I’m confident that UT can find funding to support the arts.
Additionally, Butler could consider reaching out to alumni to raise money for new practice areas. Even non-music graduates would likely consider it a worthy contribution to construct more areas for students to practice music on campus.
With several avenues to receive funds and the increasing demand from non-music majors for more practice areas, Butler should strongly consider different ways to create more practice rooms for the spring semester and beyond.
Barker is a government sophomore from Arlington, TX.