Menu

Spirit Archives

Spirit is published three times per year by the Texas A&M Foundation, which manages major gifts and endowments for the benefit of academic programs, scholarships and student activities at Texas A&M University.

View the full magazine archive

PERFECT HARMONY


A new Music Activities Center will unite the Aggie voice under one roof.

On a typical weekday, the E.V. Adams Band Hall is a maelstrom of noise, chatter and music. Echoes from the basement—a makeshift place for sectional rehearsals—carry up the only staircase, while the humming of 1970s lighting in the building’s one rehearsal hall is a constant distraction to music practice. For decades the band hall has housed high-performing organizations and quality musicians despite its flaws—some more comical than others.

“Some summers there are thousands of dead bees carpeting the floor every morning,” said Travis Almany, associate director of bands at Texas A&M University. “It’s happened for at least 11 years, but no one has found out how they get in or why they die so quickly.”

There are 821 instruments in the university bands and orchestras.

The inexplicable bee dilemma is only one issue plaguing the 45-year-old band hall, which can no longer safely accommodate the 10 bands and ensembles that practice under its roof.

To create a facility more worthy of Aggie musical tradition, Texas A&M is building a new Music Activities Center for the 1,300-plus students who participate in university bands, orchestras and choirs. The $40 million facility will be equally funded by the university and by private donors through the Texas A&M Foundation.

With $8.75 million already committed, the project’s planning committee hopes to break ground as early as 2016. The facility’s completion will be a long-awaited dream come true for directors and students alike.

“Imagine Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with only the choir,” said Tim Rhea, director of bands and music activities. “Put all of our university choirs, orchestras and bands under one roof and think of the collaboration. A world of music is open to us.”


No Room to Grow

Built, ironically, for the one group it is too small to accommodate today—the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band—the E.V. Adams Band Hall lacks the space, storage and acoustics necessary to provide Aggies with a best-in-class musical experience.

Due to acoustic problems, the building’s five practice rooms and single rehearsal hall—shared by 10 organizations— cannot be used simultaneously, meaning students are limited in the times they can practice music independently. Inadequate storage stunts the growth of the music library, while the number of instruments exceeds the capacity of the band hall fourfold. Precious instruments live in the oft-flooded basement, inadequate in both security and climate.

The basement is also the only area in the band hall where directors could can sectional practices, but acoustics underground prevent real learning.

“It would be like a football team where the linebackers never got to work with just the linebackers—they would never have a chance to perfect their skill,” Almany said. “Every time our bands practice, it has to be the whole band. We don’t have the opportunity to teach the trombones trombone things and the flutes flute things.”

Listen to a related podcast about Kyle Cox '18 and the new Music Activities Center.

Even more detrimental is the building’s noncompliance with fire codes and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since the band hall lacks elevators, Kyle Cox ’18, who uses a motorized wheelchair, enters the building via an unreliable lift operated by pulleys. Cox plays euphonium in the symphonic band.

“Someone has to meet me outside to operate the lift, and unfortunately it is not large enough for my service dog to ride with me,” said Cox, who began playing music in elementary school. “I cannot enter the building or attend class when the lift doesn’t work, and on occasion I’ve been stuck waiting for building maintenance to rescue me. While it makes me nervous, I love music and band enough to endure the risks.”







Cox was diagnosed at age seven with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the leading fatal genetic disorder in children with a life expectancy of 20 years. His respiratory capacity has declined his entire life and stands at less than 30 percent now.

Marching Onward

While the Aggie spirit can never be told, it can be heard—through music. Your support will strengthen the arts core at Texas A&M and ensure a strong Aggie voice for decades to come.

“This building is a reward for all musical organizations at Texas A&M,” said David Dunlap ’83, who gave $3 million to fund a new drill field for the Aggie Band. “As a second-generation Aggie bandsman, I am particularly attached to the band. At halftime, everyone stands and takes tremendous pride in their performance and in the tradition they represent. A new drill field and facility is befitting of their organization and of every campus musical group.”

Former students, corporations, Aggie families, classes and friends can include their names or the names of loved ones as a permanent part of the Music Activities Center by funding a space, room or pillar inside or outside the building. Gifts will be recognized in a tasteful architectural display reflective of each donor’s commitment to Aggieland.

“After a drill on Kyle Field, the grass is flattened in rows from the band’s footprints,” said Jennifer Armstrong ’17, a piccolo player in the Aggie band. “Our practice field is beyond flattened grass; it is full of well-worn holes. The new Dunlap Drill Field will bolster the band’s tradition of excellence, and a new Music Activities Center will carry on the legacy of Aggie music for generations.”

“I believe that band is keeping me alive longer,” he said. “Band was my family in high school and is beginning to feel like my family again in college. The doctors who study my disease are puzzled that I can play the euphonium given my respiratory capacity. I can’t explain it either, but I’m thankful that I can be part of something bigger than myself.”

In addition to the band hall’s interior disadvantages, the natural grass Joe T. Haney Drill Field is irreparably ragged and uneven due to continued use by the Aggie Band since the 1940s. It remains the band’s primary drill field, though the athletic department allows the use of its indoor football practice facility near the end of each rehearsal week.

“The Aggie Band prides itself on not repeating drills or music at any football game,” Almany said. “But one fall about six years back before an Oklahoma State game, it rained so hard that we could not practice on the drill field the entire week due to mud. We had to repeat the drill from the week before with no rehearsals in between.”


New Notes

While the band hall’s condition has not inhibited quality music education, directors anticipate a new era of excellence for Texas A&M musicians with the Music Activities Center’s completion.

“When you hear a student say something like, ‘My junior high band hall is better than this,’ you know you’re in bad shape,” said Almany. “We are at the point of turning away eager and talented students because we cannot expand our musical organizations.”

The new facility, located on the corner of George Bush Drive and Coke Street (also known as Duncan Field or the Old Bonfire Field), will solve scheduling, acoustic, safety and storage problems while amplifying the Aggie music experience. It will feature four rehearsal halls with state-of-the-art acoustics and adequate space so that multiple groups can rehearse at once, eliminating scheduling conflicts. Forty soundproof practice rooms, available with after-hours swipe-card access, will ensure that students may practice at their leisure.

Aggie Band formations change every week and every year. With the exception of the 4-way cross that is performed once each year, there are no other standard formations.

Addressing clutter and security issues, the new climate-controlled facility will contain ample storage for sheet music libraries and instruments, which students will store in individually coded lockers. An instrument repair room is also included.

A 120-yard artificial turf drill field, funded through a $3 million gift from former Aggie band member David Dunlap ’83 and his wife Anne, will eliminate uneven or unsafe rehearsal conditions and keep the Aggie band in step close to the Quad.

“Even more important, this facility will allow the instrumental and choral ensembles to work together and perfect our craft better than ever,” said Lt. Col. Jay Brewer ’81, senior associate director of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band. “Aggies deserve state-of-the-art. We get it in athletics and academics, so it’s only natural that our student musicians also get first-class treatment.”




When asked to cut arts funding to support the World War II effort, Winston Churchill famously quipped, “What are we fighting for?”


Music Expresses What Words Cannot

Studies show that musical training helps the brain process language. That’s because the two have three common denominators—pitch, timing and timbre—and the brain uses the same circuitry to make sense of them all. Music training also significantly improves motor and nonverbal reasoning skills and boosts neural processing.

Thank you to the following donors who have made gifts of $25,000 or more toward construction of the new Music Activities Center:

Margaret and Ben Agnor ’58
Craig Brown ’75
Jerry Deichtle ’73
Bonnie and Otway Denny ’71
Anne and David Dunlap ’83
Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band Class of 1964
Erna and Harvey Haas ’59
Reta Haynes
Barbara and Bill Huffman ’53
Glen Hunt Jr. ’61
Trisha and L.C. “Chaz” Neely Jr. ’62
Patti and Weldon Kruger ’53
Elizabeth and Paul Motheral ’52
Chris Pantuso ’88
Katie ’01 and Jay Sartain ’00
Susan ’75 and Malcolm Stewart ’73
Jane Williams

“Music is a universal language that touches the full range of human emotions. It helps you be human, recognize beauty and appreciate life,” said Rhea. He and the other six directors in the Department of Music Activities work to give students the opportunity to experience music-making in a sophisticated environment, where skills like teamwork, dedication and accountability are stressed.

“Participating in choral activities gives me a home in Aggieland,” said Tony Reed ’16, president of the Singing Cadets. “I can pursue my passion for music and performance in college even when my studies are unrelated. It gives me incredible balance as a person.”

Also beneficial is the opportunity to escape classroom stress, interact with students of other majors and gain an appreciation of music that inspires continued support of the arts past graduation—what Almany calls “a musical afterglow.”

“Electrical engineering is full of literal thinking, but music allows my brain the freedom of creativity to express what I have to say,” said Ross Bodeker ’17, an electrical engineering major who participates in the Aggie Band, Aggieland Orchestra and Wind Symphony. Drawn to Texas A&M because of the opportunity to play in a variety of ensembles, he said that exposure to different genres shows him “how powerful music can be.”

While words cannot fully capture that power, Rhea prefers those of Winston Churchill best: When asked to cut arts funding to support the World War II effort, Churchill famously quipped, “What are we fighting for?”

As a physical testament to the value of an arts education, the Music Activities Center will be a powerful symbol of the university’s musical heritage and a hallmark of its future—some might call that a victory for Texas A&M.


To support the Music Activities Center, contact:
Cindy Munson ’99
Regional Director of Major Gifts
(800) 392-3310 or (979) 845-7558
cmunson@txamfoundation.com

Give online at give.am/mac



Contact:

Cindy Munson '99

Senior Director of Major Gifts
Major Gifts