New rooms give musicians a virtual sound experience

Susan Bender, a professor of voice in GW’s music department, joked about the introduction of the “V” room, describing it as “a neat little gizmo that the University spent a ton of money on.”

She said she is excited about the “V” room, a new practice area that provides a virtual environment for musicians.

The “V” rooms, as opposed to the practice rooms of the past, allow the students to imagine themselves performing anywhere, said Roy Guenther, music department chair.

“The surroundings can be completely dead like a vacuum or it can sound like the MCI Center,” Guenther said. “It’s that strikingly realistic.”

Once the door to the long, narrow rooms are closed, the musician can select from nine different acoustical settings to simulate the acoustics of different sized rooms. The student can switch from being in a small concert hall to a baroque concert hall to an auditorium with the push of a button.

The “V” rooms arrived 10 days ago but only have been open since Tuesday because of final touches to the ventilation system, Bender said. Yet, even in that short time, students such as freshman Sarah Brown already have experienced the system’s benefits.

“The cathedral and arena settings blew me away,” Brown said. “It’s amazingly realistic.”

These modern additions were produced by the Wenger Corporation, an acoustics and soundproofing company, and cost the University nearly $20,000 to install, Guenther estimated.

The rooms in the basement of Phillips Hall are among the department’s older, non-soundproof practice rooms, which have been compared to closets in terms of musical effectiveness, Bender said. The new rooms were created to allow percussionists to play without affecting other instruments and voices.

“The old rooms made a flute playing next to a drum impossible,” Bender said. “Percussion will really take precedence in this new technology.”

Excitement surrounding the installation of the “V” rooms is widespread, Guenther said. Bender wants students to take advantage of the latest University gift.

“Okay, you can use these,” Bender said. “Let’s go.”

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