Struggling for space

Asked to describe the most recent audition for The GW Vibes, Erica Manoatl only needed two words: slightly chaotic.

“We had about 75 people try out, but The Pitches were there as well,” she said, referring to another a cappella group on campus. “There were about 45 people waiting to get inside the room in Ivory. Space was tight.”

For student musical groups – including outfits like the Vibes and the Pitches – the dilemma Manoatl described is nothing new. Finding space to rehearse is often a struggle, as the groups compete with music department students, as well as each other, for a place to practice.

“I feel like there are too many groups on campus that want the same space at the same time,” Janine Berenson, a member of the Sirens, said in an e-mail. “There are just not enough options for everyone.”

City campuses are not known for being spacious, and GW is no exception. Practice rooms are limited to Phillips Hall and Ivory Tower, with a few additional spaces in other residence halls and the Marvin Center. None of the rooms can be reserved, so all the space is available on a first come, first serve basis. And the music department oversees the rooms in Phillips Hall, the Marvin Center and Ivory Tower, meaning music students get first priority.

“I’ll admit, it is catch as catch can for the non-music department students,” department chair Dr. Karen Ahlquist said.

Size is also a problem. Most practice rooms, particularly the ones in Phillips Hall, were designed for individual students to use. Large groups often find those rooms are not suited for them.

As a result, the larger rooms in Ivory Tower are “overrun” with groups wanting to practice, Manoatl said.

“It’s really difficult, but we’ve just accepted that’s the way it is,” she said.

Dr. Robert Baker, the director of performance studies for the music department, said he has received complaints about a lack of space.

“I tell them there are hundreds of students enrolled [in the department], and that there are space constraints, but other halls have space,” he said.

At the beginning of each semester, groups that want to request rehearsal space go to the music department on a designated day. Again, space is allotted on a first come, first serve basis. Once a group receives a specific room, however, practice time is not guaranteed. Joe Parsons, a senior with The Vibes, said he arrived at Phillips Hall at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, a half hour before the music department opened.

“I was first in line,” he said. “It’s what we have to do to get a decent practice space.”

The University has taken steps to increase practice space available to students and groups that are not affiliated with the department, though. Pelham Hall, which is currently undergoing extensive renovations, will feature six music practice rooms, said Robert Snyder, senior adviser to the dean of freshmen, in an e-mail.

For Manoatl, the new space, set to open in 2010, will be helpful but not a solution.

“It will be nice, but the majority of students don’t live on the Vern,” she said. “A lot of groups would have to commute.”

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