UF Music School Could Lose Accreditation Due To Facility Concerns

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As a kindergartner, Marina Tucker’s favorite song during nap-time was Pachelbel’s Canon in D major.

“I always thought it sounded really pretty,” she said, which later inspired her to pick up a violin at age 11. She played in her first middle school orchestra ensemble soon after.

Today, the University of Florida School of Music graduate teaches violin to children at Great Southern Music, a local music store and teaching facility.

And while Tucker hopes to teach on a collegiate level one day, she admits she may not pursue her dream of teaching at UF. Tucker said the current state of the music building is subpar, in comparison to other buildings campus wide.

“I love this university and I have loved going here for six years,” she said. “It is such a great environment everywhere else on campus, except for the music building.”

A petition created last November by John Duff, professor and retired director of the School of Music at UF, lists seven major problems with the building. For example, the HVAC system is outdated and the temperature in the practice rooms can’t be regulated. The entire faculty and a large percentage of the students in the college signed the petition last spring.

UF is the last university in the state to perform any additions or renovations to their music building, according to Duff. The University of South Florida, University of Central Florida, Florida State University and some high school music programs provide better facilities for music students compared to UF’s current building, he said.

“It certainly is an eyesore for the university and the faculty and students,” Duff added.

He has lead efforts to improve the state of the building for 13 years. According to Duff, some of the problems addressed in the petition have been resolved.  But much more improvement is needed.

The UF School of Music’s accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) is in jeopardy, due to the unresolved issues of the building. In fact, the college’s accreditation review in 2020 could be problematic if major issues are neglected, Duff said. 

According to Anthony Kolenic, College of the Arts’ assistant dean of research, technology and administrative affairs, accreditation from associations, such as NASM, signify that the school’s curriculum, facilities and programs meet the national standard for training and for working in he field.

Kolenic points out that losing accreditation at the school could complicate recruiting top-notch students  into the program, which would lead to an overall decrease in the quality and potential of graduates.

“Nobody wants to go to an unaccredited program, and we don’t want to offer that,” he said. “We are trying to do everything in our power to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Other issues such as limited practice and studio spaces, general safety and infrastructural issues are still in the process of being addressed, Kolenic said.

For Trent Weller, the School of Music facilities manager, the building’s fragility has only made his job more difficult.

According to Weller, his title as the facilities manager means he fixes anything that he can in the building, but some parts, such as the HVAC system, have been in the building since its 1971 inception.

“It isn’t a question of if these things will die on us,” he said. “It is when they will die on us.”

Tucker said there have been numerous times where she left practice rooms because it was nearly impossible for her to get any work done because of the extreme temperatures.

According to Weller, there are only 14 practice rooms for 30o to 350 voice, string, brass and woodwind students to use in the college.

“We can’t practice in our homes or dorms because we’ll be disturbing the neighbors. It is totally unrealistic,” Tucker said. ” If we don’t have anywhere to go and get things done, how am I supposed to get better at this?”

Both Weller and Duff said they feel money is given to places of priority at UF, and they also feel that the School of Music does not fall under UF’s list of priorities.

According to Janine Sikes, UF’s assistant media relations and public affairs spokeswoman, safety and urgency of needs are the two factors in establishing priorities and creating budgets for state funding—the main source of funding for maintenance issues.

Additions such as handrails for the stairwells and and an anti-slip coating on the stairs of the second floor have been funded and those improvements are underway. The projects will address some safety issues at the college and will cost $142,200.

Sikes said that the issues at the music building are not unique to the college, and multiple buildings are facing similar issues campus wide. In ten years, three-fourths of the buildings on campus will be over 25 years old putting them in an extreme risk of failure, she said.

The 2014-2015 annual maintenance need for UF was $45 million. UF received $16 million in state funding leaving $30 million in maintenance needs unattended.

“Every university is tying to do as much as they can and never with enough money,” Kolenic said. “We aren’t alone in that. It is the nature of trying to serve the public good.”

The university plans to invest $3.7 million in the 2015-2016 school year for roof and air conditioning replacement for the college. Currently, the roof replacement project is funded, but the air conditioning has only received $200,000 in funding towards the project.

According to Kolenic, the arts generally have a hard time in securing funding due to the the focus and initiatives for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) research and study.

Historically, the university is based on STEM and vocational study. Despite popularity of the arts, STEM has continued to remain a primary focus for the university, he said.

“All of the history shapes the landscape upon which we are trying to fix the music building,” he said. “We are all subject to history.”

Gainesville would be a much “poorer place to live” if the college were to lose accreditation, according to Kolenic. He points out music adds to the rich culture in and around campus.

But for Tucker, the most concerning thing about the possible loss of the college’s accreditation is the Gainesville youth population.

Without a thriving music school, Tucker fears the skill level of teachers will decrease, leading to nonprofessional teachers and amateur students. According to Kolenic, the music education program is one of the strongest aspects of the college’s offerings.

“That’s a problem for the youth that we haven’t even considered,” she said. “You don’t think about that but there are people out there that have no idea what they are doing that are teaching young people how to play instruments.”

About Lauren Jadotte

Lauren is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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