Not until plans were made for Kaul Auditorium, a concert and lecture hall
built in 1997, did the need for better performing arts facilities return to the spotlight. “We
made the case throughout the planning process that it would just make sense to make it
a flexible space,” says Pat Wong, chair of the dance department. Ultimately, however,
Kaul was built with a flat floor and phenomenal acoustics to accommodate lectures, banquets,
and chamber music concerts—but not dance or theatre.
“Kaul Auditorium is an incomplete facility,” says Diver. “It’s
incomplete in a physical and operational sense. It’s also incomplete in a psychological
Though the building has been a boon for the music faculty—providing a venue for
student performances as well as visiting groups, such as Pinchas Zuckerman’s chamber
music group this spring—it has been a letdown to the remaining performing arts departments. “I
do feel that there would be a sort of psychological completion if we could build this new
facility,” Diver says.
Most of the present-day needs of the performing arts departments fall into two categories:
the need for purpose-built space and for updated technology.
Although Kaul meets some of the music department’s performance space needs, the
rehearsal situation still cries out for attention. At present, un-soundproofed Prexy—originally
built in 1915 as the residence of the college president—houses all of the department’s
Music major and tango prodigy Alex Krebs ’99 remembers the building’s thin
walls well. “Prexy’s okay for practicing classical music,” he says, “but
there’s no place to really wail.” At Reed, Krebs resorted to playing sax in
his dorm and in the physics stairwell. “There was always the sense that I was inconveniencing
someone,” he says.
Krebs, now recording an album with his band, Conjunto
Berretín, wishes there had been a recording studio when he was a student. “The
music department had an old four-track tape recorder,” he remembers. “It
was like learning to use an abacus. It was cool and fun, but the point was to make a
nice recording, not learn to use an outdated piece of equipment.” Krebs thinks
better facilities for today’s students would help sharpen Reed’s intense
focus on the liberal arts. “The core idea of a liberal arts college [is] that students,
upon graduating, should have some knowledge of a variety of subjects,” he says. “A
new performing arts center would draw more visual artists, musicians, actors, writers,
directors, and dancers to the college, allowing for a greater diversity of perspectives.”
Kaul Auditorium’s excellent acoustics help attract performers such as Pinchas Zuckerman,
whose group appeared in March in Chamber Music Northwest’s concert series.
Members of the Reed chorus sing Mozart’s Requiem in the final event of ROMP! (Reediana
Omnibus Musica Philosopha), conducted by music professor Virginia Hancock.
Until Kaul was built in the 1990s, most music was performed in Eliot
Chapel. Here, a jazz ensemble riffs for students in 1964.