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into the limelight image

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 sense.”

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 practice rooms.

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 It was cool and fun, but the point was to make a nice recording, not learn to use an outdated piece of equipment.”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.”

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music image

Kaul Auditorium’s excellent acoustics help attract performers such as Pinchas Zuckerman, whose group appeared in March in Chamber Music Northwest’s concert series.

music images1

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.

jazz image

Until Kaul was built in the 1990s, most music was performed in Eliot Chapel. Here, a jazz ensemble riffs for students in 1964.