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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Mead Witter School of Music — otherwise known as the Hamel Music Center — showcased a sneak peek tour of the recently completed building to local media.

Inside peek of the new Hamel Music Center

The brand new Hamel Music Center offered a first-look tour to the media of the state-of-the-art facilities on Sept.16. Located on the bustling intersection on University and N. Lake St., the structure houses a beautiful recital hall, rehearsal hall and concert hall all stemming from a grand, spacious lobby. 

The two-story lobby is one of the most unique aspects of the new building, a large improvement from previous music building, located in Humanities. The main and upper lobbies are the perfect gathering spaces before and after concerts or rehearsals and also promote interaction between students and faculty. There are elements intertwined throughout the design of the building that reminds visitors of Wisconsin. For instance, the UW class of 1965 gifted twinkling copper light fixtures to adorn the lobby ceiling.  

The Sing Man and Florence Lee/Annette Kaufam Rehearsal Hall may appear a little “off” at first. That’s because it’s not symmetrical. According to Susan Cook — the director of the School of Music — the room is not built rectangular in order to prevent sound from bouncing off the walls. It is beautifully designed with large windows facing out to University Ave., granting musicians the chance to watch the hustle and bustle of Madison while practicing from the inside. Besides being used as a rehearsal space, it will also house educational talks, receptions and events. 

Across the lobby, is the two-story Collins Recital Hall which seats 299 people. This space will be used for both undergraduate and graduate students to perform projects and recitals in addition to smaller concerts or events. One of the most unique elements of this hall is the wallpaper designed by William Weege — Tandem Press founder and printmaker as well as professor emeritus of UW’s Art Department. 

The most extravagant room of the facility is the Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall. The spacious stage — a capacity of 660 people — will allow large ensembles such as the Varsity Band to perform all at one time. An additional choir loft can be used to hold 100 performers or double as more seating for the audience. On the backs of audience seats, copper plaques are personalized to honor various individuals such as Hamel Music supporters, professors or UW graduates. 

The best part of the structure is that the entire building is sound proof from the noisy intersection and students on their way to class. 16-inch thick double walls surround each hall, separating them from any other part of the building. They’re then encompassed by an accordion-like exterior, enabling students to focus on their musical talents without any distractions from the outside world. 

Other notable aspects of the building are two large dressing rooms, a recording studio, gender-neutral and accessible bathrooms and a Wall of Honor acknowledging the building’s major donors. 

The Hamel Music Center is built solely by private funds from donors, Wisconsin businesses and more. This is the first academic building on campus to be built without any state dollars. The opening of the center will be celebrated Oct. 25-27.

Lexi Schweinert is a senior staff writer for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of her work, click here.

[Editor Note]: Susan Cook is the director of the School of Music. "Kaufman" is the name of the rehearsal hall. 

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