Westbrook Music Building, home to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Glenn Korff School of Music, is about to undergo a major change.
Originally opened in 1967, Westbrook is scheduled to break ground for reconstruction on Dec. 19 and will be completed in Spring of 2025. Funded by the Nebraska Legislature as part of LB384, the project will cost $75 million and will include 75,000 square feet of new construction, along with 26,000 feet of renovated space in the existing south wing.
The new building will include space for a 300-seat recital hall, rehearsal halls of different sizes, a recording studio, a library and commons, along with other new resources. Each classroom and rehearsal space will also have high quality audio and video capabilities.
The new Westbrook will encompass the two parking lots west of the current building, at the corner of 10th and Q Streets. Beginning Dec. 18, these lots will close, and faculty and staff will be able to park in other lots around campus.
Classes will continue in the old building until the construction completes. The southern part of the original Westbrook will be renovated to maintain a connection to the new space, while the northern part will be demolished.
Once renovation and demolition of the current space begins, some occupants will move to the new building, while others will temporarily use different spaces on campus until the project is complete, according to Brooke Hay, assistant vice president of University Facilities, Planning and Capital Programs.
Currently, programmatic deficiencies include an inadequate space for enrollment, rehearsals and the marching band. The lack of sound isolation and acoustically designed spaces could contribute to hearing loss, according to Hay. She also cited a lack of proper humidification for musical instrument preservation.
Other physical shortfalls include minimal corridor space, lack of ADA compliance and an undersized elevator for movement of large instruments. The exterior walls have no moisture barriers and minimal insulation.
“It's a lot of the little things,” said Alan Mattingly, Interim Director of the Glenn Korff School of Music. “The temperature doesn't stay consistent throughout the building. Air leaks in and that's bad for musical instruments. The acoustics could be better. Just the amount of space that we have, it's starting to feel a little tight. Overall, it's showing its age, and it's not doing what it really needs to do for a comprehensive music program.”
For Marques Garrett, assistant professor of Music in Choral Activities, additional space is necessary for students’ well-being and classroom management.
Garrett stated that mornings at Westbrook currently have extensive overlap, where classrooms are used back to back. With the reconstruction, the building will have more space to accommodate these needs.
“It's almost like stove top burners on Thanksgiving, where it never stops being used,” Garrett said. “So some classes won't feel as rushed at times, because somebody else isn’t about to come back in.”
Currently, many features of Westbrook Hall are not ADA compliant. Garrett said certain areas of the building are difficult for students with disabilities to access.
Acoustic solutions were prioritized by many directors, as the current building bleeds sound through the walls, according to Carolyn Barber, Director of Bands. In a space dedicated to expanding musical knowledge, prioritizing hearing health is important. Anyone exposed to noise above 70 dB over a prolonged period of time may have extended hearing damage.
“In the current Westbrook, if you’re in the Music Library you can hear the ensembles rehearsing upstairs,” Barber said in an email. “If you’re in one of the rehearsal rooms you can hear what’s happening in the other because there is literally a hole in the wall between them. If a percussionist is having a lesson across the hall, it’s as if they are in the rehearsal room with you. We’re a close-knit team, but such sonic bleeding really gets in the way.”
Westbrook’s renovation has been in the works for a while. The first formal study regarding the building began in summer of 2015, and a version closer to the current project idea began in 2019.
Following LB384’s approval in April of 2021, the planning phase began by identifying issues in the building, which amount to both acoustical concerns and physical aging concerns, according to Hay.
Project leads worked with the School of Music faculty throughout the process to account for each program’s specific needs.
“Planning starts with a lot of listening, questions and exploration,” Hay wrote in an email. “The faculty, college leaders, staff, students and other university stakeholders have been and will be involved throughout to provide input and perspectives on how well the solution responds to the requirements.”