The Music Department Gets a Makeover


Natalie Garson, Staff Writer

The Hastings music department has gone through a prolonged state of limbo, first because of Covid-19, with restrictions that have often impacted music classes differently than other classes, and then due to ongoing renovations. They have been bounced around from the Cochran Gym to outdoors to the high school auditorium, and finally, to their current rehearsal space, the Farragut Gym.  Each space has presented considerable challenges for the department.

For Mr. Eric Day, the middle and high school band and orchestra teacher, the Farragut Gym is “less than ideal for music. Acoustics are very loud… and psychologically, the space makes it difficult to focus,” especially for younger groups.

But having a dedicated space big enough for music groups to play and socially distance is a significant improvement from last year, he says. He considers the problems he has with the temporarily dedicated space surmountable because there is a solution on the horizon: the soon-to-be-completed Hastings Music Department’s Music Suite.

The new rooms, which, after numerous delays, are scheduled to be finished in the beginning of 2022, are designed to fix many problems that educators and students have had over the years with their former design. One of the suite’s new features is advanced soundproofing, which, according to Mr. Day, will “not only make it so it’s less disturbing for surrounding areas, but also will make more ideal rehearsal acoustics, where it’ll be a drier sound.” This will be quite a contrast to the Farragut Gym’s echoes, which is certainly not good for working on details! The renovations will also eliminate the leveled floor, which created a lot of layout-related challenges.

Another big change in the new music suite is simply the organization of the space. There is a new focus on storage. Mr. Michael Rubino, the elementary and middle school band teacher, says that security of instruments was a priority in the design: “We have to make sure that when you bring your instrument down, you know it’s going to be there when you come back.” There have been many mishaps over the years, according to Mr. Rubino, because instruments “would get lost in the mix.” One of the music suite’s rooms will now be dedicated to music storage. Also, the room that used to be Mr. Day’s office has been turned into a lab for the music technology classes, and there will be a new shared office space for the instrumental music teachers between the middle and high school music rooms. This shared space should make it easier for the teachers to collaborate.

Many of the problems in the design of the rooms prior to the renovations have affected the music department for a long time. In fact, the music rooms designs have not changed for the entirety of Mr. Rubino’s 31 years in Hastings.  He says that the rooms “were great for things they were doing in the 50s and 60s and 70s. And then they started to get old.” There were issues with the utility of the rooms, including the outlets, the set-up of the rooms themselves and aesthetic issues involving the ceiling and floors. Throughout time, the music department evolved, adding new groups and grades, but the space itself stayed stagnant. Both Mr. Day and Mr. Rubino shared their gratitude for having been included in the experience of finally getting to redesign the space to bring it into the 21st century.

Mr. Day and Mr. Rubino said that the funding of the renovations also show Hastings’ support and appreciation for the music department.

Mr. Rubino calls the anxiety of the renovations “good stress,” because it is ultimately in support of the music program.

“[The renovations are] a good reinforcement of what we do, and why we do it. And it’s a good reminder to us all that people care about it and that this is why we do it. We do it to support the community, and the community supports us too,” Mr. Day concluded.