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Music for non-majors

Recording studios on campus should stay exclusive

By Aviva Zapinsky

Contributing Writer

UMBC’s recording studio availability is a source of contention.

 The recording studios on campus look like spaceship controllers; state-of-the-art panels with knobs protruding everywhere, and a plethora of switches from every surface to confuse the unaccustomed. They are beautiful and new, and look like so much fun.

But the opportunities to use them are not available to everyone. If you are not attending a class that requires usage, or are not a music or music tech major here at UMBC, you cannot use these recording and practice studios, and this frustrates some students.

As Shmuel Gabai, junior psychology major, said, “I want to record something. Why can’t we? I think that having a recording studio open to students other than music majors would be a fun and creative way to let loose.”

However, this policy gives the music majors the time allowance they need to practice and do their projects without crowding them out unnecessarily. Music majors use the practice rooms every day, usually several hours a day, and tech majors are in studios for a comparable amount of time.

According to Sarah Baugher, Music Tech Coordinator, “We have a limited functionality now, because of our move to the new PAHB, and it’s difficult to find time for all our own students to use the recording studios. Over winter break we will get everything settled. In the old building, at certain times, when projects were due, for example, the studios were really busy with the music students.”

Haley Kirychuk, a sophomore music major with emphasis on instrumental performance, says that she thinks that the policy is a good idea for much the same reason. “It’s important to ensure that music majors have the most access possible to practice rooms especially. The practice rooms are very often in use – the hallways can certainly get crowded. Occasionally every room is taken,” she said.

In addition, the majors are given extensive training before being allowed to use all the equipment, as it is all extremely expensive and delicate. Non-majors don’t necessarily know how to use the equipment, and the chances of damage occurring to the recording equipment is much higher, leading, again, to the policy of ‘majors-only.’

As Baugher says, “We just recently moved into the new PAHB, and with that move came a lot of new gear. It’s all very up-to-date, but in some ways it’s less intuitive now, so unless you’ve taken a class on how to use it, it’s difficult to use it without a briefing.”

Baugher says she printed out a quick how-to guide, as “many of our professors don’t know how to use some of this equipment, and it’s incredibly complex.”

The majors know how to use the equipment without breaking it and how to use the building properly. For example, the doors are soundproof, but they are also built to keep the humidity at a certain level so as not to damage the sensitive equipment. The majors get drilled not to prop doors open, as that can break the seal and damage the door, and not to leave doors open.

Kirychuk says, “Also, the music department attempts to keep the practice rooms neat and undamaged – the more people that have access to them, the harder it is to keep them this way.”

The recording equipment is collectively worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars. To allow access to everyone would make it far easier for potential theft of this expensive and portable equipment than it is under the current controlled access system.

The music department has a right to limit the students they allow in the recording studios and practice rooms, for very practical reasons. This decision allows students with the most need to get access to the rooms when they need to without others limiting them. In addition, the majors are trained in usage of the equipment, and can be trusted to use the expensive equipment and space.

This equipment is meant for a purpose – to teach these students, the music majors, and students taking these classes, how to use it. To open the recording studios for general use would be to trivialize and disregard that purpose.