The Charles Johnson Theater is set to undergo acoustical improvements this upcoming summer to help diminish sound carrying from the theater.

The Olive DeLuce Fine Arts Building will undergo changes for acoustical improvements following Northwest’s 2020-21 academic year.

During the summer of 2021, the Fine Arts Building will look a little different with improvements coming to the Charles Johnson Theater, the several teaching studios and the practice rooms throughout the building. These improvements will result in a better quality of sound that faculty and students have said the building has needed for a while now.

“We have been plagued by acoustical problems in the building for many, many years,” Kathryn Strickland, department chair of fine and performing arts, said in an email.

Strickland said these problems have impacted the department significantly. It has hindered the ability to hold some events and, at times, certain classes. 

Clayton DeWitt, a music education major, said hearing the sounds of students practicing hasn’t affected his classes much because he’s used to it, but he said he can see how a theater student or an art student would be affected.

In an email, Scott Khulemeyer, director of Capital Programs, explained in some places the sound will occasionally bleed through to other spaces of the building. This “bleed effect” means that if somebody is making noise in one room, the sound will carry through the walls and can be heard in a separate room.

“We could be in a practice room and half the hallway down we can hear other people playing,” DeWitt said as he described the bleed effect.

DeWitt went on to say that when recitals or shows are going on in CJT, no one is allowed to practice to avoid this effect from interrupting the shows.

“And if we’re doing a recording while there’s a show going on, we’ll pick up those sounds in our recordings,” DeWitt said.

DeWitt said he feels this is needed now more than ever because students are submitting more pre-recorded playing tests due to COVID-19.

“I know that I’ve done some playing tests where I’ve picked up somebody else’s (sound),” DeWitt said.

DeWitt said at this point turning in a recording with other background music is not uncommon, but it can be avoided. DeWitt said he avoids this by recording later in the night when other students have gone to their homes for the day.

This issue has become something fine arts students and faculty have been working around since the building was built in 2004. 

DeWitt recalled a time when he traveled to the Charles Johnson Theater in high school back in 2014. He said his teacher at the time recognized it as a problem that needed to be addressed.

“The goal for the project is to mitigate the sound transfer,” Khulemeyer said in an email.

This project will allow certain rooms to be used simultaneously and will lessen this bleed effect, overall resulting in a better learning and teaching experience. 

This will also allow the Fine Arts building to stay up to date with the standards set by the National Association of Schools of Music.

As of now, the project is currently kicking off with the design phase. After the design is finalized, the project team will start to come up with more permanent dates for the construction. 

The project is being 50% funded by the University and 50% funded by other donors.

“Our department is incredibly grateful that the University chose to prioritize this project, especially during a time of financial hardship,” Strickland said in an email.

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