While I'm sometimes peeved that the shortest distance between two points on this campus is always under construction, I know I benefit from every new facility once the construction is done. I am very impressed with the new buildings that have sprung up in just the past three months alone, like the Bell Tower, von der Heyden Pavilion, and of course Bostock, my favorite. (I don't know how the library suddenly became the hotspot on campus to see and be seen, but as a nerd, I'm not complaining.)
Above all, the new Nasher Museum definitely provides a much-needed breath of fresh air into the arts at Duke, considering the fact that what is now known as the "old" art museum was (embarrassingly) our former primary venue for visual art.
However, I think there's something to be said that despite Duke's so-called commitment to improving the arts, I still only know of one in-tune piano that I can practice on for my own personal enjoyment on West Campus-the piano in the Mary Lou Williams Center. The situation was only slightly better last year when I could leave my Crowell dorm room and reach a piano within a minute. All I had to do was walk to Wilson Gym.
That's right, Wilson Gym. Too bad I would never be caught dead practicing Mozart on that piano next to Quenchers. And maybe I didn't work out enough, but in all my times at Wilson, I didn't see a single person touch that baby grand either.
And who would? The elliptical is not my kind of metronome. Although I appreciate the addition of the Nasher, as well as the increased attention to the arts at Duke, I'm still left wondering why students with talents in piano, voice and other instruments are left to practice in the most tucked away location on East Campus: Biddle.
Don't get me wrong, I think it's wonderful that Duke brings in top-notch artists and musicians to Page and Baldwin every semester, and with the addition of Nasher, will be able to bring in fantastic art exhibits too. The special Wednesday night Jazz series that took place in the new von der Heyden Pavilion with Tito Puente Jr. was fantastic.
Yet, in these grand plans to provide more space and venues for intellectual and social activities, I'm still waiting to see when Duke will do what I consider to be the first step to cultivating fine arts: offering students their own outlets for musical expression that are not confined to the backwoods of East Campus. Bottom line, where are the West Campus practice rooms?
Though many of my friends are musically talented, I've only had a chance to hear a few of them perform on the piano, violin, guitar or other instruments, despite the countless private lessons and recitals we endured before coming to Duke. This is disappointing considering the enormous amount of talent we have here; last Friday's Body Rock show definitely showcased Duke's talented a capella groups and the popular student band Pulsar Triyo. There are more students like theses, with musical backgrounds but no real practical outlet on West Campus to nurture their abilities.
I took piano lessons at Duke my freshman year to continue what I considered to be a hobby I would practice my entire lifetime. Yet when I transitioned to West, I realized continuing lessons required more traveling time to Biddle than I deemed necessary. I used to practice five to eight hours a week in high school; now I'm lucky if I put that much time in a month.
Why? The pianos on West are left in open environments like the Mary Lou and Wilson Gym that aren't as conducive as private, sound-proof practice rooms. Apparently in past years there have been conversations of creating a few practice rooms in the Bryan Center. This would be ideal since that would provide a centralized location where students could practice but nothing has come to fruition.
Of course, ongoing construction is necessary for an institution like Duke to continue to provide intellectual and social outlets, but my recommendation for revitalizing musical creativity on West Campus doesn't require a new building, a rich donor, or any construction.
Just a small room with a Steinway.
Miho Kubagawa is a Trinity junior. Her column runs every other Wednesday.
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