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whose performance and recording credits range from the Al- bany Symphony and the Newport Jazz Festival to 1960s pop- sters Jay and the Americans. The midday session is one of many individual lessons offered each year in instruments ranging from banjo to violin, saxophone to sitar, woodwinds to West African drums.

The studio is bright and spacious, holding a drum kit, two pianos, two marimbas, a desk, and computer equipment. A wall poster illustrates snare-drum rudiments like the “single stroke roll” and the “triple paradiddle.” Bastuck starts off practicing drumming patterns—“the basic ‘words’ of drumming,” Foster explains. “Play each one of these measures four times,” he tells Bastuck. It’s loud. “Now get the bass drum going on every quar- ter note.” It’s louder still. But Bastuck’s notes sound good in the room, clear and sharp.

The new studio is a high point in the long and peripatetic

history of percussion at Skidmore. Ever vulnerable to NIMBY complaints, percussionists spent years practicing in exile, in- cluding a trailer behind Dana Science Center and a padded rac- quetball court in the Sports and Recreation Center. In Zankel, what Foster calls “acoustical isolation” is ensured by thickly soundproofed walls and clinched by two layers of doors: Extra thick and unusually wide (to accommodate marimbas and giant tympani), they’re mounted six inches apart to create a sound seal. Stand outside those doors, and all you hear of Bastuck’s energetic efforts is a faint, faraway tapping.


Besides mastering their own instruments, musicians must learn to play well with others. “When you play in an ensemble with even just one other person,” explains faculty member Jan Vinci, the founding director of Skid- more’s Summer Flute Institute, “your awareness is heightened exponentially. You’re more keenly at- tuned—and that’s where the magic happens.” With nearly a dozen music department ensem- bles large and small (plus student-run groups) vying for practice time, the old music facility was bursting its seams. Built in 1967 to accommodate five music faculty members and a student body of 1,000, Filene Music Building instead accommo- dated a four-decade explosion in campus music- making. By 2009 the music faculty numbered more than 30, and fully half of today’s 2,400 stu- dents sign up for ensembles, lessons, or classroom courses—placing huge demands on rehearsal rooms.

the literature.” When the students mess up a tricky passage, Vinci steps in to clarify the rhythm: “Ba-dum, ba-dum,” she sings emphatically, swinging her arm up and down. “Yumpy- bee-dum, yumpy-bee-dum.” The piece ends suddenly as Rebecca Rawling ’10, obeying Higdon’s notation, hisses a weird little “phttt!” into her flute. “That’s right,” says Vinci, pleased. Listening to music in the ensemble coaching room feels like being inside the instrument. Does hearing the sound so clearly help students play better? “Absolutely,” says department chair Denny. “The better the sound comes back to you, the better you learn. Musicians feed on sound: the sound blooms and feeds back to them. That’s true in a practice room, a rehearsal space, or a concert hall.” As Vinci explains, “My old studio was so ‘dead,’ it made it hard for students. There was no ‘surround-sound’—the sound stopped right in front of you. The rooms here are more live. My students can pick up on the acoustical qualities and ambience of the room, and they can hear what you point out to them much better.”


On Monday afternoons, John Nazarenko, UWW ’84, meets one of the three combos he’s directing this se- mester for MP276, a one-credit course that’s part in- struction, part jam session. They meet in the music center’s small jazz ensemble rehearsal room. It’s a secure space, accessi- ble like most in Zankel by swiping an ID card through the pro- grammable door lock, so it’s permanently set up with piano,


Zankel fills the bill with specialized spaces like the ensemble coaching room where, early in the semester, Vinci sets four top-notch flute students to work. They fluently sight- read their way through a little Mozart, some Debussy, and a fast, difficult piece by contemporary composer Jennifer Higdon. Vinci directs, tweaking the rhythm and guiding her soloists through a piece she calls “one of the most difficult quartets in

amps, drums, and mikes. (When Filene Recital Hall was the only large rehearsal space, each group had to set up and break down its equipment for every rehearsal.)

Cooper Boniece ’11 noodles on the piano as guitarist Dave Susman ’10 arrives. Drummer Thomas Best ’12 goes to the com- puter and fires up YouTube, searching for videos of the jazz



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