After a year of searching, the Thornton School of Music has finally found a suitable space for its practice rooms — the new University Gateway apartment complex.
Thornton’s practice rooms are currently housed in the Music Practice and Instructional Center, which the university plans to demolish. Administrators started looking for an alternative location at the beginning of the school year and announced in November that the practice rooms would move to the Von KleinSmid Center Library. But after students and faculty petitioned to save the library, administrators revoked the decision, leaving Thornton without practice space.
Almost six months later, Thornton finally has a plan, though it is still awaiting final approval, Thornton Dean Robert Cutietta said.
The former cinematic arts building will be gutted and renovated to become the jazz department, instructional rooms, student service offices and group rehearsal spaces, totaling 40 percent of Thornton’s space needs. The rest of Thornton — outreach offices, the early music program and all of the practices rooms — will move to Gateway.
“This took longer than any of us could have ever dreamt,” Cutietta said. “It’ll be a different school for everyone in the fall.”
Gateway, located at the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Figueroa Street, will provide more practice rooms than students currently have, but the location is not ideal, Cutietta said.
Still, Cutietta said Gateway will be a significant upgrade.
“I’m excited to be out of PIC,” he said. “It’s a lousy building.”
Although some students like the central location of PIC, many agree the music school needed an upgrade.
“I hope it’s an improvement,” said Jonathan Richards, a senior majoring in double bass performance. “We definitely need new facilities.”
Gateway will provide 24-hour access to practice rooms for music students with secured, key card access, a crucial part of the plan, Cutietta said. Practice rooms are for music students only, but currently doors in PIC are always open, which grants anyone — non-music majors and non-USC students — access to the facility.
But there is certainly a downside to the proposed plan.
“I do feel bad that students have to walk all the way over to Gateway,” Cutietta said.
Some students said they feel the new practice rooms in Gateway will not be worth the hassle it will take to transport their instruments and themselves off campus.
“How are we really going to get the most out of it, if it’s where it is?” said Colleen Gilligan, a freshman majoring in jazz studies who worries about carrying her large bass to and from Gateway.
Marcus Paul, a freshman majoring in jazz studies, said he much prefers PIC’s location — right next to the intramural field.
“If anything, I think [PIC] should be renovated and given back to us,” Paul said.
Cutietta noted that all instructional facilities will be close together under the new plan, like a small campus solely for the music school.
“We’re creating a whole performing arts neighborhood,” Cutietta said.
Some music school spaces — such as offices and recording studios — have already moved into former buildings of the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
“As they’re moving out, we’ve been taking over things,” Cutietta said.
Although the whole move will be a quick turnaround, Cutietta said, the ideal finish date in August has already been pushed back. The move will take place over the span of three days during a weekend in September, but students will never be without practice facilities.
“Anything we can find available for that weekend, we will open up,” said Cutietta, who said he would offer his personal office space for students to practice, if need be.