This summer, the College will break ground on a 23,000-square-foot building to house Marist’s robust Music Department and its 18 vocal and instrumental ensembles. The facility will also provide smaller-venue, multipurpose arts space. Marist has more than 400 student musicians and as many as 600 students enrolled in music courses each semester. Music is not a major at Marist, but minors are offered in instrumental and vocal tracks.
The new building is part of a $27 million project that includes a major renovation of the dining hall, the Nelly Goletti Theatre, student activities space, and public areas of the Student Center. Adjoining the east side of the College’s original Campus Center, the three-level building will reflect Hudson Valley modern gothic style in red brick and grey stone and will architecturally transform that part of the campus.
The dining hall in particular will change dramatically. Plans call for a spectacular atrium, student lounges, and an area for quiet dining and studying. Capacity will increase by 200 seats over current facilities. An outdoor terrace will be created over what is currently a loading dock, taking advantage of Hudson River views. The firm Robert A. M. Stern Architects, whose founder is dean of the Yale School of Architecture, designed Marist’s Hancock Center and is leading this latest project, which is slated for completion in fall 2013.
The new building is a dream come true for Arthur Himmelberger, director of the Music Program, and those affiliated with Marist who love music, including current students and several thousand alumni musicians. All are part of what Himmelberger calls “a family” who love music and challenge themselves to achieve ever higher levels of musical excellence.
“Our music program provides and emphasizes worthwhile music activities and academic offerings for students who don’t wish to make a living at music,” says Himmelberger. “These nurtured skills contribute to the musical vitality of the College and remain with students, to be used and enjoyed throughout their lives.”
Leading the vision for music at Marist is President Dennis J. Murray. “When he became president in 1979, there was no band or choir,” says Himmelberger. “Dr. Murray has been very, very helpful and instrumental in our development. He has been our greatest advocate.”
“We outgrew our current facilities several years ago,” Himmelberger adds. “But the desire of our student musicians to succeed, excel in their crafts, and provide audiences with quality performances has superseded the facility obstacles they have faced preparing their concert literature.” The building will feature major rehearsal spaces for various bands, choirs, and orchestras. It will also offer eight practice rooms, three classrooms, music faculty offices, a piano lab, a computer lab, music library space, and storage for instruments and large equipment.
The new space will no doubt be immediately in demand. Marist musical ensembles keep a busy schedule, performing throughout the school year on campus, in the surrounding community, across the country, and around the globe. In April 1999 the Marist Singers sang for the pope at the canonization of Saint Marcellin Champagnat in Rome. Marist musical ensembles have also performed in Canada, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Florida, New Jersey, Arizona, California, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico.
The more than 200-member Marist Singers group, with its seven ensembles, has roots in the College’s earliest days. Throughout the years, student Brothers practiced Gregorian chants and harmony vocalizing several times a week and sang at masses and campus concerts. Special choirs sang the more difficult pieces and also performed in the community. The choral tradition was revived and expanded with the arrival of President Murray 33 years ago.
Marist’s band was formed in 1986 by Himmelberger, who was a United States Army percussionist and member of the senior leadership team of the United States Military Academy Band at West Point. In 2001, he retired from the Army and joined Marist full-time as director of the Music Department.
The 130-member symphonic band performs in concert halls, befitting its primary mission to master symphonic band repertoire that provides high levels of technical and aesthetic difficulty so that student members can grow as musicians and present acclaimed concert literature. These same musicians perform at football games as the Marist Marching Band and at basketball games as the Marist Basketball Pep Band.
The Marist String Orchestra was formed in 1997 and continues to grow. Currently, it has 35 members who play string and orchestral literature from the classical, romantic, and 20th-century periods. The orchestra, along with the symphonic band and choral group, annually fills the 933-seat historic Bardavon 1869 Opera House in downtown Poughkeepsie for two spring concerts.
In addition to supporting its ensembles, the Music Department offers students from all majors classes in jazz, opera, music theory, piano instruction, voice instruction, medieval and renaissance music, the history of motion picture music, and music of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, among other subjects.
—- Courtesy of Marist Magazine, Spring 2012 issue. Renderings by Jeff Stikeman for Robert A. M. Stern Architects