The abrasive sounds of cardboard boxes sliding and scraping along the floors filled the new Natalie L. Haslam Music Center at the University of Tennessee on Wednesday.
For the UT School of Music's faculty members who have spent the last three years scattered in five different buildings across campus, the sound of crews clanging away at the final touches of the $40 million home was a joyful noise.
"The two ways I describe this building is 'transformational' and a 'game-changer.' This brings us back as a community and brings us back under one roof," said Dr. Jeffrey Pappas, Director of the UT School of Music. "Every person I've brought in this [recital] room has gone, 'Wow!' This is as good as it gets."
"We have had the faculty, a world-class faculty. Now we've got the place," said Dr. Angie Batey, who has been at UT's school of music since 1995.
Batey said the debut of the new facility was the result of generous donations and the vision of several generations of UT students and educators.
"If we had not had such remarkable people working for this school and attending the school through the years, people would not have thought this was something worth investing in," said Batey.
In addition to featuring all of the acoustic bells and whistles such as automatically retractable wall panels and curtains, one of the main changes from previous facilities is an immense amount of space.
"We have a music room large enough where the entire Pride of the Southland Marching Band can practice together for the first time," said Pappas. "From a practical standpoint, we have 56 student practice rooms all with wonderful Steinway pianos in them. This facility gives us the tools to practice our craft and educate students."
"The old building was not acoustically sound. It was not a fun place to sing," said Seth Maples, a singer and graduate teaching assistant who also attended UT as an undergraduate student. "This is a great place to sing. It's very live and you can hear yourself in this building. My dad also graduated from UT's school of music 30 years ago. When he would visit, the old building had not changed since he was a student. This new building is a big step forward."
Batey said the new building shows potential students that the University of Tennessee is serious about music.
"This is Neyland Stadium for us. It's the kind of impact football recruits would get when they walk into Neyland Stadium for the first time. When our recruits walk into the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center and see that beautiful atrium, that kind of impact is going to make a huge impression," said Batey. "I cannot wait for the students to walk in on the 21st of August and see this place."