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Where Music Lives

By Terry Rayburn Mitchell, '93

As summer neared its long, lazy-for-some end, Cowles Music Center took shape at Whitworth. The newly expanded and renovated building was like a beautiful gift to music students and professors returning from Summer Break, and they remain delighted at the new space and the enhanced acoustics, collegiality and opportunities it offers.

"The center tells student-singers, as well as the Greater Spokane community, that choral music — and every type of music — is very important to Whitworth," says Whitworth Choir Director Marc A. Hafsø. "We can employ vocal and rehearsal techniques — including movement-based activities and rehearsal formations — that were previously prohibitive. In short, it gives us academic freedom!"

Dorothy Wang, '18, appreciates the center's larger rehearsal spaces, which can be used without students having to waste precious time moving equipment around. "And it's wonderful having a rehearsal room in which we can hear everything that's going on within the orchestra," Wang says.

Whitworth Wind Symphony Conductor Richard Strauch concurs. "The rehearsal room is where an ensemble lives," he says. "This room is where we work toward excellence, where we struggle, argue, and finally come together. And this room gives us flexible space to rehearse music whose demands haven't even been invented yet."

Max Bennett, '17, says, "I'm excited that jazz students now and in the future get a rehearsal space that's all their own. I feel blessed that we have a room that is specifically for jazz, since impromptu jam sessions are vital for a jazz musician's growth."

The new space fills a huge need. Whitworth had completely outgrown its original music building, constructed in 1978. At the time, there were four full-time music faculty, 20 adjunct faculty, 64 music majors, and eight vocal and instrumental ensembles. By 2015, the full-time music faculty had increased to nine, the adjunct faculty to 33, music majors to 85, and ensembles to 20.

The Cowles Center includes a 21,481-square-foot addition that, coupled with the original building, provides rehearsal space for Whitworth's ensembles, additional teaching studios, and a number of smaller rehearsal and storage areas.

Extending her thanks to those donors who brought this project to life, Music Department Chair Debbie Hansen says, "We hope to return your gifts with music that will inspire for years to come. Thanks for believing in us, and in the power of music!"