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Steffen Music Center Construction Underway - 8/7/2009

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Despite a sour economy and recent statewide cuts to arts funding, Marian University is kicking of another new construction project on its campus. The latest facility upgrade, the fourth such project undertaken at the 114-acre campus in the last three years, will add a large rehearsal space and additonal classrooms to the Music Building.

The project is also an important symbol of the university’s commitment to implementing its mission statement, which calls for it to be a Catholic university dedicated to excellent teaching and learning in the Franciscan and liberal arts traditions. “There is a connection between the Franciscan tradition and the liberal arts that goes back nearly 800 years,” said Marian University president Daniel J. Elsener. “This project supports these traditions and casts our efforts in a serious light,” he continued. Clearly, music has been an essential part of the liberal arts for centuries, and Elsener stated the university’s intention that the building “symbolize our commitment to educating the whole person: mind, body, and spirit.”

View the news video about the project.

In addition to furthering arts education on campus, university leaders want others to know that this go-ahead decision to start construction came only after securing a lead gift from the estate of the late Andrew Steffen, a local attorney and college benefactor, and help from the construction company, Browning Construction. The building will be renamed the Steffen Music Center.

“Our campus community is very thankful that this first phase is funded primarily with donations,” said Elsener. Well more than half of the project cost has been secured. The gift from the Steffen estate represents more than 30 percent of the $2.0 million project construction cost.  Other gifts and pledges, like those from former Drum and Bugle Corps members who are now proud alumni, have funded a significant portion of the project as well. All funds collected in this first phase beyond the $2.0 million construction cost will be used to purchase instruments and to endow music scholarships. The total fund raising goal for phase one is $3.0 million.

The expansion will add further excitement to the campus environment. Enhancing the overall experience that students have on campus is an important part of the university’s strategy for attracting more academically talented prospects and improving retention of current students. Philip Kern, the chairman of the Department of Performing Arts at Marian University, says that instructional quality and academic performance are greatly enhanced by a quality learning environment. “It is very important to relate all of the construction that has been going on to our bigger purpose—great teaching and learning that furthers our students’ development. The new facilities create new learning opportunities for them, and I’m sure they will be thrilled to see construction progress when they return in the fall” Kern said.

To honor the university’s Catholic foundation, the building facade features the first 10 notes of the fight song, We Rise and Cheer for You Dear Marian, marked in pneumatic notation, a style most commonly associated with Gregorian chants and Catholic liturgical music. The first phase of the renovation will include:

  • multiple Wenger practice rooms
  • large rehearsal hall with 20 foot tall ceilings
  • large instrument, percussion, and uniform storage rooms
  • instrument repair station

As part of the $68.2 million Make History comprehensive fundraising effort, Marian University is raising $12.5 million to fund projects in two key areas: the arts and campus life. Education in the arts and co-curricular experiences that complement a student’s classroom learning play a big role in the university’s concept of developing the whole person. And those activities help build a “culture of creativity and excellence” according to the dean of students, Ruth Rodgers. The music program offers students an opportunity to pursue both. “With the advent of football on campus, students and alumni are looking forward to exciting and colorful Saturday afternoons in the fall, and a marching band adds significantly to that atmosphere,” Rodgers said. Groups like the marching band and Sacred Choir provide important extracurricular activities where students have opportunities to collaborate, create new relationships, and hone their talents in live performances.

The university also wants to support the MusicCrossroads initiative backed by Indianapolis leaders that’s intended to draw more organizations to the city and create a hub for non-profit music organizations. Strengthening its existing music program and adding co-curricular opportunities for students at the collegiate level is an important dimension of that. According to research gathered by MusicCrossroads, a quality education that includes the arts develops citizens who have more creative capacity to solve complex problems, higher academic achievement, and greater concentration and ability to work in teams—all skills necessary to successfully navigate both the collegiate and professional experiences.

“It is encouraging that Marian University is not only investing in infrastructure that will provide musicians with opportunities to achieve, but also giving all students the chance to experience music as a part of their education in other disciplines,” said Matt Carter, the vice president for music, arts, and culture at the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association and the executive director of MusicCrossroads. “The arts enrich the mind and provide the opportunity for inspirational application that can be used on any kind of performance venue—the drafting table, board room, operating room, or theatre,” he continued.