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Bass player Joe Pauli (Olathe, Kansas) and trombonist Garrett Manasco (Republic, Missouri) perform as part of the PSU Jazz Combo on Wednesday afternoon at a celebration marking the completion of the rehearsal hall in the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts — a $1 million space funded by private donors. The specially-designed room — just steps from the Linda & Lee Scott Performance Hall — will be used daily by numerous music groups, who previously rehearsed in a converted space in the Kelce College of Business. Courtesy of Pittsburg State University

Bicknell Center celebrates rehearsal room completion

The Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, a standing structure of musical performances and enrichment, is now complete. 

University students, faculty and staff, and Pittsburg community members came together Wednesday, April 24 in the newly completed rehearsal room at 3:30 p.m. to celebrate the new and last addition to the Bicknell Center. The reception included speakers such as President Steve Scott, vice president of university advancement Kathleen Flannery, and a performance by the PSU Jazz Combo. The rehearsal room’s completion is thanks to around $1 million in donations, both public and private. Public donors included retired university music professors Russell Jones and Gene Vollen and Gene Bicknell himself. 

“It’s really neat going through the building and seeing professors that either did teach or are currently teaching giving back to the university that helped them in their careers and giving back to the students that they have helped their entire time at Pittsburg State,” said Jonathan Eastman, client and technical services coordinator for the Bicknell Center. 

Eastman, in addition to his duties at the Bicknell Center, also performs with the Bells of the Balkans, a local bell choir that will use the rehearsal room. The Bells and other ensembles who use the room had the chance to work with acoustician Joseph W. A. Myers of Kirkegaard Associates to finely “tune” the room to each ensemble’s particular sound. 

“Joseph… was really good at working with the groups and finding out what their needs were, so that they could match that…” Eastman said. “…Instead of saying, ‘Well, it has to be this way,’ he said, ‘What do I need to do to make this better for you?” 

Eastman found the experience especially important for the Bells of the Balkans because he said Myers never had the opportunity to adjust the Linda and Lee Scott Concert Hall for the bell choir. Myers also did acoustic testing in the room alone. 

“On the next day, he came in and did acoustic testing with just himself in the room. He did some interesting things like pop balloons because it’s a very sharp sound… to see how that sharp sound would echo in the space…” 

The department of music will primarily use the space as a replacement for the converted space in Kelce Hall and according to Bryan Amor, senior in music performance, the rehearsal room will only grow the relationship between the department and the Bicknell Center. 

“The Bicknell Center and the music department are most certainly going to get to know each other at the fullest extent possible now,” Amor said. “…The Bicknell staff now have the means of experiencing the standard rehearsal times, not only the dress rehearsal and performance times… It’s like the Bicknell Center and the music department were just a couple while we rehearsed at Kelce. Now, we’re a couple who live together.” 

Amor performed for the opening of the room with the Jazz Combo on piano along with freshmen Garrett Manasco on trombone, Tyler Fries on trumpet,  Caden Forbes on guitar, sophomore Joe Pauli on bass, and junior Daulton Edwards on drums. 

“I was simply humbled to even be presented the opportunity to have the group be chosen for something of that caliber,” Amor said. “I can’t imagine the kind of history the donors must’ve had throughout their lives to have gotten to a point, where they’d be successful enough to consider providing a million-dollar space for the music department and many others to rehearse.” 

Ensembles that will rehearse regularly in the rehearsal room include the SEK Symphony, the PSU Jazz Ensembles, the Wind Ensemble and the Pride of the Plains Marching Band. 

“Simply put, it was surreal, and I’ll never know what work was done behind the scenes to have that space be in existence,” Amor said. 

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