Student musicians were forced to evacuate and remove personal items from the Zelazo Center this week as UW-Milwaukee prepares to host Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate. The temporary relocation of the instrumental music department is causing rehearsal disruptions, and is placing expensive instruments at risk of costly damage, according to graduate student Amanda Brittain.
“We were disrupted at least 10 times during our three-hour rehearsal on Tuesday,” said Brittain. “People walked by talking loudly. Some people tried to talk to us while we were trying to listen to our director.”
Large ensemble rehearsals are being held in the Union’s second floor study lounge until next week.
“This is a public space with no doors and no privacy,” said Brittain.
The instrumental music department, comprised of orchestras with more than 100 students and bands ranging between 50 to 150 students, were asked to clean out their Zelazo lockers by Feb. 5, or would be subjected to search and seizure by the secret service. Transporting instruments and equipment during the winter season creates opportunities for damage.
“I own about $20,000 worth of instruments and equipment,” said Brittain. “My clarinets are wood and taking them outside for any period of time risks them cracking.”
Other wooden instruments include the oboes, piccolos and bassoons.
“The school has a lot of large, antique instruments and some cost upward of $100,000 that are wood,” said Brittain. “They are currently being stored in the Union, but had to be taken (outside) to get there.”
The Zelazo Center’s practice and storage space is temperature controlled to properly house these delicate instruments. Brittain reached out to External Relations Manager Keri Duce, the event’s manager, to further express her concerns.
“I know there are supposed to be benefits to hosting the debate, monetary and publicity, but honestly, will my department see any of it?”
According to an agreement obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, UWM will receive roughly $50,000 to cover expenses for hosting the debate.
“We’re thrilled PBS selected UWM because it will allow us to showcase our campus to the world,” Tom Luljak, vice chancellor of university relations and communication told the Journal Sentinel.
However, Brittain isn’t buying into the publicity hype.
“Can you tell me, without looking it up, where the Republican debate was held last week? Most people I’ve asked this question have no idea. So tell me again how this helps promote UWM?”
Brittain spends anywhere from three to seven hours practicing, teaching and learning in Zelazo each day. Although she’s not happy about making up this time next week, she’s more concerned about her classmates.
“I know for a fact that this ordeal is making good players who are already considering transferring, consider it more… This sort of thing feels a lot like the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Orchestra’s relocated rehearsal is interrupted by a UWM Mardi Gras band Tuesday in the Union. | Video courtesy of Amanda Brittain.