Major renovations for the Mills College Music Building were completed in December, and the building is now open again to the community after 18 months.
The building has been a vital part of 20th Century music history. From the concerts it has held to its role in Mills’ music department curriculum and programs, the Music Building is internationally known and its renovation provides new opportunities for music students at Mills.
The renovations of the building began in several different phases. The first phase was to give the building proper disability access according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) codes. The second phase included making the building more prepared for earthquakes, which included taking out a skylight from the roof.
While the renovations began with simple fixes to move the building up to standards, it expanded to several new additions including refurbished classrooms, new audio visual mixing stations, more spaces for performances, and fixed floors and walls.
The new classroom additions have made a positive impact on the music program at Mills for faculty and students, according to music professor, David Bernstein. “All of the new additions to the classrooms really make us happy. It’s not just about the concert hall, it’s about the students,” Bernstein said. The new additions will mean the music department will be able to accommodate more undergraduates and train more women in the electronic aspects of recording and producing music.
One of the most noticeable changes to the building to those to Mills students not participating in the music program are in the Concert Hall itself. First and foremost, the paneling of the walls have been fixed and updated to give the room better acoustics. The murals painted by Raymond Boyton are now more vibrant and noticeable.
Several changes have been made to the seating in the hall to improve the stairs beside the seats as well as removable chairs in the front row near the stage to add an orchestra as needed as well as a three-foot expansion of the stage. The Concert Hall is now more secure as well thanks to new doors and a better locked mixing console which allows audio equipment to stay inside the hall.
“Students used to spend the night inside the concert hall because the equipment wasn’t secure or guarded so it’s nice to have the equipment secure,” Bernstein said.
While the renovations will make events at the Music Building run smoother, they were not easily achieved. Plans for the renovation of the music building began in the 1990s which included some ambitious hopes for a new and smaller theatre including the concert hall, but were later changed and adapted to what’s seen now.
“The biggest challenge we faced with renovating the music building was keeping the historical architecture intact while at the same time improving the building’s acoustics and accessibility,” Bernstein said.