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State grant to help college with new music facility

Lycoming College has received a $500,000 Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant that, according to Dr. Kent C. Trachte, college president, will be used to support a $5.5 million construction project set to begin in Spring 2021.

The project includes construction of a new music facility to be located next to the Welch Honors Hall at the corner of East Fourth and Basin streets. A connection will be created between the two buildings with minor interior renovations to the honors hall.

“For teaching, practice and rehearsal, for several decades now the college’s music program has been housed in Clarke Chapel,” Trachte said.

“While Clarke Chapel is a lovely building –the exterior and the chapel itself remain in good shape — the other levels of the building reached the point where they were badly in need of renovation,” Trachte continued.

“So, we studied what would be involved in renovating Clarke Chapel and as you might imagine with it being an historic building and constructed in a way that there are actually seven different levels to the building, it was prohibitively expensive to renovate the teaching, practice and rehearsal spaces,” he added.

The decision was then made to build about 18,000 square feet of new construction.

The new facility will consist of classroom space, a 4,000-square-foot rehearsal hall, two large and eight small practice rooms, faculty offices and a conference room, as well as spaces for support services and student collaboration.

According to Trachte, Lycoming College has always had a strong tradition of choral performance dating back to the 1950s, when Walter McIver was the first director of the program.

“What’s interesting about it is that very few of our students who perform in the choral groups, or now the increasingly strong instrumental groups, actually major in music,” he said.

He noted that most students enroll at Lycoming in majors such as biology, history or business.

“But, much like a student athlete who comes to college wanting to study an academic discipline but also pursue their passion for sports, our students that are involved in music largely come to pursue that passion without an intent to major in that program,” he said.

“We’ve always had about 150 to 175 students who have been involved in our music performance groups and we want to sustain that particularly in light of the challenging demographics that higher education has been facing. It’s about sustaining a strong program, not growing one and not even necessarily recruiting music majors, but continuing to be able to recruit kids who want to be in our performance groups and usually major in other subjects,” he added.

Trachte also stated that the construction of the new music facility is about more than just the college’s music program.

“We see the final location of this building as part of our investment in the new gateway to the college and also the revitalization of the East End,” he said.

“It’s mostly about the music program, but it’s also about our continuing investment in Old City or the East End and establishing a stronger footprint for the college there,” Trachte said.

He did stress that the new facility will not serve as a performance facility that would compete with the Community Arts Center.

“In fact we will continue, as we have now for several years, in our arrangement with the Community Arts Center and Penn College, where we support the cost of operation in return for having access to the Community Arts Center for a number of performances annually,” Trachte said.

“So, we still plan to continue the Community Arts Center, especially for larger performances,” he added.

And though the new building will not be a performance facility, Trachte noted that there will be opportunities for area music groups that don’t have rehearsal spaces right now to utilize the rehearsal area.

Prior to receiving the grant, the college had raised $4.3 million from trustees and friends towards the project. The $500,000 RACP grant brings the total closer to the projected cost of construction.

Trachte said this enables the college to begin the work in the spring with a completion date of Fall 2022 anticipated.

The college had owned the house next to the Welch Honors Hall and during the past year has acquired two additional homes located between the honors hall and the parking lot of DiSalvo’s restaurant.

All three homes will be razed to make way for the new facility.

In addition to the construction proposed by the college, a grant which was secured when the college was working with the city to secure grants for infrastructure work in that area, will be used to redo streetscapes on the section of East Fourth Street from Basin Street to Penn Street.

Trachte said this would include sidewalks and street lamps as well as other things to “dress up” the area.

Trachte said that he especially wanted to thank local legislators, in particular state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, for “his advocacy and support in assisting us with receiving this grant.”

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