February 19, 2015

A New Era for the Bienen School

By Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery

For almost four decades the Bienen School of Music has been a divided community. The school administration and some programs have remained in the venerable Music Administration Building, while other programs have been headquartered across campus at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall and Regenstein Hall of Music. Despite this logistical impediment to interaction among the school’s constituencies, the Bienen School has flourished as one of the nation’s leading music institutions. But bridging this geographical divide has been an ongoing challenge, limiting the school’s ability to forge a unified identity.

The scheduled opening of the Bienen School’s new state-of-the-art lakefront building this year will do much more than replace MAB’s long-outdated facilities. It will effect a true cultural change for the school, helping create a greater sense of collaboration among its disparate programs. As the school continues to support Northwestern’s strategic plan and implement its own strategic plan, the primary focus for 2015 will be the move to the new building —not only the complicated logistics of the relocation, the centralizing of business functions that until now have been duplicated, and the special events celebrating the building’s opening, but also the reinvigoration of the school as a united community. Looking to the future, without the obstacles of a divided campus, the school will now be able to direct all its resources toward reaching even higher levels of excellence and recognition.

Music Administration Building and the new Music and Communication Building

The Bienen School has enjoyed significant milestones throughout its 120-year history, including the openings of Music Hall in 1897, Lutkin Hall in 1941, Pick-Staiger in 1975, and Regenstein in 1977. But it seems safe to say that none of these previous enhancements will compare with the effect of the school’s 2015 move into its new lakefront facility. With all the school’s activities in one location, new connections are certain to develop and deepen among faculty, students, and staff, fostering greater communication and cooperation across disciplinary boundaries—especially in terms of the vital synergy between performance and scholarship. The school’s entire academic and business operations will function with greater efficiency, and all programs will contribute to a new sense of the school’s unified identity. As classes begin meeting in the building this spring quarter, as administrative and faculty offices move in June, and as the building formally opens in the fall, the Bienen School of Music will truly enter a new era.

Amid the excitement of the school’s impending move, however, it is important to remember that so much of what the school accomplishes on a daily basis—though certain to be more effective and congenial in the new facilities—flourishes regardless of physical space. The private studio teaching and mentoring by our accomplished and dedicated faculty, the advances in scholarship by our music studies professors, the performing and academic accomplishments of our multitalented students, the personal attention offered by our internationally successful admission efforts, and our ever-growing global online presence through archived performances and master classes have created a music school with few peers. Now, as the Bienen School finally moves into a facility matching its stellar reputation, the school is poised for even greater achievements in the years ahead.

This letter originally appeared in the winter 2015 edition of FanfarePhotos: (top) Music Administration Building; (bottom) the new Music and Communication Building