Carnegie Mellon University

Ceiling of a practice room within the newly-renovated Hall of the Arts.

A Space to Create

School of Music Gets a New Home

written by
Dan Fernandez


In January 2020, students and faculty of the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music held their collective breath as they stepped into their new building for the first time.

The Hall of the Arts (HOA) was ready, after a multi-year process of planning and down-to-the-studs renovation, reconstructed from the bones of the mid-century Graduate School of Industrial Administration building most recently inhabited by the Tepper School of Business. From the outside, the building still looks largely as it did when it was first built, covered in the signature Henry Hornbostel buff-colored bricks used all over campus. But how would it feel on the inside, and could quality music be made in the new spaces?

The resounding answer: Yes.

Photo of a student playing a trumpet in a private lesson with a professor.
Photo of a student playing french horn for a professor, accompanying on a piano.
Photo of a student in a practice room playing clarinet.
“It’s the most significant expansion of space the School of Music has had since it was founded.”

Denis G. Colwell
Jack G. Buncher Head of the School of Music

“From the first day onward, it’s had such amazing energy,” said Carla LaRocca, associate teaching professor of keyboard studies. “It’s so dynamic and vibrant. You hear low brass all the way up to sopranos filling the halls. It gives you an indescribable energy.”

Most of the School of Music facilities formerly had been in the College of Fine Arts building since 1912 when the then-named School of Applied Design and the music program itself were both born.

While practice rooms, performance spaces and classrooms remain in CFA, the Hall of the Arts now houses a music technology room, a recording suite, two chamber music rehearsal rooms, three new music classrooms, 13 instrument-dedicated studios, an administrative office suite, two conference rooms, 25 faculty offices and more. In addition, 50 faculty members now either have an office or a studio specific to their instrument, which they previously lacked. The School of Music occupies most of three floors in the four-floor HOA; the top floor is now home to the School of Art’s Master of Fine Arts Program.

LaRocca, who had taught all non-piano music majors for the last 30 years , was apprehensive at first about leaving her old piano lab in Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall, until she opened the door to her new lab.

“The wall was all windows,” she said. “It was so bright and open and had this great feel to it … I feel so productive in that environment. It’s just fantastic.”

Daniel Teadt, assistant teaching professor of voice, has his own vocal coaching studio in the HOA that he describes as “just spectacular.”

“It’s perfect for singing in,” Teadt said. “It’s got a wonderful acoustic — it’s beautiful. I’m happy it’s my space where I can make it amenable to the students and make it a space where people want to make music and create art.”

At the all-faculty meeting at the start of the spring semester, the Hall of the Arts received an enthusiastic round of applause.

“I just want to thank President Farnam Jahanian and Denis Colwell for making this dream come true for the School of Music,” LaRocca said.