Heather Nelson is a doctoral student at the University of Kansas, but KU did not offer the facilities she needed to conduct a large portion of her research. She was more than a little shocked, and thrilled, to learn that Ottawa University did.
Nelson’s line of research is in acoustics and how what we hear affects how we sing. By using ambulatory phonation monitors, she tests practice rooms and experiments with how students sing in different rooms and environments. “Obviously the rooms are quite expensive and I don’t know of many places that have them,” Nelson said. “I was rather giddy when I found out they were here. It’s 20 miles from home, and it may wind up being a big chunk of my dissertation.”
The 10 Wenger “sound isolation” practice rooms were installed last fall in the Fredrikson Chapel and offer a number of features that make for a superior practice experience, including nine virtual performance settings to simulate the type of venue in which the musicians will be performing and the ability to digitally record/save sessions and play them back. Each of the practice rooms utilizes a self-contained design. Lighting, wiring and ventilation are built in and all wiring is run through sound-isolated raceways. The rooms also include sound-isolating wall and ceiling panels with 16-gauge steel exterior and 22-gauge steel interior surfaces and can be relocated or reconfigured within hours.
“I think it’s amazing what you’re doing with these rooms, and also very smart,” said Nelson. “Music students spend more time in a practice room as an undergrad than almost anywhere else, so to have those spaces is probably one of the best investments that a school of music can make, in my opinion.” Nelson will be utilizing the rooms extensively over the next few months as she conducts her research.
“The addition of these state-of-the-art Wenger SoundLok practice rooms and teaching studios demonstrates Ottawa University’s commitment to the continued elevation of its music programming,” said Music Department Chair Dr. Roger Kugler. “It also showcases the generosity of many music-minded alumni. These rooms will provide our students and faculty with excellent teaching and learning facilities for many years to come.”
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