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MOB to move out of OEDK

By Hallie Jordan     3/29/12 7:00pm

After moving from building to building and basement to basement over the past several decades, the Marching Owl Band and the other band programs may finally find their home in the old Autry Court.

Currently, the MOB, Rice Symphonic Band, Jazz Band and several non-major music classes practice in the basement underneath the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. However, the OEDK needs to use the basement to expand its space for students to work. This means the band program will need to move to a new location.

Director of Bands Chuck Throckmorton is happy about the potential relocation because the basement they are currently using does not suffice for many reasons.

"We need something twice as big and with a 20-foot ceiling," Throckmorton said. "We cannot fit the entire MOB in here at the same time. This is an opportunity to do it right and make a home."

Among unused spaces on-campus, Throckmorton decided that the space where the swimming pool was in Autry Court would be suitable because of its large size and high ceiling.

"We need to move the MOB to a space that is better configured," Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby said. "It is really poorly laid out, and so we are looking at a couple of different locations in Autry Court. We have been looking for a long time."

Aside from the old pool space, Kirby said they are also considering the old racquetball courts in Autry. Renovating the swimming pool will cost four to six times more than the racquetball courts, Kirby said.

"We had to stop using that pool because it was losing six inches of water every day, and so right now we are going to go through the building systematically," Kirby said.

The building investigation should take about six weeks, Kirby said.

Throckmorton said that though the racquetball courts would be an improvement over the current basement, he would prefer the pool area because it would be bigger.

Once the new space for the band program is determined, funds for the project will come from several places, Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said.

"ALFA funds would be dedicated to the project, the university would contribute other funding to the project and alumni and other fans of the MOB and other band programs could be asked to contribute funds for the remainder," Hutchinson said.

Throckmorton said several alumni are eager to contribute funds for the new space.

One of the main problems with the current space is that the acoustics are so poor that the groups cannot hear what they sound like while playing, Throckmorton said.

"The current students are loving the idea," he said. "They are the ones who will get that look on their face when they realize they can actually hear one another."

MOBster Brandon Nguyen said he agreed with Throckmorton.

"Our current place is too cramped," Martel College junior Nguyen said. "I don't really have a preference where we end up as long as it is big enough for the MOB's needs."

The OEDK is expanding use of its facilities to the basement area to accommodate dramatic growth in the undergraduate engineering programs, Associate Dean of Engineering Bart Sinclair said.

"This has created more demand for design space for senior capstone design project teams," Sinclair said. "We have reached the limits of the OEDK's capabilities, and our two largest entering classes have yet to reach the senior design courses."

There will also be new freshman design courses, adding over 20 new team design workbenches and tables, Sinclair said.

Hutchinson said that he feels that the added basement space will really help the OEDK.

"The OEDK has been an incredible innovative success for students from all discipline, creating some of the best opportunities on campus for students to work in teams and to develop their independent creativity," Hutchinson said.

He cited the Sally Centrifuge, the Baby Bubbler and Lab-in-a-Backpack as examples. An expanded OEDK will allow more students to be engaged, Hutchinson noted.

Before its current space underneath the OEDK, the MOB and Rice bands practiced in the space that is now Willy's Pub until it burned down in 1995. Hutchinson said he wants to help the MOB find a new home.

"The MOB is a wonderful part of Rice's lore and tradition," Hutchinson said. "Everyone in the university administration, myself included, is committed to providing a better band hall than the current location by working with Chuck Throckmorton and the MOB's loyal fans."

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