College to Renovate Lang Music with Renewed Lang Funding

As students, faculty, and community members roam campus, they walk past the large scale construction of the BEP building and minor renovations of Science Center wall paneling. In the coming year, they’ll also come across reconstruction of the Lang Music Building. This influx of projects appearing around campus in the recent months has been in discussion amongst departments, the College Budget Committee, and the Budgeting Office for years prior to establishment of the projects. Within this discussion, the Music Department has voiced their needs for a reboot of their building, which acts as both a musical and intellectual space for the Swarthmore community. Through frequent conversations with the Budget Office, the Music Department has worked towards allocating appropriate funds for their department and movement towards renovations.

On February 27, 2019, President Valerie Smith sent a school-wide email announcing the 7 million dollar donation made by Board of Managers’ member, Jane Lang ’67, and her niece, Lucy Lang ’03, from Eugene Lang’s Fund for the Future to renovate the Lang Music Building. They also offered another 1 million dollars if the College could raise an additional 1 million dollars, to which a series of fellow Swarthmore alums and managers pledged $100,000 each. With a grand total of 9 million dollars in donations, renovations for Lang Music Building will be underway in summer 2020.

Some of the renovations include replacing the original piping throughout the building, modifying the Presser Room, currently an under-used rehearsal space, to create a flat-floored, acoustically separated rehearsal space with storage, and replacing the building’s entire heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. The replacement of the HVAC system will create three new zones of control in the concert hall as well as the ability to properly humidify/dehumidify the building throughout the year to properly maintain instruments. This would help stabilize the climate conditions in the Underhill Music & Dance Library for maintenance of the collections.

Once news of the new renovations was released, Associate Professor and Chair of Music Jonathan Kochavi and other music faculty were enthusiastic to know the building they cherished was being upgraded.

“The music faculty is tremendously excited about the upcoming renovations to the Lang Music Building! The music faculty cherishes the Lang Music Building.  Its innovative design promotes a sense of community and exudes creativity and joy,” said Kochavi.

For many of the larger scaled projects on campus, discussion begins months beforehand. The Lang Music Building renovation is no exception. In Kochavi’s 16 years of working at Swarthmore, he and his predecessors, Tom Whitman and Barbara Milewski, helped lay the foundation for the discussion of renovations. Since then, fellow faculty members have been in discussion with the Board of Managers and administration to implement changes to the Lang Music Building. There has also been dialogue with facilities and administration over the past semester to ensure the needs and vision of the space as an academic and performance program are  met.

Large scale renovation projects such as the Lang Music Building have budgets separate from that of the operating budget. In May of each year, the Board of Managers generates an operating budget for the fiscal year (July 1 through June 30). This budget is comprised of funds from tuition and fees, financial aid, endowment distribution, projected enrollment, gifts, federal and state support, debt service, and new initiatives. The budget adjusts according to the future projection of these factors.

For the 2018-2019 school year, the school’s operating budget is 174 million dollars, distributed across all academic and administrative departments. Academic and administrative departments and programs undergo a budget proposal process beginning in November outlining potential requests for increased funding or proposal of new projects and renovations.

The proposal of new projects or programs within a department operate from their approved operating budget for the year, unless these projects are scaled larger or projected to be more than $75,000. In order for these larger scaled projects to be approved, they must prove to be useful to the Swarthmore campus and mission for more than five years. Upon approval, funding for these projects is encompassed in the capital budget which, similar to the operating budget, is sent to the Board of Managers and highlights capital spending for the following fiscal year and priority spending for the next five years.

“The capital budget pertains to projects valued greater than $75,000 that will have a useful life of more than five years.  This includes new buildings, renovations, and system upgrades. Funding for capital projects, like BEP or the Lang Music Building renovation, comes from three main sources: explicitly restricted gifts to the College (Lang Music), debt financing (PPR Apartments), or funding drawn annually from the endowment to meet renewal and replacement needs,” stated Vice President of Finances and Administration Gregory Brown in an email to the Phoenix.

Kochavi, along with other members of the music faculty, views the Lang Music Building as an essential part of the Swarthmore community and experience. Acting as a space for educational and musical exposure, the Swarthmore campus and community take advantage of the Lang Music Building to learn and immerse themselves in music.

“Our concert hall is not just a gem for the campus, but it provides what many consider to be the best small hall concert experience in the greater Philadelphia area.  Its physical dialogue with the Crum Woods is arguably the most successful architectural example of this kind on campus,” said Kochavi. “These renovations will provide much needed love to our beautiful space and will have a deep and lasting impact on our ability to provide vibrant musical experiences for the entire Swarthmore community for years to come.”

Music students have also expressed their appreciation for the new renovations. Xia Headley ’21, a psychology major and music minor, was among those students who were excited about all the renovations being made.

“I’m excited they are finally fixing the things that are broken in Lang Music, but I was surprised they were renovating something that wasn’t the BEP building. They have been working on that building for a long time,” said Headley. “I’m most excited about them renovating the Presser room because I have lessons in there and it is a room that has been neglected for a long time.”
Due to financial contributions from the Langs, donations from fellow managers, and dialogue amongst the music department and administration, the Lang Music building will be revived. The music department is excited for the changes to come. “We are incredibly grateful for the remarkable leadership of the Lang family on this initiative.  We are also humbled by the way that five members of the Board immediately stepped up to get us halfway to the Lang’s challenge grant,” said Kachovi.

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