Logan Irwin, Correspondent
Jacksonville State University hosted a ribbon-cutting on Monday to celebrate the completed renovations of Mason Hall.
Mason Hall — named after the late Walter A. Mason, who served as the head of the Fine Arts Department — was re-dedicated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to highlight new renovations that come more than two years after the EF-3 tornado struck the campus of JSU.
Thomas McCutchen, the head of the JSU Department of Music, led a media tour prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony. He explained that, although the building was only renovated, they refer to it as the “new Mason Hall,” because almost all of the spaces within are brand new.
“Because of the tornado, they had to do a complete HVAC overhaul, which meant basically gutting the whole system just to bring it back up to code with new electrical wiring, cameras and a sprinkler system,” said McCutchen. “That allowed us to completely reconfigure our space, and what we ended up with was a new building on the inside.”
All music classes are now back under one roof, after around $12 million in repairs and improvements made to the 57-year-old building.
“This is a culmination,” said JSU President Don Killingsworth at the ceremony. “March 2018 is when the tornado came through and caused destruction of this building and what an opportunity came out of that devastating tornado for our campus.”
Killingsworth said that JSU trustee Randy Owens, on a prior tour of Mason Hall, noticed the “chicken wire … that was holding instruments together” and the “deficiencies in this building.”
“Thank you to the faculty who’ve been living out of their cars, teaching from various buildings,” said Killingsworth. “Teaching music in the stadium. Teaching music out at the South complex. Teaching music out of churches in the local community.”
Around 10,000 square feet has been added to Mason Hall, with the construction of both a faculty and student lounge and new university band offices. The building’s 40 practice rooms have been installed with sound isolation and new acoustic treatment.
The new recital hall is used for student showcases for smaller ensemble groups in the choral and instrumental areas. It features movie theater style seating and a new recording booth used for audio and video recording. The stage has been elevated to aid in the resonance levels, along with LED lighting.
A choral rehearsal classroom has also been installed, with risers and a large rehearsal space.
Asked what this would mean for the music students, McCutchen explained that for the first time in 2 ½ years, music students have practice rooms they can use and access easily all day and through the weekends.
“Being under one roof, where they can access all of the music faculty here in one building, being able to see their friends and classmates in the same building everyday — those types of relationships that they have been missing for the last 2 ½ years, they are now able to enjoy again,” he said.