Scott Young, News Editor
Officials at Jacksonville State University’s Capital Planning and Facilities office said they are targeting for Mason Hall construction to be completed by the end of the year and for the building to be ready by spring 2020.
David Thompson, director of capital planning and facilities, said they hope for the building to be completed by that date but that he couldn’t “guarantee that date.”
Mason Hall, home to the music department and the Marching Southerners, was heavily damaged on March 19, 2018 by an EF-3 tornado that affected the city of Jacksonville and the campus of Jacksonville State University.
Since then, classes at the JSU music program have been dispersed across nine different buildings on campus, including Meehan Hall, the School of Business and Industry, Ayers Hall, Houston Cole Library, the RMC JSU complex and others.
“Not having Mason Hall as a home base for the band program has been extremely challenging,” said Ken Bodiford, director of university bands and a JSU assistant professor of music. “We are completely at the mercy of other departments around campus.”
Membership in the Marching Southerners has grown to 551 for the 2019 school year, which is a 39 percent increase since the year 2008. Of those 551 members, 191 of them are freshmen.
Bodiford illustrated the importance of having a music building with record band membership.
He added that the kinesiology department, athletic department, housing and events department, the Jacksonville Community Center and the Baptist Campus Ministries have all provided space for band rehearsals to take place.
“At a minimum, the band needs 12 large rooms for the individual sections to hold sectional rehearsals,” said Bodiford. “In addition, we have to have one large room (at least the size of a gym) to hold all of the wind players for full band music rehearsals.”
Bodiford said that the department has been promised a building with soundproof practice rooms and studios, a soundproof band room and a recital hall.
“For over four decades, the music faculty and music majors have been fed broken promises of a new building,” said Bodiford. “I remember being told back in 1983 as a freshman music major that the next building to be built on campus will be a music building and performance hall. Well, 36 years later I am still waiting to see this happen. Needless to say, I am very excited to see the broken promises of the past come to an end.”
The JSU David L. Walters Department of Music is selling seats in Mason Hall’s new recital hall which includes an engraved plaque that the donor may personalize.
A premium seat goes for $300 for a seat in the middle section of the recital hall or a standard seat for $250. The proceeds are used to pay directly for the seat.
Thompson says that furniture has not yet been ordered for Mason Hall, and that the university is working to reopen Mason Hall as soon as possible.
“They want to get back in the building sooner rather than later, but they want to make sure things are done right,” said Thompson.
Story photo provided by Ashley Stephens/Chanticleer.