IMEG’s recent room acoustics design for a renovation at Northview High School in Brazil, Indiana, has had a dramatic impact on the school’s music program. According to band director Bob Medworth, “My jaw drops open with the things I can now hear and fix.”
Medworth’s comment was part of an email he sent to Clay Community School Superintendent Jeff Fritz in which he described the results of the acoustics work, which IMEG designed as a subconsultant on the renovation led by architectural firm Fanning Howey Associates, Inc.
Here’s an abridged version of the letter written by Medworth, who retired in May following four decades of directing marching and concert bands.
“It's mid-April and we are approaching Concert Contest performance, the time of year where there are no pageantry smoke and mirrors allowed – your band either sounds great playing the required literature, or you don't. Altering parts is not allowed; you must play everything the composer put on the paper. And you must demonstrate the sound of a total symphonic band. Every voice, timbre must be heard. And simplified writing is not allowed. If there are three clarinet parts, the judges expect to hear all three notes – and in tune.
We have always been successful this time of year, sometimes very successful. But for my entire 40-year career, I have never felt this was my strength. I've never felt great about my skills. I've always assumed I just didn't have the best set of ears. … I figured I might be a pretty good marching band director, but not one of the best concert band teachers.
Well, I was wrong. IT WAS THE ROOM I had been working in.
It is almost a daily occurrence now that my jaw drops open with the things I can hear and fix. I can finally employ (and adjust) techniques and get results. … In talking with the students, they feel the same way. Everyone tells me they can hear themselves and their neighbor and it is so much easier to balance and blend. The clarinets and flutes are making daily leaps and bounds. I suspect their ‘frequencies’ were squashed and muffled in the old room and they didn't have a chance.
It is honestly amazing, and I see it in the kids’ approach and attitude. We are getting better because they hear what they need to hear, they are achieving more, they know we sound better, and it is simply more fun.
A big part of me wants a huge career ‘do over.’ I spent 40.5 years with the (acoustic) odds stacked against me. And I had no idea. But, I am also finishing my career having a blast.
Please pass my heartfelt thanks on to the acoustic experts that were involved in this band room. They nailed it.”