Marietta College hopes renovations strike a chord with new music program

Photo by Kate York
Grae-Con employees Sean Stephens, left, and Matthew Gearhart, work in the McKinney Media Center at Marietta College. The building is being remodeled to become the home of the music therapy program.

Photo by Kate York Grae-Con employees Sean Stephens, left, and Matthew Gearhart, work in the McKinney Media Center at Marietta College. The building is being remodeled to become the home of the music therapy program.

MARIETTA — The longtime home of Mass Media programs at Marietta College is getting a facelift as it’s prepped to become the site of an upcoming and much anticipated program at the college.

McKinney Media Center on Putnam Street is now in the demolition phase of a project set to be primarily complete in October. Parts of the building will be used for the planned Music Therapy program at the college, set to begin in fall 2018.

“We’re going to have isolation music rooms — acoustically isolated — and we’re going to have a larger performance studio where a band could actually go in and record music,” said Fred Smith, director of Marietta College’s physical plant. “It’s truly going to be state-of-the-art recording.”

The goal of the design is to make the studio space accessible to the entire campus, not just students in the music program, said Smith.

“We’re going to have guitars and instruments available…we’ll have a room with a piano,” he said. “We want it to be set up so that if a student gets an impulse, they’ll be able to go up with a garage band and play.”

Meanwhile, some of the Communications and Mass Media classrooms and office space will remain in McKinney, as will the television studio. The college radio station space will be moved into a newly-renovated room downstairs, where a dark room used to be, while music therapy will occupy the upper floor. More Communications classes will be moved into nearby Mills Hall, where some are already held.

“This is really allowing us to utilize the space that exists in the best way,” said Tom Perry, director of strategic communications and marketing for the college. “This transition can be made because of the size of the programs and even the changes to the way these programs are taught. You don’t need something like a dark room any more.”

The current version of the McKinney Media Center was built in 1983, although prior to that McKinney served as a printing plant for The Marietta Times until the early 1970s.

Perry said there are fewer students studying media-related fields at the college, particularly journalism.

“Advertising and PR continues to be the most popular but it’s not the numbers for these majors that it used to be in the ’80s and ’90s,” he said. “We’re able to better utilize this space.”

The music therapy program is coming to the college through a $1 million donation from 1981 graduate Donald Ritter and his wife, 1985 graduate Leslie Straub Ritter.

Marietta College student Sadie Johnson, 20, of Bloomington, Ind., is so eager to take part in the program that she’ll be extending her undergraduate experience by two years to do so.

“Being able to use music to directly impact a child or adult’s state of life is one of the neatest things I’ve ever gotten to experience,” she said. “I can’t wait to know the neurological and psychological aspects of how music impacts people.”

Six years ago, Johnson, a musician herself, started working with Blue Star Connection, which provides musical instruments to children with cancer and other serious life challenges. Donald Ritter is a director with the organization.

“When I started working with them, I said ‘Wow, this is exactly what I want to do,'” Johnson said. “I’m so excited and grateful to have the opportunity to help start this from the ground up.”

Johnson said she can’t wait to see the repurposed McKinney building when it is complete.

“I think it will be a neat facility for music therapists to learn to use recording equipment,” she said. “That’s a big tool used in hospitals and private practice.”

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