Peak performance

The Class of 1959 Music Center Addition makes an impact in its first year.

Melanie Nelson
October 27, 2017
Play VideoThe Bowld at Phillips Exeter Academy

A centerpiece of the music building addition, “The Bowld” provides concertgoers and performers alike with a vibrant space to enjoy.

Classmates Dudley Rauch ’59 and Leonard Egan ’59 are reminiscing over the phone lines from their respective homes in Southern California and Washington, D.C. Fond memories of student exploits are interspersed with the history of their class’s recent generous gift to the Academy, which helped make possible the construction of the Class of 1959 Music Center Addition. Opened to rave reviews in the fall of 2016, the facility is doing exactly what Rauch, Egan and their classmates hoped — attracting students to Exeter’s many music classes, groups and programs and making possible world-class performances.

The seed for a class fundraising project in support of the arts was officially planted in the summer of 2012, when Rauch and his then wife-to-be, Michele, visited campus. But his own passion for music emerged decades earlier. “When I arrived at Exeter in the summer of 1955, I had a subscription to the Columbia Record Club on the classical side,” Rauch recalls, “and it was at the Academy that I really started studying classical music. Since then music, and particularly classical music, have always been a big part of my life.”

Rauch’s passion would eventually lead him to become a benefactor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic (he remains a member of the board of directors) and of LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. Beginning with his 40th Exeter reunion in 1999, he has also become increasingly involved with fundraising for the Academy, further fortifying the class of 1959’s robust legacy of generosity.

“The Bowld provides us with a beautiful space, perfect for our concerts, as well as a lovely rehearsal area."
Chair of the Music Department Peter Schultz

Like Rauch, Egan, who is also a classical music enthusiast, renewed his connection to Exeter after returning for reunion, in his case, the class’s 45th in 2004. “My 45th was actually the first time I had returned to the Academy since graduation,” he says. The experience rekindled in Egan an emotional attachment to Exeter. Soon, he was supporting the Academy philanthropically and as a class volunteer. He also has served as class president since 2014.

Fundraising for the Class of 1959 Music Center Addition officially commenced in 2014, when the project was introduced at the class’s 55th reunion. From there, explains Rauch, “Leonard did the better part of contacting members of the class to solicit gifts,” successfully shepherding 45 donors into the fold. For his part, Rauch “had fun sending classmates emails and blueprints outlining the scope of the project.” In the end, the class raised more than $4.5 million toward the addition, in the process securing naming rights.

As Exeter marks the one-year anniversary of the addition’s opening, Rauch and Egan say they are delighted with both the physical space and the manner in which it is being utilized by Exeter instructors, students and guest musicians. “With this project, I feel like our class has contributed something important to the Academy without being ostentatious,” Rauch explains. “It has been a non sibi moment for all of us.”

The new addition to the Forrestal-Bowld Music Center now provides the spaces needed to better support a robust music program.

Music to our ears

Professional flutist Peter Schultz, an instructor at Exeter since 1989, is currently serving his second term as chair of the Academy’s Department of Music. Such leadership and longevity have afforded him the opportunity to experience up close the evolution of Exeter’s music programs and facilities.

Schultz says enrollment in music classes and performance groups has been on an upward trajectory throughout his nearly three decades here, but notes that student interest has occasionally outpaced the physical capacity of the department. He cites what occurred immediately following the completion of the first expansion in 1995, when the original Lewis Perry Music Building was enlarged and renamed the Forrestal-Bowld Music Center: “As soon as the doors of that addition opened, our enrollment almost doubled, and our program continued to grow in all possible ways.” Such burgeoning, while welcome and encouraged, eventually strained even the enlarged facility, leaving the Music Department scrambling to find practice spaces in other buildings around campus.

News of the class of 1959’s gift to support the latest addition then, Schultz says, came as music to his and his colleagues’ ears. And nearly one year after the grand opening, the virtues of the space are more apparent than ever. “The benefits have been enormous,” Schultz explains exuberantly. “The Bowld provides us with a beautiful space, perfect for our concerts, as well as a lovely rehearsal area. The Harkness classroom is a first for us, and the other rehearsal and teaching rooms contribute much-needed space for collaboration. Our space needs have been significantly improved. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a more stunning and congenial environment in which to make music.”

It isn’t merely the addition’s spectacular spaces that make it so remarkable, Schultz explains, but also the way music sounds when played or sung there. That is particularly true of its main performance space, “The Bowld,” named after Bill Bowld ’43, who has been a longtime supporter of music at Exeter. “The acoustics … are extraordinary,” he emphasizes. “The room is tunable, and can be adjusted according to the type of group using the space and the desired sound. It’s amazingly flexible. Everyone who performed there last year commented on both its beauty and the exquisite acoustics.”

Hitting all the right notes

Maya Kim ’18 has played the bassoon in Exeter’s Symphony and Chamber orchestras since her prep year. This has given her a unique before-and-after perspective on the transformation that’s occurred since the opening of the Class of ’59 Music Center Addition. The contrast, she says, is like night and day. Literally.

“When I previously played in Symphonia [Exeter’s intermediate to advanced-intermediate orchestra], we practiced in Landers,” Kim explains, referring to one of three large practice rooms in the original music building. “That space has few windows, and is very dark and enclosed. It could be hard on your energy to practice there for long periods of time.” The room’s acoustics were equally problematic in that they differed from performance spaces like Phillips Church. “To account for that discrepancy meant having to adjust our instruments prior to any community performances,” she says, “which in turn meant that we’d sometimes hear new mistakes while giving concerts. That can be jarring.”

Fellow senior Victoria Glidden ’18, a flutist in the Academy’s Concert Band, concurs with Kim about pre-addition practice spaces: “Prior to the new addition, Concert Band practiced in the Round Room, which was far too small for a group of our size. My instrument is compact enough that it wasn’t hard for me to get comfortable, but some of the other musicians had to do a lot of maneuvering to make things work. It was that crowded.” What’s more, while Glidden describes herself as a casual musician, she says that friends who are more serious often were frustrated by the dearth of practice space in the old building.

Both young women agree that the class of ’59’s gift has been a game-changer at all levels, offering enough new practice rooms to accommodate student interest and schedules, phenomenal acoustics throughout, and, with The Bowld, a rehearsal and performance space that is both practical and beautiful. “I love the light that comes in,” says Kim, who practices in The Bowld at least five times per week. “And it’s gorgeous when it rains or snows. It makes practicing so enjoyable, and because The Bowld is also our performance space, it makes that transition much easier, too.”

Glidden muses: “I definitely know people who occasionally go to The Bowld just to be in that space, and I think it has actually increased concert attendance.

Jon Sakata (left) works with Jacob Zimmerman ’19 in the Music Media and Technology Suite.

New Frontiers

A year on, the Music Media and Technology Suite has provided a seed to begin evolving a vision where acoustic ecology has long been pointing: that the entire spectrum of sounds and songs of the Earth — inclusive of our diverse human cultures, histories, practices, trajectories — be studied, creatively engaged with, amazed by, learned from. This seed also provides us with a necessary challenge to nurture it, to grow it into an entire pedagogy that poses deep questions to we “musicians” who must reflect and create in this world that needs both greater human understanding of one another; but also has the humility to place the immensely enmeshed existence of life at its center. As students and teachers, co-learning and co-producing together, can we prosper this seed into so many yet to be known proliferations of diverse and inclusive sonic habitats — from calls, chants, songs spanning auditory systems and transcending our previously prescribed and limited curricula; our niches, biases, tastes intentionally and critically contextualized amidst such richness, bounty and possibility?

—Jon Sakata, adjunct music instructor 

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.