The Observatory used to be a place where students could buy lime Tostitos, frozen burritos, thick hot chocolate and other snacks. But as early as March, it may become a venue for students to create and consume music.
The project, called Observatory Rocks, will provide a space for student musicians, singers, songwriters and composers to meet each other, share musical ideas, write songs and jam.
This is a project that belongs to students who love music,” Faun Tiedge, chair on the Department of Music and professor of music, said.
Tiedge said she has had her sights on such a musical outlet for close to six years and that numerous students and student bands have approached her about practicing in the music department, but non-music majors don’t have 24-hour access to Vivian Bull Music Center’s practice rooms, and the building is meant for music students and classes.
It wasn’t until Dean of Students Susan Hopp came to Linfield at the beginning of the year that Tiedge realized the potential of the Observatory, which shut down was a convenience store operations in 2009.
“[Hopp] said, ‘You know, I think this is very important, and I’m going to help you find a space,’” Tiedge said. “And when Hopp suggested the Observatory, I said, ‘Oh my goodness, the Observatory rocks!’”
Thus, the project name was born, and President Thomas Hellie’s administrative Cabinet approved the idea.
Tiedge said she’d like to see Observatory Rocks open to students by March 1.
But some students have presented a counterproposal to make the Observatory a sustainability hub.
“One plan is to share it for a while until [the hub] can find another space,” Hopp said. “To me, it seems like the sustainability hub needs a bigger spot.”
Hopp said the plans for a sustainability center are largely up in the air, so efforts are focused on Observatory Rocks.
Tiedge said the location is ideal because it’s near the music building and far enough away from the residence halls not to interfere with student studies.
And the size?
“We don’t even know until they start rocking out in there if the space will be too constraining,” Hopp said.
Junior Jessie Goergen said the space emulates a garage-band atmosphere.
Goergen is helping Tiedge and Hopp market the project to students via Facebook and word-of-mouth.
“Music will always be a big part of everyone’s life, and musicians are everywhere,” Goergen said. “[Observatory Rocks] is going to be a really good addition to Linfield’s music community because we don’t have much around here.”
Goergen is already coordinating time slots for bands to practice. She said some groups, such as the Linfield reggae band Na Hemo, have already signed up.
But Observatory usage won’t be limited to band practice. Musicians can show up and meet each other, using the space to write songs and jam. Tiedge said that it will be a great way for a guitarist to find a singer or a drummer, for example.
Instruments won’t be a problem either. The Department of Music is working with Director of College Activities Dan Fergueson to provide equipment for the space, Tiedge said.
“This will be a place that’s set up with sound equipment, a drum set, amplifier, the works,” Goergen said. “As soon as it’s being used, and we show that people are using the space, we can make the space our own.”
Demonstrating the use of the space is one of the final hurdles to overcome, Tiedge said, as money won’t be spent on any serious remodeling of the space unless a demand exists.
Since spaces will house expensive equipment, security may present a problem. But Tiedge said that finding remedies for concerns such as this will inevitably have to be in the hands of students, not faculty or administrative members, to make the project sustainable.
“I think it will be important to have a small student committee for leadership and for discussion of things that come up — everything from equipment needs to security,” she said.
Goergen said students across campus will notice the project’s benefits, such as improved quality of student Cat Cabs, since students will have a rehearsal space packed with equipment.
“I’m just really looking forward to seeing this project become a reality and hearing the music,” Tiedge said. “There’s a popular music crowd on campus, and they should have a voice.”
For more information about Observatory Rocks, or to sign up for a rehearsal slot, e-mail Goergen at email@example.com.
Old ‘O’ ideas didn’t develop
Observatory Rocks may be the most recent effort to transform the campus’ vacant observatory, but it hasn’t been the only one. However, none of the others were concerted efforts by the students, senior ASLC President Colin Jones said.
“I’m excited to hear that there is a group with energy and enthusiasm about making use of [the Observatory] because it’s sad that it just sits empty,” he said. “That sounds like a good, creative idea for it that we haven’t heard before.”
After Sodexo’s convenience store vacated from the Observatory in 2009 because of poor profit returns, the Sociology Anthropology Department considered locating its Anthropology Museum there. Jones said the endeavor was called off because of climate control and artifact transportation concerns, and the museum can now be found in Walker Hall, Room 121.
The other ideas never evolved beyond their initial stage.
For instance, students may remember the Observatory use survey that ASLC’s Campus Improvement Committee sent out in the fall of 2009. The committee, then headed by Duncan Reid, class of ’10, collected information from students about their ideas for the Observatory.
Jones said the most prominent of the objective survey responses was that students simply wanted their convenience store back. Other ideas stemmed from 368 open-ended responses, Jones said. They included using the Observatory as a club room, similar to Withnell Commons or the FML; a “stuff swap” or student consignment store; or a publicity board, where campus and community members could advertise events, discounts, sales and the like.
But as ASLC ushered in a new president, a new Senate and a new Campus Improvement Committee, “nothing really happened with” the survey, Jones said.
Kelley Hungerford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.