Construction on the new School of Music building finds its rhythm

Brian Barasch
February 02, 2017

In early May of last year, Jim Zartman walked out of his front door and took no more than one hundred paces to the east where he watched DePaul's School of Music leadership break ground on a new building. A lifelong lover of music and amateur violin player, he first moved into the nearby Seminary Townhomes in 1960. While it would be another 17 years before the School of Music would move to the Lincoln Park Campus and take up residence in this music lover's own backyard, he now relishes his good fortune by taking full advantage of the close proximity to professional caliber performances.

"In a given year I attend 12 to 15 different concerts and recitals - particularly those with violin," Zartman says.

But lately, when he's not taking in a performance at the Concert Hall, he has helped to represent his fellow neighbors as a liaison between the School of Music and the surrounding residential community. He stays up-to-date on the overall construction progress due to frequent conversations with the Office of Community & Government Relations and Vice President of Facility Operations, Bob Janis.

Now nine months removed from that ceremonial groundbreaking event, Janis reports, "The overall scope of work is approximately 35 percent complete. Crews are currently working on the framing and pouring of the reinforced concrete superstructure." This structural work will run through the end of March, he says.

Despite the winter weather, construction workers are also pushing forward with mechanical, electrical and plumbing rough-in elements at the basement level. And once all the concrete decks are in place, onlookers can expect to see the roof trusses get set, followed closely by the start of work on the building's exterior masonry.

Though the crew did lose a few scheduled work days as a result of snow and frigid temperatures in December and early January, overall the project remains on schedule, with a planned completion in spring of 2018.

That's good news not only for DePaul's facility operations team, but also for the students anxious to move in.

"I'm excited to finally have new facilities that will match the quality of the faculty members and the high performance standards expected at the School of Music," says Claire Hendrickson, a sophomore trumpet performance major.

Taking into consideration the expansive 105-year history of the School of Music, Hendrickson represents a small contingent of School of Music students - those who will study in both the current building and the new one.

"I can't wait to play my senior recital in one of the new halls," she says, referring to the four performance halls that continue to slowly take shape behind the construction fencing. The largest of which will be the stunning 505-seat Hay Concert Hall - a space capable of accommodating the audiences for nearly all of the school's student ensembles. But recognizing the need to provide more intimate musical experiences as well, the building will also include a 140-seat large recital hall, an 81-seat small recital hall, and the 76-seat Philip Corboy and Mary Dempsey Jazz Hall.

Elizabeth Ware, a School of Music neighbor, DePaul alumna, and author of "Within the Wrought Fence" is also looking forward to those new concert halls. A music lover since her parents forced her to take piano lessons as a child; today she's able to keep tabs on the construction progress from her back kitchen window. Being within visible distance of the ongoing work is an exciting and important feature for this author, who in her book chronicled the history of the former McCormick Theological Seminary buildings, many of which - including the School of Music - have now been absorbed by DePaul.

"I really just like watching the construction," Ware says. "And while a part of me will be sad when the opportunity to watch the progress ends, it'll be great to experience a brand new building as well."

Jim Zartman feels similarly about watching the building take shape. Since first putting down roots in this community more than 56 years ago, he's had a front row seat to the changing neighborhood, the growth of hundreds of students, and soon, the physical transformation of one of the country's most respected music schools.

SOM construction

Though the crew did lose a few scheduled work days as a result of snow and frigid temperatures in December and early January, overall the project remains on schedule, with a planned completion in spring of 2018. (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)