After struggling with a lack of practice spaces, available instruments, and class scheduling conflicts, students in the Barnard-Columbia-Juilliard Exchange have sought help from administrators this semester.
Since the summer, Vice President of Campus Services Scott Wright has been working with students in the joint program with the music conservatory on the Upper West Side to look for instrument storage space near practice rooms and identify a small solo and group practice areas.
When more than 10 people raise concerns about a problem, Wright said, it becomes clear that it is systematic. “I think the fact that the program grew sort of pressed the need to make new concrete changes if we could,” he added.
Another issue that students brought to administrators last year was the difficulty of scheduling classes at both Columbia around classes at Juilliard.
“Last year when I was a freshman, we registered for class at the regular time, and it was very hard for us to do lessons outside of Friday and Saturday,” Jingxuan Zhang, CC ’15 and a pianist in the program, said.
“The students are in a very difficult situation. They’re trying to navigate the scheduling demands of two different institutions that are 50 blocks apart with offerings of things that are totally not congruent,” Robert Ferraiuolo, the academic adviser for students in the exchange, said. “We managed to give them some earlier registration appointments to give them some options for course registration.”
The increasing size of the program has made the space issues more pressing. Sam Karlinski, CC ’15 and a harpist in the program, estimated that there were three to four students per year in the program for the last few years, but there are 29 students across all four classes enrolled this year, according to Ferraiuolo.
“Now that there were so many more of us, we started realizing that there were things that we wanted that Columbia probably didn’t even realize we wanted,” Karlinski said.
According to student musicians, practice rooms on campus are often crowded. Pianists in particular have had difficulty finding available pianos on campus.
“If you want a good piano, of course it’s hard,” Qi Xu, CC ’16 and a pianist in the program, said.
Xu said the best pianos at Columbia are those in the John Jay and Wallach lounges, but “it’s not so easy to use the pianos” because the lounges serve other purposes as well.
Students who have their own instruments also have issues finding space to practice. Some prefer to practice their instruments in their rooms, but thin walls in some dorms mean that students often disturb their neighbors.
“Wien has the thinnest walls ever, so that’s actually become a bit of a problem with my neighbors,” Karlinski said.
Although students in the exchange asked for priority in the housing lottery last year, Wright said that that was not possible.
“It became apparent that if we could solve the issue of practice, then housing became much less contentious,” Wright said.
Still, some students are still frustrated with the lack of viable housing.
“Many of us in the program need some things that Columbia has not been really enthusiastic to give us,” Karlinski said. “We all make it work and it’s great, but in some ways I think they could make it a little easier.”