STEVENSVILLE - Choir instructor Kyla Morton had to carefully choose the song she wanted to use to christen the shiny new $2.4 million, 19,000-square-foot Stevensville School District Music Center when it officially opened to students on Monday.
For Morton, it is the first time in her nearly two decades of teaching music that she has had a modern facility to work in, and she wanted the first song to be special.
"I decided on a traditional spiritual hymn called ‘Come and Find The Quiet Center' because I wanted to start out with positive energy," she said. "It's a beautiful little hymn, and it was the perfect first song in the new building."
Morton taught in Darby and Florence before settling in Stevensville. In Florence, she had to teach in a metal trailer. In Stevensville, she taught in one of the oldest school buildings in the state before it was deemed unfit for students and the music department took up temporary residence in the attic of the junior high.
Finally, after all the years of cramped spaces and echoes, she and her students were able to sing in a wide-open, brightly-lit vocal room, complete with sound-absorbing acoustic paneling. Her verdict?
"It's awesome," she said as she readied her students for a rousing rendition of "Africa" by the 1980s band Toto. "It's actually challenging because you can distinguish individual voices much more clearly."
Band teacher Jeremy Ruff said being able to move into the new band room was literally music to his ears.
"We've only been in here a day, and I've already started hearing things I've never heard before," he said. "You can make out the individual notes. It's a huge upgrade from where we have been for the last year. It got so loud sometimes in the temporary room that I think I lost some of my hearing."
Ruff allowed his students to soak in their new environment on Tuesday morning.
"Take a second, and just listen to your new abode," he told his junior high band class. "What do you hear?"
All of Ruff's students told him they noticed the difference right away.
Senior Skylar Baker said the acoustic paneling on the ceilings helps him improve his drumming skills.
"It helps me keep time better because you don't get the echoes," Baker said.
Stevensville School District superintendent Kent Kultgen said the building was designed with the help of an acoustic consultant who helped construct the building to have as little noise pollution as possible.
"None of the walls are square in the band and choir rooms," Kultgen said. "And the acoustic paneling absorbs sound in the ceilings. We wanted the students to have the best learning environment they could have."
The completion of the new building, which also houses the K-12 cafeteria and kitchen, signals the end of the ambitious $10 million upgrade project, which included the construction of a new fourth through eighth grade building.
"Monday, we were all moved in, so I can pretty much officially say we are done with the construction," Kultgen said. "Of course, there are always little things that need to be done here and there, but it is a big relief for all of us to be finally finished with it."
For the next generation of music students in Stevensville, the new digs will also be a chance to hold themselves to a higher standard. Especially if Ruff has anything to say about it.
"I know for a fact I just heard a wrong note in the trombone section," he told his students with a sly smile during practice on Tuesday. "You're not going to be able to get away with as much here."
Reach reporter David Erickson at 363-3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.