The Aspen Music School’s Bucksbaum Campus is again alive with the sounds of music, after nine months of clamoring jackhammers and drills.
The first phase of construction on the project was completed in May, after an ambitious and fast-paced wintertime building schedule. It covers about 60 percent of the overhaul renovation project that will proceed intermittently for two more phases, likely through 2016.
The shared campus is used by the music school during the summer months and Aspen Country Day during the school year.
Music students arrived and registered at the school the week of June 17. Rehearsals in the new campus buildings began Monday.
Reactions to the overhauled campus have been decidedly split into two camps, explained Aspen Music Festival & School CEO Alan Fletcher.
“Students and faculty who have been here before are dropping their jaws,” he said. “Students who are here for the first time just think this is how it’s always been.”
The privately-funded $60 million project has been in development for nearly seven years and was approved by the Pitkin County commissioners in 2008. It replaced dilapidated buildings and adds new spaces for instruction and private music rehearsal.
The project has added 44,000 square feet of new buildings to the 23-acre campus off of Castle Creek Road. The “back campus,” across Castle Creek, is host to music school instruction and rehearsal this summer. The exterior of a new 18,756-square-foot Aspen Country Day building, closest to the road on the front side of campus, also has been completed. But the interior will be under construction all summer, as planned, opening in September for the 2013-14 Country Day school year.
The centerpiece of the redeveloped campus is three new Harry Teague-designed buildings, situated on the rejuvenated “Great Pond.” The architectural style and acoustic design of the rooms are reminiscent of Teague’s Harris Hall.
Two of those buildings include large rehearsal halls, in which the full music school orchestras are practicing this summer. One is named Scanlan Hall for Country Day parents Mary and Patrick Scanlan. The other, Edlis Neeson Hall, is named for music school patrons Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson. For decades, the campus had just one rehearsal hall that could hold a full orchestra. The additions, Fletcher said, are key for an institution that hosts four orchestras and an opera company.
The third new building, between Scanlan and Edlis Neeson, holds classrooms and bathrooms, with one large rehearsal space — encased in three two-story glass walls — jutting out dramatically over the pond. Friday morning, a lone student was seated in the room playing a harp.
Four pods of private sound-proof practice areas for music students also are spread throughout the property, totaling 76 separate rooms.
The second phase of construction, including a new gymnasium/rehearsal hall, is scheduled to begin in 2015.
A third phase, renovating the campus’ administrative office buildings, is tentatively slated for 2016.
Still yet to be determined is whether a once-planned 3,000-foot-long trail along Castle Creek Road, from the campus to Marolt Ranch, will be installed. Music students live in units at Marolt in the summers.
Construction had been set on the $1.9 million trail project in 2007, a joint undertaking by the city of Aspen and Pitkin County. A lawsuit from 13 neighbors won a temporary injunction to block the project, and a second lawsuit determined that the county needed to acquire permits before beginning the work in rights of way along Castle Creek Road.
Assistant Pitkin County attorney Christopher Seldin said Friday that legal boundaries no longer stand in the way of building the trail. But no city-county plan is currently in the works for the project. County open space funds that had been earmarked for the trail have gone elsewhere, said county open space director Dale Will, like the ongoing improvements of the Rio Grande Trail.
“I believe there’s still a desire to do it,” said Will. “Really, the county and the city need to come back together and discuss funding it, and the timing of funding it.”
For now, students mostly take the free bus from campus to town and to their dorms at Marolt. Few walk the thin dirt path, along the shoulder of the road, to Marolt.