Major Investment Propels Music Facilities

Announcing preliminary $35 million plan for expansion and renovation of the MSU Music Building.

Conceptual elevation rendering of the southwest corner of the Music Building.
Aerial conceptual rendering reveals the 35,000-square foot planned expansion.
Site plan views: Left; original Music Building, right; Music Building expansion.
College of Music students and James Forger, dean of the college (left) poses with MSU alumnus James Billman, Jr., donor of the lead gift designated for expansion and renovation of the Music Building.

Music at Michigan State University will make a bold transformation with the June 21, 2017 MSU Board of Trustees approval to plan a major new addition and significant facility renovations to the College of Music. Thanks to nearly $8.5 million in commitments from several donors, preliminary plans detail a $35 million project that includes a 35,000-square-foot expansion and 8,500 square feet of renovated space.

“This will be an important and strategic piece of our vision for the future,” said James Forger, dean of the College of Music. “This state-of-the-art addition and renovation to the Music Building following the world-class renovation of performance spaces including recently completed Cook Recital Hall and Fairchild Theatre, will make it a premier destination for students and faculty from around the globe. It will support the work of an exceptional faculty that is second to none.” See video below.

MSU alumnus James Billman, Jr. served as the impetus of the effort with a lead gift designated for an expansion to and refurbishment of the original 1939 Music Building. Alumni Byron and Dolores Cook and the late Ruth Charles joined Dr. Billman with major support of their own, setting the project in motion.

A thorough study conducted with faculty, students, architects and planners helped identify key spaces that will provide critically needed improvements and strategic opportunities for innovation at the College. The renovation and expansion plan includes acoustically advanced rehearsal spaces, additional practice rooms, a modern and high-tech lecture center, faculty studios and offices, a recording and multimedia room and a public gathering space with a café.


MSU College of Music Expansion and Renovation


Conceptual rendering of the orchestra rehearsal room.
Conceptual rendering of the vocal arts rehearsal and student recital hall.
Conceptual rendering of a proposed practice room.
Conceptual rendering of the vocal arts rehearsal and student recital hall.

“This will facilitate the work of faculty and students in extraordinary ways,” said Forger. “It is gratifying that alumni and friends have stepped forward with cornerstone gifts that will transform the College.”

“Spartan musicians regularly thrill audiences with their professional performances, and their performance venues, classrooms and practice areas should reflect that,” said Dr. Billman, a 1969 College of Natural Science graduate.

“Improved music facilities have long been on the University’s list of needs. With 550 students working toward music degrees and more than 2,000 additional students participating in ensembles and classes, the College has outgrown current spaces,” Forger explained.

The University will provide 50 percent of $35 million. The College will proceed with additional fundraising efforts for the remaining $9 million in gifts still needed to fund the project in full, including opportunities for donors to name spaces in the expanded and renovated facility.

Climate control and excellent acoustical design will enhance all work in the new spaces. Larger, flexible rehearsal and performance spaces will accommodate various ensembles including bands, choirs, jazz bands and combos, new music, opera, orchestras and percussion. Significantly expanded spaces will be developed for individual practice locations as well as chamber music rehearsal space.

“Expanding and enhancing the Music Building is the next step in transforming the learning environment for scores of students and providing outstanding musical experiences for audiences,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “We are grateful to Jim Billman and other donors for leading the way in investing in a new chapter for music at MSU.”

Conceptual rendering of the proposed Dick Charles Jazz Bistro.

For information on how you can support the Music Pavilion campaign, support College of Music students and programs, or establish a named endowment, please contact Rebecca Surian, senior director of development for the College of Music, at or 517-353-9872.

See Campaign in Action

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