sound scapes

New Spaces for Music

Renovations Unveiled at the Lang Music Building
by Ryan Dougherty

HE COLLEGE marked the completion of a yearslong effort to renovate the Lang Music Building in fall 2022. Nearly 200 students, faculty, staff, and members of the Board of Managers gathered for the event, which featured a plaque unveiling and concert by acclaimed organist Mark Loria ’08 on the newly restored Holtkamp Organ.

Mark Loria '08 plays the new organ.
The dedication program last fall included a variety of styles and traditions of organ music, with an eye toward the music of composers of color, says Mark Loria ’08. “My hope was to showcase the versatility of the new instrument in the rendering of these different styles and how, in spite of its relatively small size, it is up to the task of succeeding in whatever scenario it is called to serve — just like any other Swattie.”
The renovations have brought new life to the nearly 50-year-old building. In addition to the restored Holtkamp Organ, the space now boasts enhanced acoustics, a new accessibility ramp in the building’s lobby, full updates of the restrooms, and a new egress pathway outside the concert hall.

“These improvements reflect a community that values the study and performance of music in liberal arts education,” said Associate Professor of Music Lei X. Ouyang, who serves as the Music Department’s chair. Ouyang also touted the updated Presser Room, where the most visible transformation took place.

“The windows allow for architectural engagement with our location on the edge of the Crum Woods, excellent acoustics, storage for the Balinese Gamelan and Chinese Music Ensemble, and of course a welcome and long overdue space for chamber groups and ensembles to rehearse together,” Ouyang said.

The $9 million project was made possible through the generosity of Swarthmore community members, led by a $7 million gift from the Lang Fund for the Future. In 2019, Jane Lang ’67 and Lucy Lang ’03 pledged an additional $1 million if the College could raise $1 million toward the renewal of the building. The challenge was met by 115 donors who committed nearly $1 million to the project, in addition to funding from the Presser Foundation.

At the dedication, Jane Lang spoke about the importance of the Lang Music Building to her father, Eugene Lang ’38 H’81, and their family.

“I’ve been asked why my father chose to make the music building his first major commitment to Swarthmore,” Lang said. “For a long time, I had no explanation. He was not a musician, not a student of music. I discerned his motivation only in the last years of his life, when he lived with Alzheimer’s,” she said. She described how in his final years, her father was visited by music students, and “after each performance by these young people, my father was renewed. His keen analytical mind and probing intellect, that were devastated by Alzheimer’s, revived. He asked penetrating questions. He became himself again for an hour or two. And so it is that the Lang Music Building is the perfect legacy for my father. It houses his memory — not just the memory of him,” she said.

Loria, the principal organist of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, presented an inspiring program to an enthusiastic crowd. “I’m deeply honored to have been asked to give this inaugural organ recital in a space that has been so formative in my life as a musician and human being,” said Loria.