Hill Hall has been a part of UNC’s campus since 1907. But it’s been closed off for renovations for over a year—until now. The university held a ribbon-cutting Wednesday to kick-off and show off the one-hundred-and-ten-year-old building’s new look.
“The biggest change would have been that the stage itself—you had to walk up to the stage, there was no handicap accessibility,” said Louise Toppin, Chair of the Department of Music at UNC. “So, there were steps in the back and steps in the front. And that meant, it wasn’t something that our handicapped students or guests could actually get on the stage.”
Toppin said the building was due for some upgrades, since it also didn’t used to have air conditioning or sound-proofing in the performance space.
“This was not a soundproof space because it wasn’t designed for music so we could hear traffic from outside as we presented programs,” she said. “There was light coming in from outside so we fixed that by having blackout shades so as we do multimedia things or projection, you don’t have to compete with the light.”
Hill Hall also added recording spaces and a backstage area complete with dressing rooms and storage – along with an updated rotunda. UNC sophomore and music student Katherine Combs said with the new look, Hill Hall might be able to bring in more music students than ever before.
“Right when I got here it was closed off for renovation, but definitely I think in the future students who are coming in to see this instead of what I saw when I was coming in, it’s going to make a big difference,” she said. “It’s beautiful, way prettier than it was before.”
The $15 million renovation was made possible through a $5 million gift from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, and another 5 million from the Office of the Provost. The remaining balance was raised through private gifts.
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt spoke at the ribbon-cutting, and said it’s important that the resources now offered by Hill Hall live up to the reputation of the Department of Music.
“Hill Hall’s renovation is transformative,” she said. “And I think you’ve heard about that. It’s a place that takes first rate teaching and mentoring and extraordinary performing arts facility that is befitting to a first-rate world class music program.”
Toppin said the building’s renovations are an important step for the music program not only because of its modernized look, but because of how its new resources will help students in and out of the classroom.
“We blend a strong foundation of core western classical music, academic courses with numerous opportunities for musical performance,” she said. “We offer compelling courses for majors and non-majors that encourage students to think critically about subjects such as music and politics, women’s issues and digital technology and its use in our world.”