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Build Your Own Practice Space

Jennifer Hirsch | December 2008

Editor’s Note: From time to time, a story about the love of music reminds me that we are not all professional flutists and teachers. Sometimes, we play just because not playing is not an option. Jennifer Hirsch loves to play the flute and has traveled 5 hours round trip twice a month to participate in the Pittsburgh Flute Academy’s professional flute choir. To further her flute playing she decided to create a private place to practice. She completed the project without financing for about $5,000 and a good bit of sweat equity. She spends around 2-4 hours a day practicing in her new studio.

    Throughout my life I have always dreamed of having a private studio, for practice and perhaps, eventually for teaching. A passion for music came from family; my father and his parents were especially talented musicians. My husband and I had a beautiful home designed and built three years ago, and last year we decided to finish an extra storage room that had been roughed out when the masons built the basement.    
    We decided to design the basement storage into a room that would provide spaciousness and privacy to rehearse. The 15′ x 20′ space started out as nothing more than cement block walls with a concrete floor. We had used it during the winter to store apples and potatoes. Because the room was under our outdoor patio, it was completely underground and had a condensation problem. Insulation was the first priority.
    The project began on Memorial Day weekend in 2007. We water-sealed the cement blocks on three of the exterior walls. Next, my husband made framed walls and secured them into the blocked walls. Then a professional insulation team arrived and sprayed foam insulation on the ceiling and walls. This was the only task that we hired done. We did all the rest on weekends and nights after work.
    Drywall was installed and finished with paneling board. We added a drop-ceiling, track lighting, and electrical outlets. Before adding the final trim pieces, my husband and his brother installed a beautiful cherry laminate flooring, which added a finished look to the room.
    Next came the fun part – decorating. I chose a nice couch for guests and family to sit on during performances. A cherry colored electric fireplace was installed for color and heat, and I added a desk for music storage. With an electric keyboard and two music stands, the studio looked quite complete!
    Outside, the music studio opened into the unfinished basement, which was quite an eyesore, so we spent another two months creating an enclosed hallway from the studio to the stairway that leads to the first floor.
    Out of panel boards and 2x4s, my husband created some free-standing faux walls in case we finish more of the basement some day. He did such a great job that you would never know that they are not real. Between the paneled walls, we also added a door to the unfinished side of the basement.
    The final steps were finishing the carpeting, drop-ceiling, and lighting. The project was complete the day before Thanksgiving, just in time to hold a mini-concert after turkey dinner with my family. It was probably one of the most rewarding performances I have ever played. The versatility of the room that we had designed and toiled over proved worthwhile when my family sat, listened to me play, and shared our new space!
    I am confident that as I rehearse in my new finished studio, I will become a better musician day by day.