Music Department Sings Praises for New Space

Music Department Sings Praises for New Space

MOUNT OLIVE – The University of Mount Olive Music Department is singing Hallelujahs over their expanded and renovated space.  Formerly located in the Music Suite adjacent to Laughinghouse Hall, the Music Department has moved to the Historic Assembly Hall located at 207 Wooten Street in Mount Olive.

In 2012 Progress Energy gave UMO the Historic Assembly Hall and Apartments.  The auditorium has been used since that time by the Music Department for rehearsals and performances.  Recent renovations converted the space behind and below the auditorium into classrooms, rehearsal spaces, offices and storage facilities all under one roof.  The move has enabled the Department to grow from one classroom and one rehearsal hall to two classrooms, a large ensemble room, a small ensemble room, a computer lab, a piano lab, five practice rooms of various sizes, four full time instructors’ offices as well as one shared office for all adjunct faculty, a music library, storage facilities, a green room for performing student and visiting artists and an additional set of bathrooms.

“The new home for the UMO Department of Music addresses growth in the Department through flexible rehearsal and performance spaces, practice rooms and teaching studios and classrooms,” said Bill Ford, chair of the Music Department. “The expansion gives music a presence on the UMO campus as well as in the community.  The space provides students a haven of activity.  This is our lab.  This is where we create music and this is our home.”

Ford went on to note that with the addition of classrooms and rehearsal spaces and the sound barriers between each make the new music building more flexible for scheduling classes and rehearsals.  Prior to the renovation, there was only one classroom in the Music Suite, and it was unusable if an ensemble was rehearsing in the building, because sound traveled throughout the building.

“The renovated facility addresses growth and our ability to build upon the strengths of our music performing program,” Ford stated.  “Having a central location for the Music Department creates a space for the assembly of creative ideas.  When students are surrounded by the sights and sounds and visions of their chosen field, it ignites their enthusiasm and moves them to build upon their own strengths. The new complex will be beneficial to the future of the program as it will aid in the recruitment of talented musicians from various backgrounds and disciplines. Our music students have found a home on campus.”

Beyond what has recently been renovated, there is still room for potential growth in other areas of the facility as well.  Future needs may include a band room, choir room, recording and technical studio, additional rehearsal space for additional or larger ensembles, and an extension of the current performance stage to accommodate larger ensemble needs.

Constructed in 1925, the Mount Olive High School Apartments and Assembly Hall is one of only four structures within the city limits of Mount Olive to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  The 39,310 feet structure sits on 2.0 acres of land.  The 430 seat auditorium features 26 foot ceilings, a wrap-around balcony and a 28 foot stage.

“We take great pride in the fact that we could renovate this historic building in Mount Olive, one that has memories for so many people living in the area, and preserve its historic architectural detailing,” said Ford.  “This space gives Mount Olive and the surrounding area, a beautiful and historic place to come and experience the musical arts of not only UMO talents but of those visiting artists brought to Mount Olive through the UMO Concert Series.  Historic Assembly Hall can be a point of pride for the entire community.”

Currently, all UMO performances at the Historic Assembly Hall are free and open to the public. Information about performance can be found at, on posters displayed throughout town, on the lighted kiosks on campus and by calling 1-800-653-0854.   There is on and off street parking near the Historic Assembly Hall, and the auditorium is handicap accessible.

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College.  For more information, visit

The UMO Concert Choir rehearses in one of the large ensemble practice rooms.


Assistant Professor of Music at UMO Franklin Gross is all smiles while teaching his music theory class in the Department’s new location at the Historic Assembly Hall.


Students enjoy having the opportunity to practice and learn on the new digital pianos in the piano lab.