Electrical Fire in Chapel Interrupts Band Practice

Derek Jacoby, Instructor in Music and Conductor of the Andover Concert Band, was lifting his baton when the audience lights flickered off, followed by an eerie buzzing and the smell of smoke due to a small electrical fire in Cochran Chapel that interrupted band rehearsal on February 16. The small fire did not harm any individuals at the practice and did not damage any musical equipment. After the lights went out, Robin Milinazzo, Adjunct Instructor in Music and French Horn player, found that a four-pronged plug part of the chapel’s main electrical control system had ignited. Because the fire was small, Milinazzo kicked at the plug until it was freed from the power outlet and extinguished the fire. She called Public Safety soon after. The fire lasted for approximately 30 seconds and practice continued after the episode, according to Jacoby. The rehearsal was the band’s final practice before the group’s Saturday performance. Jacoby said, “I thought we were going to have to cancel [the band practice], but I was looking down at my score in front of me and I could pretty much see the notes. So I left it to the students because this was our final rehearsal before the concert. I looked at them and said, “‘Can you still see your music? Can we keep going?’ And they emphatically all said ‘yes.’” Jacoby said that students remained calm during the disruption. Christian Zhang ’12 said, “We were about to play when there was this loud banging that came from behind us, and then there was the smell of smoke. I think we were all confused, [wondering] ‘What just happened?’ because if there is a ‘bang’ in orchestra, it’s probably a heavy instrument falling over.” Charles Van Eijk ’14 said, “Suddenly the lights dimmed, and there was a weird buzzing sound that came from the speakers. Afterwards there was a weird smell, but it wasn’t anything serious.” Jacoby said that his main concern was that the electrical fire would interfere with the Nimbaya! Drumming Ensemble’s concert the following night, but the performance was not affected. The next morning, an electrician remedied the problem with the plug. There was ultimately no damage to the chapel’s electrical control system.