In today's edition of Small Town Newspaper:
My county's branch of Kent State University has built a beautiful new performing arts center, and my orchestra will inaugurate it this coming Saturday with our first performance of the season. We'll be playing fun little pieces with acrobats performing a trapeze act above our heads. We'll be playing a lovely concerto with a guest pianist. And we'll generally be playing our hearts out in a brand new hall as if it were built just for us. It wasn't, actually, because they've got all kinds of performances on the schedule, but it does seem to suit us very well. Here is today's column in response:
The new performing arts center at Kent State Tuscarawas is about to open to an awaiting public, and I’m hanging high hopes on its success. The building is a promising jewel on so many levels, and adding it to our community is something for which we can all be proud.
It isn’t just a structure on a plot of land like our other structures made of brick and steel. It’s a building created with the sole purpose of bringing art in its many forms to the community. Already booked are acts to satisfy nearly every taste—ballet, drama, comedy, musical theater, dance and acrobatic troupes, along with musical performances ranging from pop to country to blue grass to Christian to easy listening.
From here on out, the Tuscarawas Philharmonic will be performing there as well, moving its classical programs from a cramped stage to one built to suit. As a member of the group, I have been anticipating flinging open the doors of the place and storming the stage for a view I have imagined to be spectacular. At recent rehearsals, I was not disappointed. There doesn’t appear to be a single straight line in the hall, so whether you’re looking toward the stage or out from it, you are surrounded by sound-shaping curves and textures that all work together to form a perfect room. It’s sensuous and satisfying.
I could wax elaborate about how it feels to perform in such a setting, but what I think is more important is what this new facility will do for our community. There have been a few naysayers who think the multi-million dollar hall is a frivolous expense, as if to say that since a performing arts center is outside the food-clothing-shelter list of basic needs, we shouldn’t bother building one. But I think human needs go beyond those things that simply keep us alive. We do need artistic endeavor that expresses our higher natures, and we do need a place designed specifically to gather as a group for that endeavor.
We need music and laughter and drama, and we need exposure to performances that encourage thoughts and feelings we don’t encounter in our everyday lives. Beyond individual benefit, we need to invest in our community in ways that build us up from the inside out, and we need to invite others from surrounding areas to join us. They’ll come, I guarantee it, because they’re hungry for more than just the basics; and with them, they’ll bring a financial boost to the area and help us develop an environment that will be inviting to job-offering industries.
When I look at the performing arts center and what it represents, I consider it a treasure, not unlike a specific item you keep in your home and display in a place of prominence. You value one thing above your other possessions, and you set it carefully on your mantel or in your garage, depending on its size. You gaze at it often and dust it and protect it from rambunctious kids or bull-in-a-china-shop pets. You invite your friends over to see it, and you show them this thing you prize and allow them to admire it with you, and you imagine you’ll pass it on to your kids after you’re gone.
It’s with that same thoughtfulness that I view our performing arts center. It is our new keepsake, one we can show off and keep dusted and preserved, so to speak, by supporting it as we are able. For the community, the center is a valuable asset because it helps lift us up above a basic kind of existence, and it shows others we are a people interested in creating a desirable place to live and work.
Those of us who will have the pleasure of performing on stage, those of us with tickets to the best seats in the house—they’re all good—and those of us who will find jobs at the new hall will benefit from this grand addition to our landscape, with its 50,000 square feet of goodness. But we’re all richer for having such a draw, one that can only have a positive influence on our future as a community.