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Lights, Camera, Auditorium: Greenwich's Dream Performing Arts Center Debuts

A student cuts the ribbon at the much-awaited Greenwich High School Performing Arts Center Wednesday evening, which has been years in the making.
A student cuts the ribbon at the much-awaited Greenwich High School Performing Arts Center Wednesday evening, which has been years in the making. Photo Credit: Jay Polansky
Concertgoers make their way into the new auditorium at Greenwich High School Wednesday.
Concertgoers make their way into the new auditorium at Greenwich High School Wednesday. Photo Credit: Jay Polansky
Concertgoers settle into their seats for the first student performance at the new auditorium at Greenwich High School Wednesday.
Concertgoers settle into their seats for the first student performance at the new auditorium at Greenwich High School Wednesday. Photo Credit: Jay Polansky

GREENWICH, Conn. — The much-awaited Greenwich High School Performing Arts Center, which has been in the works for years, made its debut to a packed house Wednesday night.

The concert included the world premier of a piece written just for the occasion by Rob Mathes, who graduated from Greenwich High and has gone on to become a multiple Grammy-nominated and Emmy Award-winning musician.

Students from the school's combined choirs, symphony orchestra and wind ensemble — all of whom would have never fit on the stage of the old auditorium — performed his piece entitled “Can You Hear Me?”

“We now have a world-class performance space,” Superintendent of Schools William McKersie said.

“This sound like a dream, will it ever be true?” says one line from Mathes’ piece. Fittingly, for many, the auditorium was a dream that came to fruition after many volunteer hours and years of planning.

In 2007, the Board of Education developed the educational specifications to identify the attributes of a facility required to support the high school’s arts programs. The following year, the Music Instructional Space and Auditorium (MISA) building committee was formed to plan the new auditorium.

But construction was delayed. The discovery of contaminated soils and site remediation pushed the beginning of construction to July 2013.

“There is no comparison," First Selectman Peter Tesei said.

The project, though, was worth the wait.

“We now have a world-class performance space,” Superintendent of Schools William McKersie said, adding that the school's venue matches the students’ artistic abilities.

First Selectman Peter Tesei, a Greenwich High School graduate, said he was in awe.

“You feel like your an entirely different place,” Tesei told the Daily Voice as he looked into the house filled with parents and community members. “There is no comparison.”

The 35,000-square-foot performing arts center features a tiered 1,325-seat multi-purpose auditorium.

The concert included also performances from chorale and concert choir, theater arts program, symphony orchestra, madrigals, witchmen, electronic music students, chamber singers and the wind ensemble.

The performances weren’t limited to the stage. Choirs took full advantage of the added space of the new auditorium and performed on the walkways lining the orchestra.

Designed by Perkins+Will to meet LEED Silver standards, the 35,000-square-foot performing arts center features a tiered 1,325-seat multi-purpose auditorium.

It also includes an orchestra pit, a set design room, green room, two dressing rooms, piano, prop and costume storage rooms, and a large galleria entrance.

Constructed in 1970, the original Greenwich High auditorium was undersized. The acoustics often didn’t match the quality of the school’s noted music programs.

In the next phase, the original auditorium will be demolished to make room for new musical instructional spaces.

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