If there’s one thing the faculty, administration and students of Glenwood Community High School seem to all agree on it’s how they feel about the school's new auditorium.
“It’s gorgeous,” said instrumental music director Pete Jacobus.
“It's beyond my wildest dreams,” said Kay Fast, vocal music director.
“It’s beautiful,” said Glenwood High School Principal Kerry Newman.
“It exceeds all our expectations,” said Dr. Stan Sibley, Glenwood Superintendent.
The 8,500 square-foot, 730-seat auditorium opened last week. Rehearsals and set building for the school’s upcoming production of “Les Miserables” and the Dec. 14 Holiday Concert has already begun. “Les Miserables” will run for two nights, Dec. 19 and 20.
With state-of-the-art sound, lighting and acoustical tile systems, the new auditorium is among the best in the Hawkeye 10 Conference and southwest Iowa, said Newman.
“I’m certainly biased, but I’d say it’s definitely the best,” said Newman. “Part of it is I believe the architectural designs of auditoriums have improved so much.”
That’s a sentiment Jacobus would agree with. He’s been the high school’s instrumental music director since 1987, using 1950s’ era auditoriums at West Elementary and the Meyers Buildings on the Glenwood Resource Center campus over the years. But with the growing size of the orchestra and more ambitious stage productions, the Glenwood gymnasium had become the high school’s de facto auditorium in recent years. A new auditorium for the high school has been on his wish list for some time.
“Now we have a facility we fit in and hopefully, we will be filling the place every time we have a program. It’s been a long time coming but well worth the wait,” Jacobus said. “We have a fantastic fine arts department and now we have a beautiful facility to showcase those performances.”
The new, $22 million Glenwood Community High School was mostly completed and opened its doors to students on Aug. 27. Construction continued on the auditorium while school was in session this fall. After more than two months, students and faculty are finally getting into the auditorium.
“Every time we walk in there with kids that haven’t seen it their mouths just drop, they’re like ‘This is so beautiful, this is so nice.’ It’s one of those things where I kind of look at them and say, ‘Well we’ve deserved this for a long time,’” Jacobus said.
Jacobus said the delay hasn’t affected his work, but it did alter some rehearsal for the musical which had been rehearsing in the cafeteria and the vocal room most of the fall. Getting used to the new, bigger stage under the bright lights will no doubt be an adjustment.
“What was three feet in the vocal room is now 15 on the stage. They’re adapting pretty well, though, to the additional space,” Jacobus said.
Between Jacobus and Fast the two have more than 30 years of experience as music teachers in the district. And neither has ever had their own home auditorium.
“It’s been a long wait but it’s just breathtaking,” said Fast. “I can’t wait to get kids in there and sing. I think it will do incredible things for our sound which was already excellent anyway. But it’s hard to make a gym do justice acoustically to what they (the chorus) are doing. A gym doesn’t do anybody justice except for a basketball game.”
Fast hopes to begin vocal music practices in the auditorium Dec. 10 with three or four practices before the Dec. 14 concert. Jacobus hopes for at least a few practices before the concert as well. Both anticipate there will be a learning curve adjusting to the new space.
“We’ll have to adjust a little bit,” Fast said. “The song dynamics change. In the gym the songs have to be a medium to loud because nobody would ever hear you. In an auditorium you can sing anything and people will hear. You can just do so much more musically.”
Acoustics can vary for speaking and singing depending on the auditorium’s intended use. To address that, the auditorium design features an acoustical tile system called “clouds” that are suspended from the ceiling and allow the varying types of sound to “meet half way.”
“From what I’ve heard the acoustics are going to be excellent and will be very good for any purpose we use it for. I couldn’t be much happier with how it turned out,” Jacobus said.
The acoustical clouds were not part of the original auditorium design plan and were actually a result of the high school’s year long construction delay. With district bond money in the bank earning interest during that delay, the district was able to use that additional revenue toward adding the acoustical tiles and “dressing up the room,” said Sibley.
Also helping to defray costs was nearly $40,000 in private donations for the purchase of seats and equipment.
“Sure, the construction was delayed, but once they (contractors) got into the school and they were working they hit all their timelines,” said Newman. “Of course we would have liked to have been in a little earlier, but it’s gone pretty well. I think when people see it they will think it was definitely worth it.”
“It’s exceeded expectations and we expected a pretty tremendous facility. We’re pretty happy with it,” he said.