Embracing the arts at Millersville University

Joie Formando
Arts & Culture Editor

After two years, six months, and 12 days, the Charles R. and Anita B. Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center officially opened its doors on Friday, October 12, 2012.

The dedication ceremony was held in the Biemesderfer Concert Hall and featured speeches from the following representatives of the Millersville community: Laura Kendall, Director of the VPAC; Dr. Vilas Prabhu, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs; Dr. Diane Umble, Interim Dean for the School of Humanities and Social Sciences; Paula Batdorf, Music Education major; Stephen Kepchar, Chair of the Capital Campaign; Gregory Lefever, Chair of the Fundraising Committee for the VPAC; and Dr. Francine McNairy, President of Millersville University, who gave the concluding remarks and a special thank-you to those who made the building possible.

The Marauder Men’s Glee Club performed “O, Millersville We Sing Thy Praises” during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Dr. Mark A. Boyle, Director of Choral Activities, wrote the piece specifically for this occasion.  The composition was framed and given to the Winters in appreciation for their gift to the university.  The Winters invested in the reconstruction of Lyte Auditorium six years ago and without their generous gift, the new performing arts center would not have been possible.

The VPAC is 59,452 square feet and was designed by Spillman Farmer Architects. It features a recording studio suite, scenery workshop, art gallery, percussion and ensemble rooms, 40-station piano lab, dance studio, music library, 300-seat concert hall, 150-seat recital hall, and a 650-seat performance hall. It cost $26 million to build.

Yamaha provided two Disklavier DCFX 9’ grand pianos, one to the VPAC and the other to the Ware Center.  These Disklaviers allow interactive distance learning from anywhere in the world. Using the Internet, students can perform with the Disklavier from the VPAC for an audience in New York City or London in a direct real-time performance.  There can be a two-way instructional interactivity between the student and instructor from across the country or across the world.

Dr. Prabhu, Laura Kendall, and President McNairy acknowledge the contributors of the new VPAC.

The building will promote creativity, innovation, and engagement among the students of the university as well as those in the surrounding community.  The opportunities presented by this new space are endless – students will experience guest artist residencies, master classes, workshops, and numerous events held throughout the year.

The goal of the performing arts center is to provide students with real-life experiences – students can take a music class for credit and later attend a master class with a visiting artist in the same building. Students can cultivate their artistic talents by connecting what they learn in the classroom to the experiences presented in the VPAC.
The Visual and Performing Arts Center is not just a new building on campus – it is an opportunity that will enhance the university and community’s experience with the arts.

Ms. Laura Kendall, Director of the Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center, has been prepping for the opening since April, when there was still a construction fence around the building. Kendall meets with faculty, visiting artists, community leaders, oversees the marketing and PR of the building, works closely with the Ware Center when scheduling events, and is the face of what is going on at the Winter Center.

“We are really working hard to create an arts umbrella at Millersville, so we aren’t venue-specific, said Kendall. When asked about The Ware Center and its connection to the Winter Center, Kendall said, “we are very much a team.” Both venues are working together to represent the arts at Millersville and the Lancaster community.

The “arts umbrella” includes the music, theater, and art departments, all of which are housed under the same roof for the first time.  Associate Professor and Director of Dramatics Tony Elliot describes it perfectly – the purpose of the building is to “mix the disciplines.”

The theater department will still utilize their beautiful and intimate Dutcher Hall for performances throughout the year, but their big musical production, “Pirates of Penzance,” will be held in the Clair Performance Hall in November.  They now have the technical space they need for larger performances and will eventually hold theater classes in the new building.

The music department has been using Jefferson Hall (the building all the way across campus, by the water tower) to hold choir and orchestra rehearsals, master classes, music classes, studio recording, and general department meetings, for the last two years.  The bottom floor of Jefferson used to be the home of a preschool – imagine bright yellow walls with colorful painted pictures and water fountains almost touching the floor. It was certainly no place for college musicians.

Dr. Mark A. Boyle conducts the Marauder Men’s Glee Club.

Now, the department has world-class equipment that has been designed with quality acoustic excellence in mind. Instead of frantically searching for a space to practice, students now have access to a dozen practice rooms. Instead of recording a band in a closet, students now have the John F. Steinman Foundation Recording Suite, one of the best studios on the east coast.

Dr. Jennifer Jester, Director of Music Business and Technology, wants to give her students real-world simulation experiences. There are five student workers who will be trained to use the new equipment, and once the kinks are worked out, they will train new students in the recording process.

“We are just getting to the point where we’re going to start using (the studio) for the electronic music class… we’re still a little nervous, but once we get more people using it and working out the problems and issues, the process will become easier,” said Jester.

The Music Business and Technology program will use this studio to record their new house band, record projects for classes, and will be the permanent space for their organization, Marauder Music Productions. MMP runs much like a record label – they record local bands, organize and market CD release shows and concerts, and gather to learn more about the music industry through guest speakers and real-world experiences. The group is required for Music Business students, but is open to all majors.

Paula Batdorf, a Music Education major and Student Ambassador to the Music Department, is totally committed to the growth of the arts at Millersville.  In her speech at the dedication ceremony, Batdorf described the new building as “acoustically magical” and said that the students of Millersville are “the link to making a difference to the local community and even the nation.”  Batdorf is a true representation of what the arts at Millersville is all about – strengthening talent and enriching knowledge to be share with the community.

The view from the new recording studio soundbooth.

The Music Department cultivates the idea that every student is a performer, educator, and entrepreneur.  The opportunities they create for themselves due to their drive and talent can now be further embraced by the opportunities presented to them through the Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center.

“We must embrace the sacred trust to support the arts in our schools,” said Dr. Francine McNairy, who gave the concluding remarks at the dedication ceremony.  “Words are insufficient,” she said when thanking the major donors for their contributions to the creation of the new building.

“Embracing Artistry – Creating Opportunity” is the slogan of the arts at Millersville, and with the new Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center and the motivation and commitment from the students, they are able to do just that.

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