A Standing Ovation for ‘Take Your Seat’

July 21, 2016

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Heiftetz stage manager Rowan LJ Walker stares in near-disbelief at the new lights illuminating the brand-new seats, carpet, paint and more in Francis Auditorium.

Just 12-and-a-half weeks after launching the Take Your Seat campaign, the Heifetz International Music Institute and Mary Baldwin College are seeing a positive response to the restoration of James D. Francis Auditorium, both in terms of the new look and continued financial support toward the project.

This spring, workers installed new seats, modern lighting, and carpet and painted the auditorium — site of dozens of lectures, concerts, convocations, and classes each year. The lobby has also been refurbished, and features a new ceiling, a fresh coat of paint and attractive new furniture.

The initiative comes during a milestone year for both Mary Baldwin and Heifetz, as the music institute celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer and the college will kick off its 175th anniversary in August and officially become Mary Baldwin University.

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Work in progress.

The Take Your Seat campaign allows donors to choose a seat that will bear a plaque with the donor’s name or honoree or memorial of their choice. According to Heifetz Institute Executive Director Benjamin K. Roe, more than half of the auditorium’s 250 seats have been “sold,” and the campaign has now raised more than two-thirds of its $200,000 goal.

Brent Douglass, Mary Baldwin’s director of facilities management and Heifetz fan himself said that the seats are much more comfortable and the new, energy-efficient LED lighting immediately resulted in a 95 percent electrical energy savings as well significantly reducing the heat load on the air conditioning system.

President Pamela Fox compares the size of the old old circa 750-watt “French Fry Lights” installed in 1970 in the then-new Francis Auditorium (left) to the ultra-efficient new lights (right).

“From both an aesthetic and sustainability standpoint, the renovation has been a resounding success,” Douglass said. When feasible, both institutions hope to add a second phase of renovations to include replacing the stage lighting and acoustical improvements to the auditorium.

The Heifetz Institute faculty and staff work with some of the top string musicians from around the world to unlock the expressive potential of every performer through a series of cross-disciplinary modules in voice, public speaking, drama, movement, freedom of expression, and wellness.

Throughout the six-week summer institute, the campus of Mary Baldwin is transformed, with the sights and sounds of music emanating from all corners of the campus. With the many performance opportunities available, both the Heifetz students and the Mary Baldwin-Staunton community benefit: students hone their skills on stage and build confidence while concertgoers enjoy world-class musical performances by students as well as by faculty and special guests. For performance schedule, ticket information, and more, visit heifetzinstitute.org.

The Emerson String Quartet, Grammy award-winning violist Kim Kashkashian, and former Philadelphia Orchestra violist Roberto Díaz, now the President & CEO of the Curtis Institute of Music joined Heifetz Institute violinists  Elmar Oliveira and Hagai Shaham, as well as some selected Heifetz students in Frances Auditorium for the Heifetz 20th Anniversary Celebration on 7/8/16. Cocktail hour preceded and dinner proceeded the concert.  Photo by Pat Jarrett
From the 20th Anniversary Gala concert: Heifetz Faculty violinists Elmar Oliveira and Hagai Shaham.