New Central performance venue taking shape

Monday, January 14, 2013
The view from the balcony of the Richard D. Kinder Performance Hall on Wednesday at Cape Central High School. (ADAM VOGLER)

The last unfinished project related to a $40 million bond issue passed by Cape Girardeau voters in 2010 is nearing completion at Cape Girardeau Central High School.

The Richard D. Kinder Performance Hall, a state-of-the-art facility with a price tag close to $10 million, is expected to open by February.

"That's our goal," said Neil Glass, Cape Girardeau School District assistant superintendent for administrative services. "Certainly things could come up to cause delay, but all of us are hoping things will continue to run smoothly."

Construction began in November 2011.

The performance hall has the look and feel of a Broadway-style theater. It covers more than 23,000 square feet and has a combined floor-level and balcony seating capacity of more than 1,000.

Backstage at the Richard D. Kinder Performance Hall Wednesday, Jan. 9, at Cape Central High School. (ADAM VOGLER)

"It's exceeded our expectations," Glass said. "We challenged the architects and engineers to come up with something special, and they knocked it out of the park. The community will be proud of this, and it will serve students for years and years."

The performance hall includes a workshop for building sets and dressing rooms for boys and girls. Its performing stage is supplemented by a high-end audio and lighting system.

"The system we have in place is remarkable," Glass said. "A small musical group could come in and not need to bring any of their own sound or light equipment."

Performers will be students from Central High School's theater, choral, orchestra and band departments, who, after almost 11 years, will be able to rehearse and perform in the same venue.

"Rarely does a school get to build everything at one time," said Dr. Mike Cowan, Central High School principal. "When the high school was opened in 2002, it came without an auditorium because of finances. As a result, our theater and music departments had to continue to use the stage at the old school -- now Central Junior High."

The view from the balcony of the Richard D. Kinder Performance Hall Wednesday, Jan. 9, at Cape Central High School. (ADAM VOGLER)

Cowan said that, although high school and junior high teachers worked hard to accommodate each other, throughout the years the growth in the junior high's theater and music departments conflicted with high school rehearsals and performances.

"Students would have to rehearse for a play at the high school and then perform at the junior high," Cowan said. "Choir and orchestra concerts would rehearse at the junior high and then get bumped to playing in the high school gym. Musical instruments also suffered wear and tear from being transported back and forth between the schools. Eleven years of that was a long time."

Jordan Cox, vocal-music director at Central High School, said going from one rehearsal space to another had been an issue with him.

"When you perform, every room is different," Cox said. "It's hard to gauge vocalists when they rehearse in different places. In addition to the junior high, we've had rehearsals in the high school lobby and even in the weight room to find the right acoustics."

Cox said vocal concerts have been less than stellar in the echo-laden high school gym.

Principal Mike Cowan gives a tour of the Richard D. Kinder Performance Hall Wednesday, Jan. 9, at Cape Central High School. (ADAM VOGLER)

"The voices don't project well," he said, "and also there's the issue of the audience. Sometimes people forget they're at a concert and think they're at a basketball game. They tend to make more noise and it's distracting to the performers."

In Cox's opinion, the new performance hall is going to be awesome.

"The performance hall will offer sound quality that we've never had before," he said. "It's going to be a wonderful place to perform. Other schools are looking forward to coming here for district singing events, also."

The opportunity for new performance space at Central came in the form of the bond issue put before voters in 2010 that called for improvements in eight of the district's 10 schools. Building a performance hall for the high school was among those improvements. Cowan recalled the theme of the bond campaign was "Finish the Job."

"We badly needed a performance center at the high school, and I had tremendous faith in the people of Cape Girardeau," Cowan said. "They gave us this new facility to use to the best of our abilities. Who knows whose career will blossom as a result of us building the performance hall."

A construction worker stands in the Richard D. Kinder Performance Hall Wednesday, Jan. 9, at Cape Central High School. (ADAM VOGLER)

The facility will be named after Richard D. Kinder, a 1962 Central graduate and chairman of the board and CEO of Kinder Morgan, the third-largest energy company in North America. He also oversees the Kinder Foundation with his wife Nancy, and it was through the foundation that Kinder donated $1 million for construction of the performance hall's balcony.

"Having a first-rate auditorium would be great for Central High School," Kinder said in a telephone interview from Houston. "We thought the addition of a balcony would be a wonderful gift. The facility will be dedicated to instilling artistic achievement in young people, and we're happy we were able to help."

klewis@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

1000 S. Silver Springs Road, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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