Seminary's new building a place for arts to soar

September 13, 2014
You want natural light?

Wyoming Seminary's new arts center is flooded with it, from the floor-to-ceiling glass wall in the front lobby to the large windows in every group practice room choir, instrument, dance, it's all the same: During the day the fluorescent lights are almost incidental.

You want state of the art sound?

Every group practice room has a sophisticated system sporting dozens of control knobs, digital read outs, multiple inputs including CD, Apple TV and Bluetooth. Speakers are built in. You can record and re-listen right there, or send it all down to the sound booth for more detailed mixing.

You want Steinway pianos?

The building echoes with them. In most cases, there's one within a stone's throw.

It's officially called the "Allan P. and Marian Sutherland Kirby Center for the Creative Arts," a couple that met at the school in the early 1900s but students have different words to describe the two-story, 34,652-square-foot structure built at an estimated cost of $16.3 million.

"It's wonderful," Japan native Yuki Narita beamed as he stood in the mammoth lobby, which will double as an art gallery once the details are added. "It has much better " he struggled a bit for the right word "acoustics!"

He should know, the fourth-year student studying advanced placement physics, calculus and music said he's been playing violin since he was two.

"I love this building," Ariana Notartomaso gushed during a short interruption of a music lesson.

"I like the smell of fresh paint," Itzel Figueroa Jacinto added with a giggle.

The two had female leads in the Performing Arts Institute's production of "In the Heights" last month at the F.M. Kirby Center. And while there's no guarantee the school will stop using that Wilkes-Barre venue for it's PAI productions, the new, 600-seat auditorium is meant to keep more performances on the upper school campus in Kingston, spokeswoman Gail Smallwood said.

The auditorium includes an orchestra pit. Flooring can be set to extend the stage over the pit or can be placed at audience level. There are 52 weighted pulley systems for raising and lowering curtains, backdrops and anything else you want to dangle from above. And there is a full-acoustic shell that can line the stage to direct sound to the audience.

"We're thrilled about this building," Visual and Performing Arts Department Chairman JohnVaida said with soft-spoken, but obvious pride.

There are two floors of practice rooms, both individual and group, on each side of the auditorium, and while some sound may leak out the doors, he said the insulation between the floors has proven to be acoustically impenatrable.

Students are already using the building even as final touches are done. The first big performance is set for Sept. 25 when the school choir is joined by one from Germany for a concert, with formal dedication to be scheduled in October.

So, you're wondering how many Steinways there really are, right? "We have 19 pianos," Vaida said, "and 17 are Steinways."

The Times Leader
By Mark Guydish