Practicing in a temporary space at the back of the gym is frustrating for the Garrison Arts Wind Ensemble, but they’re all smiles.
After several delays, construction of the school’s $8.4 million, 589-seat performing arts center will be complete at the end of October. Garrison’s Wind and Youth ensembles are practicing for the first public performance in the building, which is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. Nov. 9.
“It will help people focus on our sound, not the echo and it will make us look like a traditional band should look,” said eighth grader Savannah Cotton.
Since she enrolled at Garrison in the first grade; Cotton and her schoolmates who study music, dance, theatre and chorus have been practicing and performing in the gym, cafeteria and converted classrooms.
The building was originally constructed in 1990 as a traditional neighborhood elementary school. But in 2010 district officials converted Garrison to a performing arts specialty school for grades kindergarten through eight.
Although the school lacked adequate performing and practice space, the school board pledged to use education sales tax dollars to construct a performance hall. In 2011, the district budgeted $3,384,676 in education sales tax dollars for the construction and set a tentative opening date for the summer of 2015.
But after reviewing designs for the $3.4 million space, they decided it would not meet the needs of an 800-student visual and performing arts school. So the school board delayed the project and voters agreed to extend the education sales tax in 2016 so the district could generate more revenue to build a bigger, better auditorium for Garrison.
Band Director Michael Hutchinson is eager to move into his state-of-the-art rehearsal studio, which can fit up to 90 students comfortably. Unlike the band rooms where he taught award-winning students at Savannah High and Savannah Arts during his 35 years with the district, this new space includes restrooms, storage areas for instruments and supplies, an office and four practice rooms for small group instruction. It also features special acoustical treatments on the walls and ceilings.
“It’s a big deal,” Hutchinson said.
Greenline Architecture building designer Doug Roberts said they worked hard to pack as many special features into the building as possible.
“We knew the building had to fit within the district’s goals for efficiency and budget,” he said. “So we stretched the dollars to create something dynamic.”
Students who’ve been allowed to take a sneak peek of the building’s interior, like Trenton Brockington and Malisha and Maloni Brannan, say dynamic doesn’t begin to describe the performance and practice space they and their performing arts classmates will soon occupy.
“It will be a good experience to perform on a really big stage,” Trenton said.