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Pioneer Valley High School Premieres New Performing Arts Center

State-of-the-art facility in Santa Maria set to host first student musical in November

Pioneer Valley drama teacher Shawnah Van Gronigen, center, talks about the new Performing Arts Center with former district superintendent Jeff Hearn and current County Schools Superintendent Susan Salcido on Thursday. Click to view larger
Pioneer Valley drama teacher Shawnah Van Gronigen, center, talks about the new Performing Arts Center with former district superintendent Jeff Hearn and current County Schools Superintendent Susan Salcido on Thursday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

An open house Thursday provided a sneak peek at the new Performing Arts Center on the Pioneer Valley High School campus in Santa Maria.

The $11-million, 16,411-square-foot building will host its first events including performances next month, fulfilling a longtime dream for drama teacher Shawnah Van Gronigen. 

“I’ve been waiting for this for 16 years,” she said. “This doesn't happen very often. ... It's a very rare occasion for us to have something like this.”

Visitors on Thursday included County Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido, several school board members, and other community leaders.

“This is pretty outstanding for the kids and you,” Salcido told Van Gronigen.

In addition to the stage, the facility has four learning spaces, including three classrooms. The center also includes a lobby, box office, audio, sound and lighting areas, and an outdoor covered area for building props.

The theater can seat up to 298 people.

“My favorite part is the kids have a home, a place to perform,” Van Gronigen said, describing the creativity needed since previous performances had to occur in a classroom, cafeteria or outside in the wind.

“It's been crazy trying to figure out where to perform,” she said, adding that those venues did not match the students’ talents.

“It elevates our production level," she added about the new performance stage.

Other capabilities include catwalks above the stage for lighting placement, moveable acoustical walls and other features to maximize choir and band sounds, extended areas to the left and right of the stage for additional production space or band, motorized curtain and motorized projection screen.

The Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Performing Arts Center at Pioneer Valley High School will host its first student performances next month. Click to view larger
The Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Performing Arts Center at Pioneer Valley High School will host its first student performances next month. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

On Thursday, as district officials and other educators visited the building, students were positioned at various points inside and outside the building to talk about the features. 

Tour guide and sophomore Edianna Ysip proudly showed off the building she called beautiful, noting she has had minimal experience with theater but said she was honored to get to participate in the new facility.

Construction on the site designed by BCA Architects and built by Vernon Edwards Constructors, Inc. started in mid-2015.

“It’s the culmination of a lifelong dream I think for this site in particular and the district as a whole,” said Dr. Carol Karamitsos, president of the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District board.

“This is a nice venue for us to have for the kids in our community. It’s a good stepping stone for kids to be introduced to theater,” she added.

Superintendent Mark Richardson noted that a facility with state-of-the-art technology had been envisioned since the campus opened in 2004.

“This Performing Arts Center represents another step in the right direction for the students in our district,’’ Richardson said. “Having viable elective programs with 21st century facilities is key to student success.’’

A private opening gala is planned for Nov. 2 followed by student performances of School of Rock on Nov. 3, 4, 5, 9, 10 and 11, with curtains opening at 7 p.m.

General admission tickets are $15, with student tickets, $8. For tickets, call the PVHS Business Office at 805.922.1305, ext. 5120. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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