Schaefer Center celebrates grand opening
by Staff Reports
Formerly known as Farthing Auditorium, Appalachian State University's performance facility is home to An Appalachian Summer Festival, the Performing Arts Series and a host of other campus and community events.
The grand opening celebration was highlighted by a performance featuring Broadway singer and "Glee" star Idina Menzel, joined by the Eastern Festival Orchestra. The concert event was part of An Appalachian Summer Festival, underway now, which will also present Boz Scaggs, Lyle Lovett, the Carolina Ballet and an acoustic evening with singers Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin and Suzanne Vega, in the coming days.
The building renovations were funded privately by Bonnie and Jamie Schaefer, whose corporate sponsorship by Westglow Resort and Spa and Rowland's Restaurant has benefited An Appalachian Summer Festival's programming diversity in recent years.
According to an ASU news release, "The Schaefers' generosity will further enhance the arts at Appalachian State University by helping it to create a performance space worthy of the programming offered by series, such as An Appalachian Summer Festival and the Performing Arts Series, as well as a multitude of university and community groups that present events in the venue every year."
The commitment from the Schaefers supported a major refurbishing of the auditorium, which has addressed issues of safety, accessibility and enhancement of the performance experience for audiences attending events in the venue.
A new wing connected to the lobby houses an elevator to the balcony level, additional restrooms, office space and a concessions area. A re-sloped auditorium floor greatly improves sightlines and visibility of the stage, from all seating areas on the orchestra level. Other improvements include a new acoustical and sound system, a mechanized orchestra pit and a variety of aesthetic upgrades.
"We love our community, we love the arts and we love the university," said Bonnie Schaefer, who serves on An Appalachian Summer Festival's advisory board and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the university last year. "We deserve a performing arts center worthy of the quality of entertainment we have had in recent year ... and we expect that with the new improvements, we will attract even bigger and better acts."
At the point when the gift to the university was announced, Jamie Schaefer said, "It gives us great personal pleasure to support this program. If it brings everyone as much pleasure as it does us, it's a win-win. We feel very honored to be the next generation to continue the legacy established by Arnold and Muriel Rosen and other founders of An Appalachian Summer Festival."
According to Susan Pettyjohn, vice chancellor for university advancement, the design team for the project, consisting of CJMW Architects, Steven Carter Price AIA, Rodgers Builders and the university's Office of Design and Construction, has worked diligently to ensure that the project was completed on schedule, even through the winter months.
"We greatly appreciate their efforts, made possible by the extraordinary gift from the Schaefers, one of the largest single commitments ever made to Appalachian," Pettyjohn said. "We look forward to sharing this wonderful cultural resource with our campus community and the entire region."