Dazzling in Des Moines: New Acoustical Shell Debuts

Wenger Acoustical Shell

The art and science of acoustics meet beautifully in a full-stage acoustical shell, which blends technical precision and functionality with the aesthetic artistry of finely crafted furniture. Last month, a new Diva® acoustical shell debuted at the Des Moines Civic Center (DMCC). Excerpts from the Des Moines Register’s articles about the preliminary fine-tuning event and the opening concert illustrate some of a shell’s key benefits: better onstage communication, easy enhancement and improved audience experience. Better Onstage Communication An earlier blog described how “achieving ensemble” means musicians are creating a balanced, …

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Flexibility is Key for Convention Centers

Convention Center Infrastructure

How can a venue take a huge sports arena or a wide-open trade show floor and turn it into a space that can host small, intimate events—while retaining the ability to use the whole space for a national convention? The solution is flexibility, noted Patrick Finn, Product Manager for J.R. Clancy, Inc. “The ability to host an event that is both small and intimate or large and grandiose in the same location—that’s the kind of solution that boosts revenue for convention centers,” he said. “To be able to use a …

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D.M. Symphony breaks out of its shell

A towering acoustical shell clad in maple veneer is part of a $1.5 million project to improve the acoustics at the Des Moines Civic Center. "It's the next best thing to building a new concert hall," Des Moines Symphony Executive Director Richard Early said.
(Photo: Rodney White/The Register)

Jonathan Sturm stood alone in the middle of the Des Moines Civic Center stage, lifted his violin to his chin and ripped from its strings a Paganini solo, a chutes-and-ladders dash of flashy runs and broken chords. Then he took about 10 steps forward and played the same thing on the edge of the stage. The difference was subtle but clear. It was a little warmer the second time around. “I sound like a million dollars more than I did back there,” he said. His estimate was pretty close, actually. Towering …

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Deprivation? Inspiration? Performing Arts’ Value

Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra

What makes the performing arts important? Providing audiences a restful oasis from the chaotic chatter of our technology-laden world? Inspiring musicians to make magic out of almost nothing? Two recent newspaper articles highlight these varying perspectives. Sensory Deprivation. For affluent societies like the U.S., live performances, particularly classical music and opera, can offer audiences an escape from their hectic, hyper-connected lives. In his essay “The Concert Hall as Refuge in a Restless, Web-Driven World”, New York Times music critic Anthony Tommasini suggests that such cultural institutions celebrate this advantage to …

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Q&A Spotlight: Community-Based Performing Arts


Today the National Recreation & Park Association (NRPA) kicks off its 50th anniversary conference, with 7,000+ park and rec pros meeting to learn best practices and share ideas. We’re especially interested in how the performing arts are experienced by the public – either as audiences or participants – outside the concert hall or opera house. To highlight the key role played by NRPA members and park & rec departments nationwide, we visited with Karen Bradley Ehler, Coordinator of Cultural Arts & Adult Programs for Howard County, Maryland. Q: What’s your …

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Q&A Spotlight: Back to School – Teaching Technical Theatre

12 Ophelias

During this back-to-school season, we wanted to learn more about theatre education and its connection to the real world. We visited with Tom Barrett, who is starting his 26th year at Macalester College. Barrett teaches technical theatre and oversees six annual campus productions – four theatre and two dance – including lighting, sound and construction. He also squeezes in outside design and tech direction work occasionally. YPP: What are key “tools” – literal or figurative – in your toolbox? Barrett: 1) Communications. Without question, verbal and visual communications skills are essential. …

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Transcend™ Enhances Acoustics in Every Seat


I believe that proper acoustics are fundamental to a great live music experience, both for the audience and the performer. The launch of the Transcend™ Active Acoustic System continues Wenger’s long history of quality, groundbreaking acoustical solutions. From our traditional room treatments to more complex systems like our Transform™ acoustical banners, our products strive to create a more desirable acoustic environment. The process of acoustically treating a room is complex and often costly, but makes a huge improvement in a venue’s sound. Our traditional acoustical solutions enhance the natural acoustics …

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arena dancers

This year ARENA DANCES in Minneapolis celebrates its 20th anniversary. Since founding this dance company, artistic director Mathew Janczewski has created more than 40 works, along with commissioned creations for other companies and educational institutions. We visited with him recently. YPP: To what do you attribute ARENA DANCES’ longevity? Janczewski: Perseverance. I started out as a project-based pickup company, lucky to get some grants and foundation support. To move forward making work from my ideas, I became a nonprofit in 2001. It’s a lot of work juggling different responsibilities including …

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Music Festivals Generating Buzz

Music Festivals

This coming weekend will see U.S. music festivals in Colorado, California and Oregon, according to Music Festival Junkies, a website tracking festivals in North America and three other continents. (If you’ll be in Belgium and like alternative music, don’t miss Pukkelpop 2015.) The number of music festivals keeps growing; the industry is making headlines for its popularity and transformational impact on the live music industry. Sampling from recent news coverage, plus offering our own background, we’ll offer three perspectives on music festivals: for promoters, fans and production staff. For Promoters, …

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One Year After the Fire, Great Plains Theatre Thrives

Abilene, Kansas

What would you do if one night, your theatre suddenly burned to the ground? That’s what happened on July 23, 2014, to the Great Plains Theatre in the small town of Abilene, Kansas, destroying the 1882 historic church that had served the Equity theatre company for the previous 20 years. The devastating loss rallied a community, however, and a year later, plans are in the works for a completely new theatre. We got in touch with Elizabeth Weese, executive director of the Great Plains Theatre, to see how the company …

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