McFarland High School (MHS) students showed off their new performance space by showing off their musical talents.

MHS held a student open house to celebrate the opening of a new performing arts center (PAC) on Friday, Oct. 11.

The open house featured performances by the school’s band, choir and a capella groups. The entire performance was student-run with announcements and performances done by those in the school’s performing arts programs. The rest of the student body and faculty members gathered in the PAC to listen to and cheer on fellow classmates.

“Our music program includes many student leaders and conductors, so we were thrilled to give them the opportunity to direct our ensembles and lead the assembly,” MHS band director Ben Petersen said. “A student-led assembly shows our student body that this performing arts center, these new facilities and this school is for their benefit.”

Community members voted to allow the district to borrow $65 million for renovations to the district’s four schools. The high school’s PAC was one of the areas identified for improvements.

The original PAC was constructed in the late 1970s. Over the years, the school outgrew the number of seats in the auditorium and all-school assemblies moved to the gymnasium to accommodate the growing population.

The new PAC seats 841 audience members and includes a full fly loft and accessible seating for those with disabilities.

A larger stage holds an orchestra pit and has an enhanced sound and lighting system. Behind the stage is a renovated set design area with garage doors to easily move sets on and off the stage.

“Our music students are excited to perform on the new stage,” Petersen said. “Because of the increase in space and the state-of-the-art sound, lighting and fly space, it provides so many more opportunities and options for our concerts and productions, along with increased seating for our audience.”

The area that once held the school’s PAC was filled in and now serves as a black box theater to be used for rehearsals and smaller performances.

MHS plans to rent out the space to community groups beginning next year. School officials wanted to ensure students and staff were confident in using the space so they could be good hosts to outside groups.

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