By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor
BIG SKY – None other than Warren Miller himself cut the ribbon at Big Sky’s new performing arts center, at an evening event on March 12 attended by approximately 500 people. The completion of the facility, named for the ski movie icon, has been two years in the making and cost $1.94 million.
“I don’t think there’s very many facilities like this anywhere in America,” said Miller in an interview before the ribbon cutting. “With the touch of a button, you can turn every light bulb in here blue, red, green, yellow. It’s as high tech a place as you’ll ever find. I’m proud to be part of that.”
Built in the old Ophir School gym, the process of making the center’s acoustics was an “amazing feat,” said WMPAC Artistic Director John Zirkle.
“Everything is measured so the listening experience is optimized for every seat in the house,” Zirkle said in a follow-up conversation.
The audience – which filled every one of the theater’s 280 seats and then some – heard this first hand, during a piano performance of one of Chopin’s Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 31, by local musician Klaudia Kosiak.
“You can hear every note that Klaudia played on the piano, all the subtleties, nuances – that’s what you look for in a performing arts center,” Zirkle said.
He also noted that the lighting system is entirely LED, and that the sound system has a state-of-the-art digital signal processor.
“We can do anything you can imagine with the sound,” he said.
On stage, Zirkle recognized several of the major players integral to the creation of WMPAC: Friends of Big Sky Education president Loren Bough and his wife Jill, FOBSE secretary and former school superintendent Anne Marie Mistretta, and current superintendent Jerry House.
“[Big Sky] is a community where anything is possible,” Loren Bough said. “That’s what makes all of this possible…we are the smallest community I know that has a fully operational performing arts center, and we should be proud.”
He and Zirkle both spoke about the future of the center and asked the community to get involved by sharing ideas, taking part in performances, volunteering and donating.
Miller, too, spoke to the collaborative effort.
“I think Big Sky is in a space all by itself. A facility like this will attract a lot of performers that a high school facility would not [normally attract]… The fact that a small town like this has ponied up the money to do it… everybody here starts pulling together, and then you’ve got a lot of weight on the rope [pulling this] thing into reality. It doesn’t get any better.”
Listen to a clip of Miller’s speech here:
The first performance at WMPAC will be Big Sky Broadway’s annual fundraiser, Big Sky’s Got Talent, at 6:30 p.m. on March 17.