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PAC opens with big surprise named Linda M. Byrnes Performing Arts Center

From left, Jim Weiss, Marilyn Oertle, Chris Raezer, Carolyn Erickson, and Dick Butner cut the ribbon to the -
From left, Jim Weiss, Marilyn Oertle, Chris Raezer, Carolyn Erickson, and Dick Butner cut the ribbon to the
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A weekend full of a thousand heart-warming moments

ARLINGTON Supporters of music and the performing arts dressed in tuxes and high-heeled shoes for four evenings of celebration and entertainment starting Thursday, May 31. The crowd of significant donors to the PAC was surprised Thursday evening when Arlington School Board President Kay Duskin announced that the new PAC has been named for school superintendent Linda M. Byrnes.
The announcement was made after the first performance of 24 different acts over the four-day gala. Opening the show was the North Cascades Concert Band, with solos by Deputy Superintendent Warren Hopkins, on tuba, who supervised the construction of the PAC, and former assistant superintendent Rob Patterman on trombone. They played a song, The Great Mother Lode March, which was composed by AHS Spanish teacher, Bob LaTorre.
From this moment on, the new PAC will be called the Linda M. Byrnes Performing Arts Center, Duskin told the audience.
Only a few people were in the know: the Arlington School Board members who made the decision, and a few of the Arts Alive! committee who had to wrap promotional materials with the new name during the last few days of preparation.
We started talking about it in February, Duskin said. It was a challenge to keep it a secret because we couldnt gather all together without informing the public.
They did inform Byrnes family members however.
They all stopped talking to me, because they were afraid theyd let it slip out, Byrnes said. She seemed to be honestly surprised when the announcement was made with all the school board and city council members were on stage to be acknowledged for their efforts.
Thursdays special guests included families and friends of those who donated $5,000 or more to the new PAC. They first gathered for a reception at Crown Distributing from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and then migrated up the hill for the ribbon cutting and first evening of live performances. The ribbon cutting followed the national anthem sung by Chelsea Huleatt and Angela Billdt, both AHS graduates who spent time working for the Arts Alive! committee when they were still in high school. Huleatt made a surprise appearance returning home briefly from her job as entertainer at Disneyland.
The ribbon cutting proceeded pretty much on schedule soon after 7 p.m. and it wasnt until after the first act that Duskin made the naming announcement.
A team of workers will be here tomorrow to install the new name on the outside of the hall.
Indeed, by Friday evening, large metal letters were suspended above the already installed Performing Arts Center, sign on the exterior bricks of the building facing the entry of the high school.
As emcee Sunday evening, Byrnes was still in disbelief.
It hasnt sunk in yet, she told the crowd. Later she joked that she is a bit concerned that she cant trust the school board anymore.
There was considerable deceit going on, she and Duskin laughed.
A community member who attended most of the performances, Virginia Hatch believes the name is a good choice.
Its extremely appropriate, Hatch said.
It was Byrnes who spearheaded the effort to build the PAC, Duskin said.
It was Linda Byrnes who couldnt imagine our new high school without a performing arts center.
She was the one who recruited community members to join Arts Alive! to work diligently for five years to raise the money, and it was Byrnes who recommended the board should invest timber resources to build the shell, Duskin said.
A fellow board member, Carolyn Erickson agreed that the PAC should be built and calls herself a cheerleader for the project. She wore red for the Thursday night shindig, expressing her excitement for the hall.
I couldnt be any happier. I am thrilled that the community will now have the opportunity to experience professional performances in this beautiful venue and the kids will have the chance to learn to perform like professionals, Erickson said.
The weekend proceeded fairly smoothly, with only minor hitches in the running of the high-tech theater equipment, getting spotlights at the right place at the right time, and getting the house lights up when needed.
But the audience didnt seem to mind. A largely full house for every performance cheered and hollered for most of the acts, with standing ovations offered as well.
Its good acoustics when you can hear the clicking of the instrument keys, said Diane Wright, who attended Saturday night to hear Eric McElroy conduct his own composition, Suite for Concert Band in Three Movements.
The performers, too, were very excited about the experience of performing on this new stage. Freshman Jason Johnson, who played trumpet with the AHS Symphonic Band Sunday evening, said its amazing what the acoustics feel like from on stage.
Even sitting toward the back of the stage, you can hear the music, Johnson said. You can really tell if you are in tune or off key. Johnson also noted that performing for a large audience in the theater is more rewarding.
Its exciting to know they came for a good show. Its not just parents who come to see us.
His friend Sophie Logan is a sophomore who played xylophone with the AHS Wind Ensemble Saturday night.
Its insane, she said enthusiastically. I feel like a professional. And its even better knowing that the audience is feeling as excited as I am.
One of the professionals on the program, opera singer Paul Piersall (Byrnes brother-in-law), came from Texas to perform. He and his son, Rick Piersall, closed the show Sunday evening.
Paul Piersall told the audience, When Linda first spoke of this mission, I asked her, Youre going to do what?
After singing several very poignant songs with accompaniment by Arlington teacher, Laurie Breon. Piersall told the audience, You should be a very proud community indeed.
The grand finale of the four days came when all Arts Alive! committee members, those people responsible for raising the $2.5 million to finish the PAC, were invited on stage to receive plaques and bouquets.
Florist George Boulton, who donated the Steinway grand concert piano, was a part of that group.
I have goose bumps all the way to my toes, Boulton said, as the crowd filed out of the theater.
As supporters lingered in the foyer, hating to leave the excitement behind, the most common comment filling the air was,
And this is just the beginning.

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