Valley Performing Arts Center holds test performance for faculty, hard hats

Angela Melero

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Doc Severinsen and his group present themselves to the cheering croud after closing the night off with a piece by Astor Piazzolla called “Adios Nonino.” Photo Credit: Patrick Dilanchian/ Contributing Photographer

The Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) held its first concert Friday night, seizing the opportunity to showcase the advanced performance components that have had the community eagerly awaiting its opening.

The concert, which featured jazz trumpeter, Doc Severinsen, was an exclusive event, held for the contractors that made its construction possible and faculty.

Lynn Wiegers, director of Physical Plant Management (PPM), said the event was meant as a beta-test performance, aimed towards getting both positive and constructive feedback on the building from the people who had their hand in its creation.

“We wanted to get expert feedback so we could identify the good aspects (of the center) and what still needs improvement,” Wiegers said.

He added that a lot of preparation was done in order to make the center, which is not entirely finished, (but is) acceptable for public viewing.

“The hall is open for tonight only,” Wiegers said. “We obtained a temporary certificate of occupancy and (PPM) provided a custodial staff to clean the place so that it didn’t look like it was under construction.”

Wiegers said the VPAC’s opening in January 2011 is just what the San Fernando Valley needs.

“There is nothing like this in the area,” he said. “It will bring a lot of prestige.”

Robert Bucker, dean of the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communications, addressed the crowd in his introduction.

“Tonight this hall becomes a living environment,” he said. “The sound of drilling and hammering is replaced by voices and joyful music.”

For the contractors and staff that attended the event like Mike Freshwater, VPAC superintendent the prestige lies in viewing of the incredible finished product that took two years to complete, he said.

Freshwater said there are multiple challenges that arise when working on such a large space but the experience of seeing the finished product made the outcome worthwhile.

“This is one of the biggest projects I’ve ever worked on,” he said. “We had up to 250 workers on site daily. To witness these amazing technologies coming to completion is by far the most rewarding thing.”

John Sigma, journeyman finisher on the project, said he takes pride in knowing that VPAC guests and community members will be enjoying his work for years to come.

“There are over 7 million pieces of tile surrounding the exterior of the center,” he said. “Some of the tile was even quarantined from Turkey. It’s been a challenging job because we knew everything had to be perfect.”

Sigman walked the premises before the performance, carefully explaining to his wife and mother-in-law the complex details of his work. He said he looked forward to Severinsen’s performance but his reason for attending the event was more personal.

“Honestly, I wanted to show off my work to the in-laws,” he said.

Doc Severinsen and El Ritmo de la Vida Jazz Ensemble presented a vibrant performance, ideal for testing the innovative and versatile acoustics the hall is famous for.

During the performance, Severinsen, who is known for his role as music director on the “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” commended the crowd of contributors to “one of the world’s finest concert halls.”

“I can’t even imagine what you must feel like in witnessing what you created,” he said.

The performance included an assortment of Latin-inspired jazz numbers that were well-received by the audience who gave the band a standing ovation at the end of their set.

“I’ll tell you something about the acoustics in this place, the applause sounds great,” Severinsen said as he concluded his set.