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Great Waters Music Festival finds success in Kingswood Arts Center

September 01, 2011
WOLFEBORO — A year ago, the Great Waters Music Festival (GWMF) had to make some difficult decisions. Rising costs and declining ticket sales in a feeble economy forced them into some bold moves.

A major decision was to pack up the acoustic tent – a summer venue for 17 years on the shores of Wolfeboro Bay – and leave the Brewster Academy campus for the new Kingswood Arts Center.

The organization, led by Barbara Lobdell, also moved its office from North Main Street to Varney Road and passed the cost savings of those changes along to their customers in the form of lower ticket prices – going from a range between $20 and $80 a ticket to a range between $15 and $50, affordable to more people. The parking is more commodious, too.

Change can be unnerving, but now, at the end of its season, the board is celebrating its most successful year yet.

A relaxed General Manager Michael Harrison and GWMF Cochairman John van Lonkhuyzen, met with the Granite State News on August 26 to look back at their summer events and look ahead to the possibilities for next year presented by their success.

They had worried that their regulars would miss the ambiance of their lakeside venue but were delighted to discover that a state of the art performing arts center with seats for 850, easy access to parking and handicap accessible restrooms more than compensated for that loss.

Both men marveled at the new arts center, its air conditioning system, lighting, even the locks on the doors ("so well-made and modern"), its green, energy-saving aspects, and of course, the auditorium itself. Ticket holders gain comfortable seating with plenty of leg room and "terrific sight lines."

Harrison added that event managers Norm Adjutant and Kim Kalled were instrumental in helping everything go smoothly. It gets down to coordinating which doors are locked or open when and making sure the performers have what they need.

"The taxpayers and the kids can take a lot of pride [in the center]," said van Lonkhuyzen. " It's a new day for the arts in Wolfeboro…we worked cooperatively with the Wolfeboro Friends of Music in offering the piano concert series this summer (made possible by the WWFM's gift of the nine-foot Steinway grand piano) and many musicians would be happy to work with the students."

Having a place available year-round opens up possibilities for winter programming, perhaps even some additional technical opportunities for students in aspects of lighting and sound with people working in the field, and an internship program, muses van Lonkhuyzen.

"My students were chomping at the bit," says Kingswood Multimedia instructor Scott Giessler, who began training students in anticipation of the new advanced technology last fall. Working elbow-to-elbow with the professionals under demanding circumstances was " an incredible learning experience for all of us, including myself…We haven't ever had this level of acts [on the Kingswood stage]…The growth was huge."

Students were employed as lighting and sound assistants this summer, but though they were familiar with the lighting board, it took a while, says Giessler, for them to understand the jargon of the professional technicians. "It wasn't like school," says Giessler, "where you just get a grade for your work. They had to be able to do what was asked of them [and do it well]."

He is enthusiastic, too, about the possibility of winter events. Jack Robertson, Superintendent of the Governor Wentworth Regional School District, commented that having the arts center separate from the middle and high schools was initially a controversial design aspect, but the location offers increased parking and opens the possibility for day time events even while school is in session.

He said he was pleased to hear news of the Great Waters Music Festival's success, adding, "It's exciting that the ticket prices were able to come down. That opens it up to more people. It's a facility for the school and the community as well."

The increased revenue from event fees benefits everyone, says Giessler, for it goes back into equipment that is then available for the Kingswood Summer Theatre and others.

Harrison and van Lonkhuyzen see new possibilities in the community/school partnership and expressed appreciation for the "very generous donor base" that supports programming that costs from $30,000 to $50,000 per event.

"Wolfeboro is a significant destination for the arts," says van Lonkhuyzen.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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