Willmar Senior High theater name honors Brau family
WILLMAR — The Willmar Senior High School's theater has a new look and will soon have a new name.
The Brau Performing Arts Center will be dedicated Monday before the school's Fall Showcase Concert.
A dinner sponsored by Music Matters begins at 6 p.m. in the high school cafeteria. The dedication will be at 6:15 p.m. in the cafeteria. There will be a ribbon cutting and open house in the theater before the concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Big Red Gym.
The new name honors the Brau family of Willmar. Terry Brau spent nearly 40 years teaching music in Willmar Public Schools. Donna Brau, Terry's wife, is a musician and an advocate for young children in the community. For many years, they had a band called The Front Page.
The Braus' only child, Robert, a promising young musician and University of Minnesota student, was killed in August 2014 when a distracted teenage driver crashed into his motorcycle.
The Braus said this week that it's hard to express how they feel about the honor.
When Principal Paul Schmitz asked to visit them last spring, Donna Brau said, she thought it might be to ask them to speak to students about distracted driving.
When he proposed putting their name on the theater, "my jaw just dropped," she said. "I looked at Terry, and his jaw was dropped. ... You don't work a job so somebody names a theater after you; you just do what you love."
It's particularly meaningful that their son, a 2011 WHS graduate, will be honored in this way for his involvement in the arts, they said.
"The naming of it for me, to be included as a family and attached to the school, is perfect," Terry Brau said. "I still don't have words for it."
Terry Brau has retired from teaching, but he has dedicated many hours in the past year and a half to improvements in the theater and music classrooms. New soundproofing has been installed between band and choir rooms, so each can practice without hearing the other. There's a new music filing system, replacing a large number of file cabinets.
The refurbished theater seats nearly 550, and nearly everything has been improved. New LED lighting is more versatile and energy efficient. An improved catwalk system and updated control booth will allow more control over lighting from the booth.
The theater stage floor has been painted black, more fitting for a theater production. The floor was hardwood with a shiny finish before it was painted.
Another new feature in the theater is a freight lift that will make it easier to bring props and equipment from the basement to the stage, designed more for things than people, Terry Brau said.
The improvements, worth about $500,000, have been funded by the school's bond referendum approved in 2015. The school saved money by doing some work in-house. Students helped remove the old seats, which were purchased by The Barn Theatre, and they also helped paint the floor.