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MACCRAY alumna Nancy Harms to help celebrate new performing arts auditorium at alma mater

The MACCRAY community will be celebrating the grand opening of the new performing arts auditorium at the school with a special concert. Jazz singer and alumni Nancy Harms will be taking the stage on Dec. 10.

Nancy Harms
Nancy Harms, a jazz singer from Clara City and an alumni of MACCRAY, will be performing Dec. 10 at the new Performance Arts Auditorium.
Contributed / Ashley Hopkins
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CLARA CITY — MACCRAY will be celebrating the grand opening of its brand-new performing arts space by bringing in one of their own.

Nancy Harms, a 1997 graduate of MACCRAY and a renowned jazz singer who has traveled the country and the globe performing at major festivals and venues, will take the stage at 7 p.m. Dec. 10 in the MACCRAY Performing Arts Auditorium at the school in Clara City.

"We are thrilled she was able to make that work," said Denise Smith, district community education and recreation director. "It is a perfect fit for her to be our first concert in the auditorium."

The festivities on Saturday will also include a ribbon-cutting of the newly completed auditorium in the afternoon, tours of the school and a pasta bar meal from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Middle School/High School gym put on by the MACCRAY 2180 Foundation. School tours will be held at 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. and those interested should contact the school at 320-847-2154, ext. 1153, to reserve their spot.

"This is a really big celebration for our school and the auditorium," said Sherri Broderius, MACCRAY superintendent.

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Seating in the MACCRAY Performing Arts Auditorium
The newly constructed MACCRAY Performing Arts Auditorium in Clara City has more than 500 seats.
Contributed / MACCRAY Public Schools

The concert will be a mix of Harms' original pieces from her "SHE" album and she is bringing along a bass player from New York City with whom she has been working. Harms will also be performing a piece with the MACCRAY Una Voce choir and there will be some holiday favorites to mark the season.

"It is going to have a real fresh feel, some pretty new things," Harms said. "A really celebratory feel."

Harms said it is both exciting and surreal to be back at MACCRAY to open the impressive arts facility. As a professional musician, she knows how important good facilities can be for budding artists, and she hopes the facility opens doors for the younger generations.

"It is just so exciting what the kids will be able to experience with a facility like that," Harms said.

The auditorium was part of the massive $40.7 million renovation project that included the construction of a prekindergarten-elementary school with a capacity for 550 students along with renovations for the middle school and high school. The new facilities included a two-court gymnasium and a separate, smaller gymnasium that is designed to serve as a storm shelter. The project received the green light after voters approved bonding in a 2019 referendum.

Stage at the MACCRAY Performing Arts Auditorium
The MACCRAY Performing Arts Auditorium not only has a permanent stage for productions, but also professional-grade lights and sound system.
Contributed / MACCRAY Public Schools

When designing the project, the school and community wanted to make sure the arts were treated equally with athletics. The thought was you wouldn't want to play a basketball game in a theater, so a choir or band shouldn't have to perform in a gym.

"Let's keep this as a place to celebrate music, theater and academics," Broderius said. "Respect those kids that work hard in those areas as you respect those kids who work hard in athletics."

The auditorium will provide a high-quality space for the arts including a high-tech light and sound system, seating and more.

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"We have lots of rigging that are really important to an auditorium," as they help move scenery, open and close the curtains and move lighting, Broderius said.

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MACCRAY wants the auditorium to be not just a space for school events, but for the community as well. It can be rented and provide space for all sorts of programming. With the new auditorium, the cities of Maynard, Clara City and Raymond now have a dedicated space to bring theater and music to their communities, instead of having to travel to see shows in other cities.

"We want it to be part of the fabric of all three communities," Smith said.

Above all, the auditorium is for the children, the students of MACCRAY, a place for them to showcase their artistic and academic talents. In fact, to Broderius, the auditorium is more than just a stage. It is a big, beautiful classroom.

"That is exactly what the goal was, to use it as a grand classroom for students to celebrate their learning," Broderius said.

MACCRAY veteran program 111122 005.jpg
One of the first major events at the new MACCRAY Performing Arts Auditorium was the Veterans Day program on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune file photo

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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