As Collierville High School students prepare to wrap up their first semester in the $94 million new facility, one area of the school celebrated its formal dedication Monday night.
More than 200 people attended the private dedication concert from acclaimed classical pianist Bruce Levingston to christen Pickler Auditorium inside the Collierville High. The state-of-the-art performance facility is the result of a partnership between Pickler Cos. and CHS focusing on delivering excellence and elevating the student experience.
“I’ve had the great experience of being involved in public education for most of the past 30 years,” said Pickler Cos. president and CEO David Pickler, who served on the Shelby County Schools board for 16 years and as the president of the National School Board Association. “I’m a huge supporter of the arts, and in fact you will see more children from this school who will earn college scholarships for the arts than will through athletics and most other extracurricular activities.”
Levingston, who regularly performs in prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Royal Opera House of London, performed selections from Philip Glass, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, Chopin and Liszt, and also shared amusing anecdotes from his career.
The Collierville High School choir capped off the night by performing two works showcasing the school's music program.
“The acoustics of this auditorium are amazing, and the ability to bring 1,000 patrons in here for all the types of events that will occur – like plays, concerts, presentations – and have them experience the emotional impact of what the arts can deliver is an incredible opportunity for us to give back and pay it forward,” Pickler said.
Located in the fine arts wing of the high school just off the front lobby, about a third of the Pickler Auditorium’s 1,000 seats are stadium seats in order to create a more intimate environment, according to architect Curt Pierce, partner with Fleming Associates, which teamed on the project designs with The Renaissance Group.
“The auditorium is acoustically designed and tuned with special acoustic panels on the walls, some that are sound-absorbing and some that are sound-reflecting,” Pierce said. “The room also features a complete LED computerized lighting package.”
The full-sized production stage can accommodate productions of all types, and a hidden catwalk is located in the ceiling above the stage.
Designed in a fan shape that allows more people to get as close to the stage and action as possible, the auditorium is sized to be able to seat each of the high school’s four student body classes.
“I think what we’ve seen so far is it has instilled a little bit more pride in the students, and the programs that we’re now able to offer with the facility have been the biggest positive,” said Collierville Schools superintendent John Aitken. “We’ve already had two plays here, and we’ll have ‘Mary Poppins’ here next spring.”
Monday’s dedication concert also commemorated the school’s partnership with piano maker Steinway & Sons and Memphis’ Amro Music, which resulted in the addition of three Steinway family pianos that give CHS the distinction of becoming a Steinway Select School.
“It’s all about being significant on your community,” said Pickler, whose namesake company encompasses Pickler Wealth Advisors, the Pickler Law Firm, Pickler Accounting Advisors and Pickler Events. “When we had the opportunity to go out and make an investment in our community that could bring this kind of experience for our children, it was something that we certainly could not pass up.”
As a supporter of the possibilities of public schools, Pickler founded the nonprofit American Public Education Foundation to advocate on behalf of public education. Through APEF, he works to promote things like financial literacy and arts education.
“Public education is more than just a civil right; it’s a vital national security imperative,” he said. “Truly the future of our nation is going to be largely dependent on our ability to prepare our children for engaged citizenship and global competitiveness.”