Follow Christ, Lead the Way

CIRCLEVILLE — From classical and sacred music to gospel and contemporary Christian, Ohio Christian University is home to a thriving music department that promises to grow thanks to a new, state-of-the art performing arts center. The University recently broke ground on the center that will take the place of the chapel as the school’s performance venue.

“There’s a lot of excitement with this building,” said Vice President of Operations Mike Fracassa. “We’ve had experts in to make it as acoustically as perfect as possible.” The building was designed by the McKnight Group of Grove City, a firm that specializes in church design and building.

Construction on the 24,000 square foot Ministry Performing Arts Center is scheduled to begin in May. The plans include offices, classrooms, and rehearsal space for the music department, as well as an outdoor amphitheater and a 700-seat auditorium that will be expanded to more than 1,000 seats in Phase II of the project. Once complete, the entire facility is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $15 million.

Fracassa said that the university has made such a big financial commitment to music because, “It’s an integral part of the worship experience.”

To help raise money for the project, the university has set up a buy-a-seat fund that allows individual donors to have their names etched into plaques on the back of the new auditorium seats.

Dr. Dione Bennett, director of Vocal & Choral Studies, is preparing to take a group of choir and chamber singers to OCU’s satellite campus in Morrow, Georgia. The students are looking forward to performing for the branch’s first-ever graduation, and to taking part in jam sessions at some Atlanta churches. Bennett said she was impressed that the university solicited staff members’ input when designing the new performing arts building.

“We’ve had all kinds of meetings to talk about the acoustics,” she said. “I am so excited about this. We currently have just three practice rooms and they’re not soundproof, so when somebody’s playing, you can hear everything, and everything echoes  It’s going to be some sort of fabulous.”

Adjunct Professor of Piano Mary Jane Dean, who currently teaches 20 students, said she expects the new center will help expand the music department.

“I think it will be wonderful not only for the music majors, but for all the students. We’re going to be able to recruit some wonderful talent coming in,” Dean said.

College classes are currently being offered in woodwinds, string, piano, worship keyboard, trumpet, vocal, choral, and conducting. OCU music degrees include a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education with a concentration in either Instrumental or Vocal/Choral.

Mike Fracassa said that the community, as well as students, will benefit from the new center.

“The community has been very good to us at OCU, so we always want to find ways to give back,” Fracassa said. “This will be a building that we’re excited to be able to invite the community into.”

Fracassa said the university hopes to attract “Broadway-type plays” and to host community concerts in the outdoor amphitheater. The public will also be able to rent space in the facility for recitals and other performances.

Dr. Bennett is already planning big things for her students.

“I’m ready to do a musical theater opera-type program, and orchestra performances,” she said. “The variety of music here—that’s one of the unique things about being at OCU.”

For more information about the buy-a-seat fund, contact Craig Brown, special assistant to the president, at 740-474-8896.

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