David Michael Wolff opens Community Arts Center in Village
October 1, 2011
As a relative newcomer to the Sandhills, I learned fast that rumors, true and false, spread like the wind, so you’ll likely have already heard the news: On Monday, Oct. 10th, Pinehurst Performing Arts Center (PPAC) will open its new Box Office in the Village, 5 Market Square. The space will double as a Community Arts Center and house both a Performing Arts Library and the Paul and Jean Higgins Multimedia Center. Come in to watch Performing Arts DVD's or listen to CD's, read books on our plush, leather couches, join us for regular free events like Monday at the MET (with MET streaming on a large flat-screen in the meeting room) and much, much more! And free java... We're two doors down from Dugan's. So far we've managed to furnish the place quite opulently for under $1,000 (!) largely thanks to furniture donated by the Resort to Habitat for Humanity. This is a work in progress and we're seeking more volunteers to extend our planned hours of operation. To get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org. At a minimum, we'll be open from 10am-2pm, Monday-Saturday. All are welcome. The Village needs public places like this to gather, fellowship and learn, and I hope 5 Market will help meet that need while stimulating further interest in the Arts. This is your community space.
I discovered the Sandhills about three years ago when guest-conducting the Fayetteville Symphony in a production of Porgy and Bess. Immediately I saw the potential to transform the region into an international arts destination, not unlike Aspen, Colorado. I moved to Aberdeen a year later from Manhattan with my family to spearhead the development of Pinehurst Performing Arts Center and Conservatory International, a new paradigm for music education. I had founded Carolina Philharmonic before moving (initially called West Side Chamber Orchestra) with the goal of jump-starting the initiative through concerts.
At first I was a one-man operation, doing everything from contracting musicians to renting halls to making the programs, passing them out, and then performing as well, either in chamber music concerts or in Chamber Orchestra formation. At one of our first concerts in Moore County (Weymouth Center), I had an orchestra of 20 of some of the top musicians from all over the region, a marvelous program of Haydn and Tchaikovsky... three people showed up in the audience, two of whom who had been comped by our Principal Oboist, and a critic from Raleigh, who subsequently wrote an enthusiastic but comical review (find this and many other reviews at www.carolinaphil.org/Press.html).
I personally underwrote all costs involved and often ended up paying dearly for losses at the box office. Perhaps I should have given up early on, but I didn't because I believed in the vision. Gradually volunteers began helping out, first just one and then two, but then they kept coming, to the point where we now see at least one new volunteer every week. In fact, we have over 100 active volunteers in the Sandhills and Fayetteville, where we also have a concert season and a branch of Conservatory International. All of our incredible operational staff is completely volunteer-based. It's been amazing and I'm grateful to the community for embracing CP as its own local orchestra.
I won't continue with a drawn-out history of our growth, but will point out that everything that Carolina Philharmonic, Conservatory International and Pinehurst Performing Arts Center do is for the benefit of the community, and particularly for the benefit of Arts Education in Moore County. Carolina Philharmonic gifted over $10,000 in 2010/11 to Educational Outreach, for example, by funding the ground-breaking Ode to Joy concert, with kids from across Moore County performing side-by-side with members of the Philharmonic. And the Philharmonic is poised to do even more for Education this school-year. Just last week at our Educational Benefit Gala at the Fair Barn, we raised more than $10,000 for Education. We also awarded a student scholarship to an exceptional young violinist (Taylor Flanagan), an educational achievement award to an outstanding local music educator (Susan Grzesnikowski), as well as a $3,000 matching grant in partnership with Conservatory International to Kids+Music (the grant has now already been more than matched!). This is an incredibly innovative local program that brings music education into local schools and I hope to help get it going all across Moore County. Visit their website (itp-kidsplusmusic.org/home) to see why we're so excited and honored to be associated with their efforts.
The Conservatory drives our Educational outreach. Not only does it harness the resources of extraordinary teachers throughout the region, but 100% of proceeds from Conservatory International are put right back into scholarships, financial aid and development, as well as into our grant fund for outside music education organizations like Kids+Music. I donate my time as well as personal funds to the Conservatory’s development and to its outside gifting.
I’m still new in town and am gradually getting to know the many marvelous non-profit organizations in the area. If I've failed to sufficiently reach out to any existing organization, I apologize. I'm always eager to form new relationships and develop new win-win opportunities. As anyone who knows me even a little will attest to, I'm very receptive to criticism and advice from all sectors. That also applies to our concert programming, bringing you a full season of Orchestra Pops concerts, The Kingston Trio, and next week (Oct. 9, 7pm at Robert E. Lee Auditorium), The Four Freshmen. (Purchase online at shop.carolinaphil.org, through the CP Box Office line, 910-687-4746, or at any of our Local Distributors : The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, Given Bookshop at Olmsted Village, Heavenly Pines Fine Jewelry, 45 Dowd Circle, or Robert’s Golf in Aberdeen.) All of these concerts resulted from audiences members telling me what the Sandhills wants to hear, and our 1,000-strong audiences at some of these events tells me that they’re on to something.
If you're curious to hear what I have to say about music, piano and zen, you'll find generous excerpts from my book, Zen and the Art of Piano, at www.davidmichaelwolff.com . If you'd like to hear about my collaboration with legendary dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, or of my trip to Shanghai last summer to perform at the World Expo with MET Diva, Angela Brown, and much more, visit my blog: carolinaphil.org/Maestro_sBlog.html.
Some of you know that until last month I served as Music Director at Sacred Heart, which was a privilege and a constant blessing. I was so glad to be able to honor Father Pitts at the Gala for all he did during his tenure there for the Philharmonic and the Conservatory. He moved on at the end of his 12-yr term three months ago to a new post in Edenton, NC. I believe I speak for many when I say that he is dearly missed.
Finally, I keep hearing that I'm leaving town -- we're here to stay. We've made the Sandhills our home and LOVE it, both the place and the people. After renting for our first year in Aberdeen, this March we bought our dream house in Pinehurst, and our daughter's now in Kindergarten. I look forward to seeing her graduate from High School in the Sandhills, but not too soon! We're determined to continue transforming the Sandhills step by step into an international arts destination that will enhance the extraordinary amenities that made us all want to move here in the first place.
Very briefly in closing, as many may know, the Pinehurst Village Council is in active discussions with the Advisory Board of the Pinehurst Performing Arts Center (which is a who’s who of about a dozen of the most respected community leaders in the Sandhills) about the gifting or leasing of the Old Fire House to PPAC. This would serve numerous purposes, among them: 1) the Old Fire House is in real need of a tenant. It’s long been sitting empty, deteriorating; 2) PPAC, a NC non-profit, is a rapidly growing community organization in need of greater operating space; 3) in order for PPAC to gain further legitimacy, the Village must be a strong, proactive, driving force. Major potential outside private and corporate donors and investors will need to be assured that PPAC is something that the Pinehurst Village Council is behind, 100%. Practical, logistical support on the part of the Village is the only way that the edifice of PPAC will come into existence. And don’t get me wrong: as with any project of this magnitude, it will take time for the Center to rise, but we’ve got to continue to strengthen the foundation now. Again, I’m in this for the long-haul.
Do you believe that Moore County is long over-do for its own Performing Arts Center, as do all of us on the PPAC Advisory Board? We have an opportunity as a community to seize the momentum and together find a way to realize a shared vision. PPAC is not about any one individual or a group of individuals – it’s about our community and how we can enhance the present and future of the Sandhills while continuing to enjoy the splendors of our local heritage.
I hope you will consider sharing our vision.
David Michael Wolff