on April 20, 2016 at 11:31 AM, updated April 20, 2016 at 11:52 AM
Northampton’s Academy of Music holds a cherished place in the community, particularly among those in the arts.
So as the storied theater prepares to celebrate its 125th anniversary with a gala tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m., we asked several leaders in the local arts community for their takes on what the Academy means to them.
Duane Robinson, who served as director of the theater from 1971-2006, obviously has deep affection for the venue. Without Robinson’s work to resurrect the stage, which had been condemned when he was hired, the building may not be celebrating its birthday this year.
“The thing that is so special is that every seat in that house is a perfect seat for whatever happening on stage,” Robinson said. “So when you see an act there, you are completely with the performer and vice versa. That makes for a very electric performance if you’ve got the right act up there.”
Likewise, Northampton Arts Council director Brian Foote said the building is “a beautiful, magical building which is the crown jewel of our regions arts scene.”
“It’s been a pleasure to be able to work there, produce shows there and to attend shows there,” he said. “I look forward to the next time I get to be at the Academy.”
Foote’s colleague, Steve Sanderson, who serves as event producer for the Arts Council, has a multifaceted view of the theater.
“As someone who has produced and performed there many times over the last 20 years, I can say that there is a familiarity about the space that translates from stage to audience and back from audience to performer, it’s unlike any other place I’ve worked,” he said. “You can feel the energy from every performance for the last 125 years every time you take the stage or a seat.”
That experience of special energy was echoed by Jim Olson, owner of Signature Sounds, which sometimes produces shows there that won’t fit at the label’s smaller Parlor Room.
“It’s been a pleasure for Signature Sounds to present concerts at the Academy. It’s such a beautiful theater that every performance feels like a special occasion,” he said. “It’s always fun to watch a touring performer walk into the building for the first time and be overwhelmed by the gorgeous setting. ”
Olsen added that he enjoys presenting Signature Sounds weekend-long events at the Academy like the label’s 20th anniversary celebration or its Back Porch Festival.
“The theater staff do a fantastic job in helping us with our shows,” he said.
John Sanders of Dan Smalls Productions has added some new life to the theater by booking shows there such as recent ones by Steven Wright and Yo La Tengo.
“I’ve been having a great time bringing shows to the Academy of Music over the last year. It feels really great to be able to work in a beautiful building that is woven into the fabric of daily life in Northampton and has been for 125 years,” he said. “The level of enthusiasm from the performers who I’ve brought to play there, the venue staff and the community at large is off the charts and I couldn’t be happier with how things are going.”
Linda McInerney, who heads up Deerfield’s Eggtooth Productions and who will serve as emcee of the gala tomorrow, is proud of the work the theater produces.
“The Academy serves as a home for local, national, and international artists to perform and has a robust family of resident companies,” she said. “The Academy now has a full dance card of musical performances ranging from classical, opera, rock and roll, folk, to children’s music and everything in between. Local charities now have a place to create events to celebrate and help fund their important work.”