Opportunities Open in the Arts
“We have made tremendous progress,” says Advancement Director George Noble. “Next on the horizon are music and theatre.” Here again, Trustees Bob and Anne Bass have stepped up to encourage others with their Bass Family Challenge to Benefit the Arts, a $5 million effort which matches half of any contribution made toward the School’s arts initiatives. Now nearing completion, the challenge is bringing the School closer to providing arts facilities that are worthy of the creativity and talent at Middlesex.
One part of the plan that is already underway is the Music and Campus Center, an ingenious idea that came about when the School converted its centralized heating plant from oil to natural gas, making the sizeable boiler room obsolete. That single, sustainability-driven change in 2012 has had cascading benefits. Not only has it reduced Middlesex’s carbon footprint by more than 20 percent and lowered its overall fuel costs, but it has also led to the envisioning of a wonderful home for music – a first for the campus.
A lead gift from an alumna, and several subsequent donations, allowed the transformation to commence last winter. Once the little-used Paine Barn had been converted into the new headquarters for Facilities and Operations, preparations could begin in earnest for the repurposing of the old steam plant. In keeping with the School’s ongoing sustainability directives, geothermal wells were installed this past summer to provide the heating and cooling system for the building. With continued work and a bit more fundraising over the next year, the Music and Campus Center will eventually include practice rooms and a piano studio, seminar and ensemble spaces, music and academic classrooms, and a 150-seat performance hall – with the latter fashioned from the empty boiler room.
Drawn to the concept of the center’s dual purpose, Beau and Jennifer Coash – parents of Cassie '11 and Drew '14 – are funding a practice room and an academic classroom. “Cassie never sang before she came to Middlesex,” Jennifer remembers, “but Dr. Wetzel made her into a singer, and she got a lot of joy out of that while at Middlesex, and she continued singing throughout college. The academic classroom applies to Drew and all the other kids who might not do something musical. At Middlesex, students who aren’t particularly musicians support those who are, so it’s nice that the building is not solely a space for music.”
Moreover, Beau adds, “It’s such a neat space; students who are in the building for classes might get inspiration from seeing another student who is performing. At Middlesex, it’s OK to be who you are – students can inspire each other in their own way, whether in arts, athletics, leadership, or academics.”
Spotlight on Theatre
Donors have been similarly appreciative of Middlesex’s programs in the visual arts and theatre. “The extended Middlesex community has really responded to the needs of the School in a way that has been so encouraging,” Director of Development Heather Parker notes. “Support from alumni, parents, and past parents has been nothing short of humbling.” Through naming opportunities or outright gifts, she says, they have provided much of the amount that will be necessary to relocate the visual arts to the former science wing of Eliot Hall. Impressive headway has also been made in fundraising for the extensive renovation of the Wood Theatre. The Bass Family Challenge was instrumental in helping to secure the $3 million naming rights for the theatre’s new main stage and has augmented other gifts from alumni and families. As Middlesex past parent Tom Kreitler says of the Bass Challenge, “It’s a wonderful way to give, knowing that it’s going to be an increased gift.”
Although only his eldest son, Charlie '08, performed in Middlesex main stage productions (perhaps most memorably as Jean Valjean in the School’s production of Les Miserables) Tom’s younger children – George '10, Isabel '13, and Will '13 – were all introduced to acting by Performing Arts Department Head Tom Kane during the beginning-level course called Elements of Style in Theatre. “We love the faculty at Middlesex,” Tom Kreitler affirms, “but Tom Kane is a particular favorite of ours.” Given that fond connection and the shared enjoyment of performing skits as underclassmen, the Kreitlers decided that underwriting the theatre’s new greenroom was the most appropriate way to give to Mx2.
A dozen other contributions are currently earmarked for features such as the theatre’s expanded seating, which will allow the entire student body and the faculty to fit comfortably as an audience for performances, guest speakers, and all-school assemblies. A black box theatre, dressing rooms, and classrooms – both for studying theatre and for learning the practice of mindfulness – are among other elements within the building that may still be named with specific donations and matched with remaining Bass Family Challenge funds.
Campaign Checklist: Remaining Needs
From the creation of the Mary Mae Village, the conversion of the Paine Barn, the renovation of RW, LB, and Clay, and the initial construction stages of both Landry House and the Music and Campus Center, it is evident that much has been accomplished thus far through Mx2: The Campaign for Middlesex. With one major pillar of the campaign – residential life – now completely financed, attention will focus on the remaining priorities: the arts, financial aid, and faculty compensation.
In this final year of Mx2, the School will seek to raise another $10 million to realize fully its comprehensive plans for music, visual arts, and theatre. Another $7 million will be sought for financial aid and $5 million for faculty compensation, areas that benefited early in the campaign from two different Atkins Challenges and that still require additional endowment in order for Middlesex to continue to attract and support dynamic, talented students and faculty.
The numbers may seem ambitious, but those who have become part of the School, whether through their own experience or that of their children, know the lasting value of a challenging academic environment. In small classes led by exceptional teachers and filled with equally engaged peers, lifelong lessons and friendships are deeply established. “The sense of place and community is really important at Middlesex,” says Jennifer Coash, “and giving to the campaign is one way to show our gratitude for being part of this community.”