The latest performing arts center in the Berkshires is located at a high school near you.
Drury High School this year is offering a new "Performing Arts Management" course for students, putting them in charge of producing student and professional shows in the school's auditorium, which seats approximately 620 people.
On Friday, the students will stage their first Drury Performing Arts Center (DPAC) show, Danny Klein's Full House. The group features Danny Klein of the J. Geils Band, popular in the 1970s and ‘80s. Klein performs in a six-piece group along with Jim Taft, a percussionist and a Drury Class of 1984 alumnus.
Drury media arts teacher Jamie Choquette supervises the students, who work in teams, as they coordinate every aspect of a performance, from booking, to technical specifications; from ticket costs, printing and sales; promotion and stage setup, security and cleanup, and everything else in between.
"No one ever thought high school students could put something together like this, and now, we're doing it," said senior Sharon Jimenez.
Choquette said the program is inspired by the arts management program offered at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
Five years ago, when he came on board as the school's music teacher, he began integrating sound recording technology.
Through school administration support and the support of colleagues, as well as grant funding and student interest, Drury now has a well-organized performing arts studio wing at the school, where students can practice sound engineering, television studio production and broadcast, graphic design and more. Students now regularly record and edit and broadcast school-based performances.
"Last year, we noticed the kids were getting really good with that so we wanted to give them an opportunity to transfer their skills into a real-world setting," Choquette said.
He added that students have been able to form partnerships in the community, with area graphic designers and places like the Porches Inn, which is helping to lodge traveling musicians.
Students say their biggest challenge is learning about how to effectively get the word out, whether it be about this month's Danny Klein's Full House show, or the high school winter rock concert to be presented on Dec. 19.
"Each concert is going to apply to different people," said sophomore Jacob Keplinger.
In March, for example, they'll present a progressive folk group, Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem.
Junior Amber Girard, who works on booking, said she's learned how to search for groups within their budget and how not to get discouraged when a band doesn't call back.
"This class is bringing the business world to the school," said junior Ryan Forrest, who has been learning how to run a box office.
For seniors like Rachel Capek and Alyssa Marceau, who are interested in visual arts design and communications fields respectively, the arts management course gives them practical, college preparatory experience.
"When I found out I could take this class, I signed up immediately, because I knew I wanted to go into communications," said Marceau. "There aren't really any other classes that offer the kind of experience I want."
"I've done logos and poster designs here. So next year when I got to MCLA, I'll have some experience under my belt," Capek said.
For other students, like sophomore Nicole Hebel, who is the DPAC house manager, the experience has taught her what she does and does not want to do for a career.
"I've learned I never want to do house management. It's a lot of keeping people on task. I'll stick to forensics," she said.