Editorial: Great addition to Oak Harbor

The new Oak Harbor High School auditorium made its debut earlier this month, and the nature of the concert shows that it will indeed bring the island together, both musically and personally.

The debut performance in the 500-seat facility was by The Saratoga Chamber Orchestra of South Whidbey, presenting “The Many Moods of Christmas.” Almost all the seats were filled by either those eager to hear the visiting musicians, or those who just wanted to experience the facility. There was excitement throughout the island to see Oak Harbor’s new auditorium.

Last weekend’s Navy Band holiday concert packed in even more, as hundreds of others enjoyed the new venue.

Until now, an entire orchestra could play in Oak Harbor only with difficulty, for lack of a proper venue. Any popular group of singers, musicians or thespians would look elsewhere, such as the Coupeville High School Performing Arts Center or the South Whidbey High School auditorium, both of which are comfortable facilities with good acoustics. It was sad that Oak Harbor was left out, and sadder still that young musicians in Oak Harbor didn’t have a proper place to display their talents to their parents, friends and the community at large. Parker Hall, consisting of an inadequate stage in front of folding chairs, providing an uncomfortable experience for all involved.

When Oak Harbor School District voters approved a three-year, $74 million remodel, there was no big pitch for an auditorium. Voters had previously rejected a stand-alone performing arts center, and the feeling was that voters would not support a fancy auditorium as part of the remodel.

Planners carefully avoided the “too fancy” label. The seating is excellent and provides a great view of the stage, but it’s moveable. When not in use, the seats can be pushed back to make a large open space in the Student Union Building. The acoustics are considered very good, but there is no sign of expensive design just for the sake of acoustics. Overall, planners did an excellent job of giving Oak Harbor a suitable musical venue without going overboard.

Thanks to the new auditorium, Oak Harbor can share exciting musical experiences with the rest of the island, hear the best of young musicians and see what our local music and theater teachers are producing. It’s something everyone in the Oak Harbor School District can take pride in, and a job well done by the school board and administration.

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