Though the Flagler Auditorium is owned by the school board of Flagler County, Florida, and was built on a bond issue to ensure community access, its public school pedigree belies its grandiose level of achievement. The 1,000-seat arena represents an important milestone in the cultural life of the east central and northeast Florida regions, serving as the region's premier Performing Arts Center.
True, the students of the Flagler County school system take advantage of the multi-use facility, but when not in use by students, the auditorium becomes available for lovers of the performing arts. The Flagler Auditorium hosts 25-35 professional shows per year, offering everything from national Broadway tours to chamber music, family theatre, symphonies, celebrity entertainment, big bands and more.
A quick glance at the marquee reads as follows: Kiss Me Kate, Saturday Night Fever, The Fantasticks, Ain't Misbehavin', Fiddler On The Roof, Damn Yankees, and Brigadoon. Rock concerts also find a home here with such names as Gary Lewis and the Play-boys, The Diamonds, The Coasters, Lou Rawls, The Platters, and Rita Coolidge.
It is an ideal confluence of public responsibility and commercial realism as it provides the community with a beautiful, modern venue to see a level of entertainment they cannot otherwise get; it provides students with access to professional level productions and unprecedented learning opportunities; and it offers the productions themselves a state-of-the-art venue for stops on the way to and from South Florida.
In fact, Jack Neiberlein, the technical director, says that it was conceived for that very purpose. “Flagler's state-of-the-art technology and acoustical design has given us a way to service a community that otherwise wouldn't have access to this level of entertainment,” he notes. “The auditorium is ideally situated between Jacksonville and Orlando and fills the void around Daytona and St. Augustine for people who want to see programs they can't get outside of Atlanta or Miami.”
The Flagler Auditorium and Fine Arts Center encompasses more than 35,000 sq. ft. of space including the main auditorium and a small black box theatre. The smaller theatre is ideal for drama instruction as well as for performances in an intimate setting of approximately 125 people and sits between the main auditorium and the music complex.
Architecturally, the interior of the Flagler Auditorium was designed with acoustical quality clearly in mind. The slope of the hall, ceiling, and walls, which feature strategically placed acoustical panels, enhance a performer's projection, audience hearing, and the theatre-going experience.
Bruce Brady, who has been overseeing the auditorium's development for more than a decade, has done some acoustical tuning over the years. “Two years ago we modified the acoustics by adding panels on the sides and corners because we had some reverb issues to solve,” he allows. “Also, the balcony had a smooth plaster surface that caused a serious slapback problem. Once treated with the proper acoustic paneling, the acoustics improved dramatically.”
Beyond that, the original soundbooth was tiny, located way under the balcony, and glassed in, making it almost impossible to have a proper mix position. “The first thing we did,” notes Brady, “was take the windows out, then we knocked out the walls and moved them out by using angular walls. We had to move a couple of seats but we got a much better FOH position.”
Clearly, the entire undertaking represents an ambitious foray into the world of professional stage productions. Yet validating its attempts at hosting world-class events meant the managers had to go beyond a well designed, acoustically sound room and invest in the most advanced technology to deliver the sound and lighting.
The new lighting system features Strand Century console 2.4kW DMX dimmers with CD 80 Supervisor. The lighting console is an ETC Insight™ with Emphasis™ 500 3D. The rest of the lighting rig reflect what one would expect from a professional operation, with everything from High End System Studio Spots, Altman Far Cycs, and ETC Source Fours® to Martin Atomic Strobes, Rosco Delta 3000 foggers, and a Le Maitre Neutron Hazer.
The audio systems are even more numerous in order to handle the great variety of productions coming through the venue.
The main sound board is a Soundcraft MX3, 56-channel system. Perhaps most important in an auditorium that has devoted money and effort to acoustical treatment is the choice of speaker technology. The decision was made to invest in the JBL VERTEC™ Line Array speaker enclosures.
Flagler represents one of the first installations of the JBL VT4887 speaker enclosures from this range of speakers in a high school. Typically VERTECs are used in international-level music touring such as the Dave Matthews Band, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, The Billboard Latin Music Awards, and many others.
The speaker configurations at Flagler include 18 of the VT4887s arranged in a left/center/right configuration, along with six VERTEC subwoofers, arranged left/right and two JBL SR4733s for side fills.
“We've made the investment in VERTEC as a total package for Flagler because the sound is so good and the acceptance in the market is high,” says Neiberlein. “VERTEC allows us to meet the demands of these professional shows in terms of sound quality and rigging needs, better than any other system.”
The speakers are powered by numerous Crown CT Series amplifiers and controlled by the BSS Soundweb, the BSS Minidrive, and BSS EQs. Among a full range of some 50 microphones are two AKG 310 mikes. A Roland eight track digital recorder allows staff to record shows. Currently in the plans is a DVD recorder.
Beyond the technology, what has made the investment in Flagler successful has been the people. With perhaps 260 events total, including the 25 or so major productions, the close working relationship between the students and local professionals has been a big part of the success.
“We put our students on professional events alongside union professionals out of Daytona,” says Neiberlein. “They like working with them and we never have had any complaints about students being able to perform because they are well trained.”