Frequently Asked Questions about the Capital Campaign for the Quincy Jones Performance Center

FAQ coming soon. Some of your questions may be answered by the following detailed info about the technical systems.

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A more technical look at existing problems and solutions addressed by the long-term plan

The sound and lighting infrastructure of the Quincy Jones Performance Center is showing its flaws. Although the building opened in 2008, the equipment that was installed was specified in 2004 during the planning stages of the remodel. The open bid process resulted in a low bidder getting the contract to outfit the theatre with what were considered “good enough” systems 12 years ago.

The Quincy Jones Performance Center supports the world class performing arts programs at Garfield High School. It’s time for the theatre to fulfill its potential as a center of excellence to showcase those programs.

Today, the entire theatre has only three speakers, clustered together high above the center of the stage. Audience members sitting in the first 5-10 rows experience a “disconnect” when their brains see that sound is being produced in front of them (by a speaker, singer, or musician) but hear the sound coming from far above the performers’ heads. If you sit in the back of the theatre, or off to the sides, the sound is less clear in a way that can’t be avoided with existing systems. We know there is existing wiring behind the walls for speakers, which we hope will prove useful in placing additional speakers near the front of the stage, around the sides of the theatre, and up into the back. We are also looking at placing microphones for the pit orchestra, so that the sound from the musicians can become part of the overall mix.

The soundboard, although functional, is obsolete analog technology. Students learning on analog equipment are not acquiring skills with any real world applications; analog in a performance center is dead technology. There is currently no way for a sound technician to make adjustments from inside the house, where they would hear the sound as the audience hears it. The analog system effectively ties them to the equipment in the sound booth. (So, for example, the sound technician cannot properly assess the microphone feed from amplified instruments or from vocalists during a jazz band performance so that it mixes properly with the volume of sound coming from the unmiked instruments. Nor can they fine tune the wireless microphone input individually to make sure that two actors singing a duet in a musical are balanced so that one does not overpower the other.) In addition to improving learning and performance, a digital soundboard opens up the possibility of adding other digital equipment, like a multi-track digital recording system for use by the orchestras, jazz bands, concert bands, and choir singers. It also offers improved sound quality for video recording, easing the task of recording sound patched directly from the soundboard into the camera.

The wireless microphone system, used primarily by theatre students and choir students, was installed with inadequate cabling and inefficient placement of antennas. Attempts to add new hand held wireless microphones have been somewhat stymied by incompatibility with some aspects of the existing system. In addition, half of our wireless microphones operate on the 600 MHz radio frequency band that will soon be auctioned off by the FCC, causing users of wireless radio frequencies like us to have to move to a lower band to avoid interference from new users of the band (mobile broadband providers). If we can’t re-band the existing equipment, we’ll have no choice but to buy new.

The theatre runs on incandescent and halogen lighting. We currently have more than 100 light instruments that are used for different lighting tasks during a show. We spend $800-$1000 annually just replacing blown out light bulbs (called “lamps” in theatre-speak). The lights create high temperatures on stage and in the theatre as a whole, making performers and audiences uncomfortably warm as well as creating safety hazards in the form of potential fires and burns. In order to produce multi-colored light effects, expensive gel material has to be hand cut and installed on each lighting instrument, and each light can only be one color at a time. Color effects are mixed by using multiple instruments with different-colored gels. Gels eventually burn out and must be replaced.

Selective replacement of existing units with LEDs would give us better lighting possibilities than we have now, using fewer fixtures. Using LEDs to replace conventional lights for many tasks will lower the operating costs of the theatre, potentially saving the school $9,000 a year in electricity costs and requiring far fewer replacement lamps over time. Using less energy is better for our environment, and LEDs have the benefit of running much cooler than any other possible light source. LEDs can produce multiple colors in one lighting instrument, doing away with the need to combine several one-color gel lights to create mixed color. These lighting effects can be programmed from the light board rather than using physical labor to climb up and install a variety of instruments for each show. The cost of LEDs has come down far enough to make them a smart choice.

We think our students and teachers deserve better. Having the right technology as well as equipment that works without needing unsustainable patches and work-arounds will allow students and teachers to focus time on learning and improving knowledge and skills rather than troubleshooting problems. A more flexible, expandable system like the one we are proposing will allow for the rapid changes that occur in technology as well as the chance to try new ideas not possible with our current systems. After a professional assessment of the existing systems and getting some estimates for what it would take to equip the theatre properly, we have a plan that addresses the project in phases, outlined above. Donate now to support the Capital Campaign!

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