FREMONT – The auditorium at Fremont High School has finally been brought to the modern era.
It’s been approximately 50 years since the high school’s auditorium has seen an extensive renovation. But thanks to the FHS Encore Campaign, efforts to update the sound, lighting rigging, and curtain systems in the Nell McPherson Theatre have almost reached completion. Vocal Music Instructor at the high school Mark Harman says the improvements were needed, especially for the sound system.
“What we had before were really just two large speakers. Those speakers had subs and tweeters so it would cover both the high and low ends, but they were in front of the room and pointed toward the middle,” said Harman. “So everything on the outside kind of got lost. Everything off the main floor was kind of lost. It was difficult to decipher what was happening.”
Co-chair of the Encore Campaign David Mitchell says a lot of students go through the music and drama departments at Fremont. He adds he and many others could see the talents of the students were being hampered by the old and outdated equipment.
“All of us who saw the potential of the kids being somewhat hindered by the antiquated nature of the equipment got together and said let’s start with the sound and see where can go from there,” said Mitchell. “Once we got the buy-in from the sound, we started thinking more about bringing this to as high of a level as we can.”
After receiving so much support from the Fremont community the Encore Campaign began looking to update the lighting rigging, the bathrooms, and even the outside area. Director of Facilities for Fremont Public Schools Russ Koch says the finished project will make coming to the auditorium a new experience for everyone.
“We started with the sound system, so we have that completed. We just finished up with the rigging and lighting inside the auditorium,” said Koch. “Now we’re giving the outside a facelift. We really just want to make our facility something excited to come to. Something to see, and make it an event just like when you go to a movie theater.”
Kasey Johannssen is a senior involved in the drama department at Fremont High School. He says the renovation to the sound system is a noticeable improvement.
“With the new sound it’s a lot better because you don’t feel like you have to shout into the microphone,” said Johannssen. “You can just talk in a normal voice and the audience can hear you.”
Senior vocal student Bailey Wewel says the new renovations mean a lot to the students involved in fine arts.
“For the school and the school board to put all this money and effort into it really helped to show that we are important and we do matter,” said Wewel. “I think it really motivated us to be better performers. And to realize just how much effort people are putting into us.”
Many local organizations and businesses came together to help raise the money for this project, which was first estimated to be just over $600,000. High school principal Scott Jensen says the positive response really shows how the Fremont community can come together and support students and each other.
“I think it’s a great example of how groups can come together and make things happen,” said Jensen. “I think it’s great for kids and great for students. The Fremont Area Community Foundation was a strong backer along with a group of parents, the schools, businesses, and organizations. They all came together to make something special happen for students. So I think it’s a really great opportunity for our kids.”
While the project is approximately 90% finished, Bart Qualsett from the Encore Campaign says they are still in need of some donations to reach their final goal.
“There’s still a few more dollars that we need to raise. We’re about $40,000 away from our goal,” said Qualsett. “The original project was about $610,000, so we’re right there. The community support has been fantastic. The lead gift by First State Bank was really crucial to kick start the project. We wouldn’t be here without that.”
First State Bank gave a large donation of $100,000 to the project. Their Vice-President of Marketing Cindy Slykhuis states their belief at the bank is that they are only as good as the community they are in and the community they serve. She adds it means a lot to them to be able to support projects like this.
“We have been very fortunate to be able to walk alongside the people of Fremont and have some success. So it’s really a joy for us to be able to reinvest in the community and our youth,” said Slykhuis. “We know that this project is about more than just the youth. It impacts everyone from tiny kids all the way up to 80 and 90-year-olds.”
Again the Encore Campaign is still looking to raise approximately $40,000 more for the project. Anyone looking for more information or to donate can call (402) 721-4252 or (402) 721-6169.