Fine arts deserve better facilities


Tad Bast

Band students practice in cramped hallway outside the girls bathroom.

Old technology, overcrowding, security concerns. The Oakville performing arts department is in desperate need of new facilities.

All of the the OHS performing arts — choir, band, and theatre — are shoved into a small section behind gym A. The doors to the choir room no longer lock, a severe safety hazard in the event of an intruder. The band room is built to hold 40 people, even though the band is now comprised of more than 100 students. Band and choir members have to practice in hallways and stairwells because they have nowhere else to go. The stage light structure in the drama center has not been replaced since the room was built in the 1980s, and play options are heavily limited by the small size of the stage.

These below average facilities still produce above average talent. This year, the choir is sending six of its members to perform in the All-State Choir. The choir consistently wins many awards at their national competitions, earning 11 awards overall last year, including choral sweepstakes. The OHS band is sending two of its members to the All-State Band after its very successful season. OHS drama nearly went to state last year after their first competition in several years and consistently sends its members to university theatre departments across the state.

Despite the great talent in all of our performing arts, they are all housed in rooms that are too cramped and have fallen behind in terms of technology. The best option for the arts is then the Nottelmann Auditorium at Mehlville High School. The auditorium, built in 2013, contains excellent facilities, a large back-stage area, and current technology for technical effects. The struggle is reaching the auditorium and finding the time to do it. Events at the auditorium need to be booked months in advance, as the MHS theatre department books the auditorium for a month around their musicals and plays. On top of finding a time to perform, time must also be found to practice in the space, which requires students to leave the school during ANP to go to the auditorium. The theatre department faces additional challenges in transporting costumes and large set pieces and setting them up in a week.

With the Nottelmann Auditorium so difficult to use, it is about time that OHS got its own auditorium, and that is just what former superintendent Dr. Eric Knost said before he left our district. Dr. Knost worked with the performing arts instructors of OHS to create plans for a new auditorium on the OHS campus. However, with Dr. Knost gone, and Dr. Chris Gaines now serving as superintendent. It is unclear as to when or even if construction will begin on the auditorium. The auditorium was proposed to be built in the gym A parking lot, although other spaces were discussed. The new auditorium will include not only a new stage for performances but new, larger classrooms for the band and choir classes.

The performing arts do their best with the facilities that they have, facilities that have not been updated or improved in years. We drag behind not only most of the public high schools in St.Louis, but the other high school in our district. With so many talented students at OHS, we deserve to have at least adequate facilities. It is time for a auditorium at OHS, not only for the performing arts but for the entire school.