Lauren Murray, DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts), couldn’t keep the smile off her face, which was obvious by the twinkle in her eyes as she showed off the new Pasco Hernando State College (PHSC) Instructional Performing Arts Center (IPAC) to the media.

Standing in the middle of the state-of-the-art, 444-seat theater that is the centerpiece of the 35,000-sq.-ft. project, the new executive director of the IPAC called it her dream job to help turn the IPAC, which is located in front of Cypress Creek High on Old Pasco Rd., into one of Wesley Chapel’s true jewels.

“It’s a beautiful addition to the community,” Dr. Murray says.

Murray (photo), who PHSC lured away from her position as the music chair at the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, says she has two objectives — to provide a space for the community, local schools and art and performance organizations that need space to perform and have a hunger to learn, as well as to provide programs for PHSC students who are practical and viable.

No expense was spared on creating the IPAC to achieve those goals. Because the 5.85 acres to build on was donated by Pasco County Schools (PCS), PHSC provost Dr. Kevin O’Farrell said his school was able to “pour more money into what’s happening there instead of acquiring land and preparing it for building.”

The theater will have the benefit of an orchestra pit, which allows for the best acoustics. It also features a high-tech counterweight rigging system — also known as a fly system — which should make anyone playing Peter Pan or any other high-flying character happy as the IPAC serves high school and college students from all over the county. 

Murray says she hopes to lure touring companies to the IPAC to put on quality shows. At the groundbreaking in 2019, Pasco County deputy superintendent of schools Ray Gadd raved that it would be a “full-blown, professional theater.”

From the spacious lobby to the new classrooms for dance, music, drama and multimedia, the IPAC, a joint $18-million venture between PCS and PHSC, is brightened by large windows everywhere. 

Covid delayed the opening, which was originally scheduled for fall 2020. Like many construction projects, the IPAC dealt with supply issues. The rigging system came from New York, the seats from Michigan and much of the sound equipment from California — three of the hardest-hit states during the pandemic.

However, PHSC will offer limited online classes this summer and, in the fall, will hopefully welcome students back to a full complement of classes.

PHSC will offer two programs at the IPAC. The first will be an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree, within which there will be four pathways — two in music (instrumental and vocal), one in dance and another in theater.

Second will be an Associate of Science (A.S.) degree, which will focus on multimedia and digital technology and include things like web and graphic design, as well as video editing and production. It includes one lab featuring Apple computers, and another with PCs.

O’Farrell calls the new IPAC a missing link, or missing piece, for area students with an interest in fine arts. 

“A lot of people will graduate high school and have to go away because there’s nothing here locally for them,” he says. “This will allow them to continue here locally and earn that A.A. degree in a fantastic, state-of-the-art facility.” 

PHSC also has found the perfect person to lead the IPAC into its future, O’Farrell says. Murray is an accomplished oboist who has performed at New York City’s renowned Carnegie Hall. She holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Stetson University in DeLand, FL, a Master of Music degree from Yale University in New Haven, CT, , and her DMA from the University of North Texas in Denton. She also has taught at a number of universities, including at USF.

This, however, may be her most exciting challenge yet.

“The opportunity to come into a brand new building that someone has built and create programming from the ground up is completely unheard of,” she says. “Friends of mine who I called and told about this were like, ‘What? You’re in a brand new place that they just built?’ No one could say no to this. It’s dream job, it really is.”

Recommended Posts

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment