By Jodi Marze, Lifestyles Editor
The Picayune Item
POPLARVILLE — The inaugural event at the $10.4 million Ethel Holden Brownstone Center for the Arts at Pearl River Community College was truly grand.
The thought and care that went into each phase, from construction to choosing the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Crafton Beck, to perform for the grand opening was flawless and superb.
Acoustics and comfort elevated the experience for the performers as well as those in attendance as selections from Irving Berlin, Les Miserables, the Theme from Harry Potter and a Beatles compilation were performed as just some of the selections.
Beck told the audience, “We are appreciative to have been invited to perform here. You no doubt notice the smiles on our faces as we perform. This is because of the Acoustics in the room we are able to hear ourselves in ways that we have not been able to in months.
“This room is very special,” Beck said. “This room is as fine as any in the state. It ranks with the Ford Center and Bologna Center. We normally do 30 concerts in Jackson and only 12 performances throughout the state. But we would love to come back and play here as much as possible.
“This room is the type of room that will change this community and who we are over the longest term.”
“The opening of the Brownstone Center for the Arts marks a tremendous milestone in the cultural evolution of Pearl River Community College, Poplarville and all of Pearl River County,” said Vice President for Economic and Community Development Scott Alsobrooks, Ph.D. “The Mississippi Symphony Orchestra was sensational and the acoustics within the Center were phenomenal. The Brownstone Center certainly exceeded expectations for this highly anticipated grand opening.”
“I was amazed at the ‘wow factor.’ What an asset PRCC is to Poplarville and Pearl River County as a whole. This will be a draw for many to our area and opportunity for so many more,” said State Sen. Tony Smith.
Picayune business person Beth Lenoir attended with her 9th-grade honors student Charles Lenoir who attends Pope John Paul II Catholic School.
“It is so amazing to have a world class facility such as this in our own backyard,” she said. “I have spoken to many others here in attendance and we are just in awe of the caliber of talent and luxury of the venue in Pearl River County. I am excited to be able to bring my son to a place such as this locally. I look forward to returning to other productions that are scheduled.”
A portrait of Ethel Holden Brownstone and her husband, Lucien, hangs in the lobby of the center. A portrait of Martin T. and Dolores Smith, for whom the auditorium is named, also hangs in the lobby. Both couples played pivotal roles in the manifestation of the center, said Dr. William Lewis, PRCC president.
“Mrs. Smith was a member of the college business faculty for 42 years,” said Lewis. “Mr. Smith was a long-time member of the state Senate, served as the first administrator of the Mississippi Supreme Court and has served for many years as the attorney for the PRCC Board of Trustees.”
Martin Smith represented the college during a challenge to Mrs. Brownstone’s will. Lewis said without Smith’s legal efforts, the facility might never have been constructed.
The schedule for the 2013-14 school year includes a lecture by well-known physicist Dr. Michio Kaku on Oct. 17, Christmas at the River by PRCC instrumental and vocal groups, Dec. 5; The Spirit of Harriet Tubman one-woman show, Feb. 25; The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra featuring New York Voices, March 28; PRCC Symphonic Band spring concert, March 31; Guys and Dolls, the PRCC spring musical, April 10-11; PRCC Jazz Cats and The Voices spring concert, April 24, and PRCC Singers spring concert, April 29. Ticket information can be found at www.brownstonecenter.com.