A Performance Hall for Kalispell

With new fundraising campaign, FVCC teams up with Glacier Symphony to pursue a major performance space for the valley

By Molly Priddy
Glacier Symphony and Chorale music director John Zoltek, left, and Flathead Valley Community College President Jane Karas, pictured at the Rebecca Chaney Broussard Center for Nursing and Health Science on Feb. 9, 2018. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

For years, the conversation around a large music venue in the Flathead has been less about whether the valley needs it, but rather about how it could be possible.

A performance hall equipped with plenty of seats and good acoustics, built for the purpose of hosting the most nuanced of musical acts, has been on the want list for many in the valley.

And now, with the announcement of its new capital-improvement campaign, Flathead Valley Community College has teamed up with Glacier Symphony to design and fundraise for a new performance and lecture hall on campus.

“Having a performance and lecture hall would provide so many opportunities,” said FVCC president Jane Karas. “We need space for more on-campus activities.”

The ONE Campaign, announced earlier this year, has two phases. First, the college wants to build a $3 million library and learning commons connected to the existing Broussard Center building.

For phase two, FVCC hopes to build the $15 million, 50,000-square-foot College Center, with a performance and lecture hall, including a multi-purpose activity complex for sports. The building would also include space for a secured art gallery, as well as an outdoor amphitheater.

John Zoltek, music director and conductor at Glacier Symphony, said the college approached his organization about finding a more permanent home for the symphony.

“This is a proposed partnership that FVCC came to us about a number of months ago; they wanted to know if we were interested in partnering with them in terms of helping their fundraising initiative,” Zoltek said. “For many years, the symphony has had this on our wish list to accomplish at some point, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity for us.”

In teaming up with the symphony, FVCC plans to make the concert hall a symphony hall, not a general performing arts center, Zoltek said. That means it would be built with the best acoustics in mind, even in terms of how and where to install theatrical equipment.

“It’ll be multiple use, but the primary design is going to be focused on acoustics for a symphony,” he said.

Both Karas and Zoltek noted that symphonic acoustics are a high standard, which would allow any musicians performing there to take advantage of the hall’s design.

The ONE Campaign is just beginning, and Karas said she expects to continue fundraising through 2018 and break ground on the College Center in 2019, with an expected opening date in fall of 2020.

So far, the college has raised $2.6 million of the $15 million needed, Karas said.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity and a great economic driver,” Karas said.

Karas said the college heard students’ calls for an activity center, and the proposed project would be two stories and include space for two full-sized basketball courts and an upstairs track.

With about 500 students involved in intramural sports, the college doesn’t have its own gym area for them to play, Karas said, so the athletes have to play sports in elementary school gyms across the valley at night.

It would also be available to the public for a fee, which would help pay for the College Center’s maintenance, Karas said.

Naming rights for the buildings are still up for grabs: a $4 million donation gets your name on the College Center; $2.5 million gets your name on the performance and lecture hall; $2 million gets your name on the activity complex; and $1 million gets your name on the lobby and art gallery.

Zoltek said the Glacier Symphony similarly lacks a permanent place to rehearse and perform. With both FVCC and Glacier Symphony working together to raise the money for the building, Zoltek and Karas believe they can make the dream of a concert hall a reality in the Flathead.

“The big element here is funding. We can only build what we can afford to build,” Zoltek said. “We’re going to start out with a pretty high-level concept and hopefully we can get funding for that, but if funding falls short we’re going to have to compromise somewhere.”

Karas said the college saw the concert hall as a chance to build a space for the college and the symphony, but also to keep providing services to the valley as a whole.

“It seemed like another great way to build community,” Karas said.

For more information on the ONE Campaign, visit www.fvcc.edu/one or call (406) 756-4388.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.