Hall aboard

In November, octogenarian bluesman B.B. King was set to make a stop in OKC and play the hall. (Winter weather, however, caused the show to have to be canceled.)

Functioning as both the official school auditorium for NWCHS and as a state-ofthe-art performance hall, the renovations are done, and David Fitzgerald of DCF Concerts handles commercial booking. Sonic Corp. CEO and President Cliff Hudson and his wife, Leslie, both NWCHS alumni, donated $500,000 to the hall that now bears their name.

The school was built in 1955, and the aging auditorium was long overdue for an upgrade.

Cliff Hudson says his family donated the money for several reasons, not the least of which was that the arts community was asking for a medium-sized venue.

“I kept hearing that the city needed a venue that would hold 1,200 to 1,500 people,” Hudson says. “We had plenty of smaller theaters and a couple that could host large events, but this was a niche that needed to be filled.”

In addition to the family’s donation, some of the funding came from MAPS for Kids.

MAPS Program Manager David Todd says the total amount for the Northwest Classen renovations were just more than $14.5 million. He says the project was all

bid at the same time, and
he does not have an exact amount for renovations dedicated to the
auditorium because of crossover expenditures with other items as a part
of the overall project.

Hudson
worked formally and informally with MAPS for Kids for ten years and
says his experience helped him make the decision to donate the funds.

“It
wasn’t just that I got to see my old school, a place where I had many
good memories, be renovated,” he says. “We were able to help the arts
community and simultaneously elevate community engagement by providing
this venue.”

Hudson
is a 1973 graduate of Northwest Classen. Because of inclement weather
that year, commencement was held inside — rather than at Taft Stadium
across the street — so he walked across the stage at graduation to pick
up his diploma. He says he also performed on the old stage every year of
high school, including singing a spoof version of Johnny Cash’s “Boy
Named Sue,” for his senior assembly.

“I
dressed like Johnny Cash, too,” Hudson says, “but the song was really
directed at our principal, June Dawkins, a man with the first name
June.”

Other alumni
are helping out with the ongoing maintenance and operation of the new
performance hall. Lynne Hardin, president of Friends of Northwest
Classen High School Foundation, says the organization is raising money
in hopes of endowing the hall far into the future.

The
foundation is placing the names of donors on specific seats for
donations of $500 for one and $1,000 for two. There are a total of 1,400
seats in the hall, and donations can be made in the name of a
graduating class, an individual or as a memorial.

In
addition to the new seats, the renovations included a Yamaha sound
system, a top-of-the-line loudspeaker management system by Harman, JBL
speakers, a new monitoring system, microphones and a state-of-the-art
stage lighting and spotlighting system. Existing space was converted
into two green rooms, and the old dressing rooms were renovated,
including the addition of showers.

Hardin
says in addition to the ongoing upkeep, the foundation hopes to raise
funds to purchase a marquee, which will be visible from N. May Avenue,
as a way of informing the public of upcoming events.

Hudson would like to see fees collected for the rental of the auditorium go toward underwriting and maintaining the facility.

“The hope is that we will generate sufficient revenue for upkeep and programmatic support for the school,” he says.

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