By Myrna Daniels
Great ideas often begin in modest ways. An idea is formed, based on opinions, meetings, need assessments, the audience it will serve, along with the usual what, where and when? Segerstrom Center for the Arts began in a modest way. The seed was planted and a few people gathered to bring the idea of a community theater into reality.
In 1954 the Orange County Philharmonic Society was formed. In 1964 the South Coast Repertory was founded and by the next year a theater was established in Newport Beach. The search for a suitable location for a bigger theater continued and by 1978 South Coast Repertory moved into its brand new $3.5 million Fourth Step Theater. The Segerstrom Family were major donors to the Building Fund and donated a 5-acre site for expansion of the Center.
During the early 1980’s support groups were formed and fundraising continued. The Orange County Music Center is changed to The Orange County Performing Arts Center. From 1987 to 1990 some of the jazz performers featured include: Bob James & Free Flight, Wynton Marsalis, David Benoit and Keiko Matsui, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme & George Shearing, Joe Williams & Nancy Wilson, Modern Jazz Quartet & Kronos Quartet, Jack DeJohnette, Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland & Pat Metheny. Almost every important jazz musician and singer appeared at the Center over the decades.
This month SF JAZZ and Jazz 100 performs on October 7; Kamasi Washington appears on October 8; and on October 9 Wynton Marsalis Jazz at Lincoln Center & Jamison Ross will bring the house down in fine style. All will perform in the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.
Today the Center is a campus of multi- use venues: Segerstrom Hall, Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Samueli Theater, Judy Morr Theater, the Lawrence and Kristina Dodge Education Center and the Arts Plaza with space for 500-2,000 attendees. It can be configured with seating, tents, exhibits, dining, concerts and performances. Segerstrom also serves as the home for South Coast Repertory, Pacific Symphony, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and the Pacific Chorale. It will also serve as the future home of the Orange County Museum of Art. President Terrence W. Dwyer brings a wealth of experience to his duties.
The Center presents an International Dance Series, Broadway Series, Curtain Call Series, Cabaret Series, Spotlight Series-Johnny Mathis -The 60th Anniversary Tour Christmas Concert on December 4, 2016, Chamber Music Series., Family Series, Special Events and Movie Mondays. Wow! It makes me want to live in Orange County!
Any organization that can program Lily Tomlin-October 22, Tony Bennett-October 23, Goodnight Moon at the Samueli Theater October 30 &on November 5th, Dia de los Muertos: Perla Baralia, Quetzal, Pacifico Dance Company and La Santa Cecelia-at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall-November 2, and Kris Kristofferson-November 5th has a close eye and ear on the kind of entertainment that people want.
The coming years will bring so many great performers to Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Renee and Henry Segerstrom must be applauded for their generosity and foresight in helping to establish a magnificent location for the arts. For more information see www.SCFTA.org .
On Thursday, September 22, 2016, PBS SOCal (koce-tv) presented a biography of Henry T. Segerstrom: Imagining The Future. It was fascinating to find out how far ahead Segerstrom was planning his life and his community. The Segerstroms were a farming family who grew lima beans on their land. With grit and determination they came to develop the South Coast Plaza, one of the premiere shopping centers in the world.
The program focused on the building of the Segerstrom Center. It took years and thousands of workers and craftsmen to finish the whole area. Another brilliant pairing for Segerstrom was his desire to have a sculpture designed by Richard Serra, who is known for his gigantic metal sculptures. Serra came up with a design that Segerstrom favored; a huge grouping of iron pieces that together looked a little like rust colored leaves standing together. Segerstrom went to Europe to meet with Serra and he watched as the pieces were forged by the iron workers. Then they were hoisted on a ship and sent on their way to Orange County, California.
A great, coordinated effort was needed to place the pieces on the plaza. The cement below had to be reinforced with steel bars in order to hold the weight of the metal. It had to be a massive piece to complement and highlight the magnificent concert halls around it. By the way, a Serra installation can be seen at the Los Angeles County Museum. It is huge and nearly fills the gallery space where it’s displayed. Visitors can walk around it and inside it to feel the strength and singularity of the piece. One can feel its perfect presence.