Effort underway at Catonsville High to update auditorium

Effort at Catonsville High to upgrade auditorium

An effort underway to upgrade Catonsville High School's auditorium is part of a larger effort to improve visibility of the arts at the school.

"There has been a lot of grumbling since my kids have been attending the school about the acoustics and sound quality in the auditorium," said Sharon Runge, whose daughter is part of stage crew for theater performances at the school.

Runge established a group called Friends of the Catonsville Arts, with a goal of upgrading the school auditorium and improving visibility of performing and fine arts at the school on Bloomsbury Avenue.

Approximately 40 parents and students attended the group's first meeting on Jan. 14 to discuss how to get the word out about the arts at the school, Runge said.

"We have a lot of talented students and they deserve recognition and a full audience at their performances," said Almarie Wood, a parent who attended the meeting. "We would like to make the arts more visible in our community."

In order to improve the experience of watching and listening to the theatrical and musical performances at the school, the group says the auditorium needs to be upgraded.

Poor acoustics in the auditorium make it difficult to hear actors on stage during the school's annual plays, Runge said.

"It hasn't changed much since it was built in the 1950s," said Wood, whose son is in band at the school. "The acoustics are pretty poor and there are some dead zones."

Megan Lembach, past president of the school's Parent Teacher Student Association, said it is upsetting when students put hard work into their performances and the audience can't hear their words or singing because of where they are seated.

"We want the facility to support the talent of our students," Lembach said.

Jim Wharton, director of the school's steel band and retired chairman of the school's music department, said the poor sound in the auditorium was exacerbated by a renovation to the auditorium seven years ago.

The school closed off a balcony in the space to add two music classrooms, said Wharton, who taught at the school for 25 years before retiring a year ago.

"Putting a wall up on the balcony created a reflective sound wall," Wharton said. "By creating two new classrooms, we solved one problem while creating another."

Wharton said music directors and students have grown frustrated by the poor sound quality that declines each year.

"We're really putting kids at a disadvantage by putting them in this hall," Wharton said. "It's holding them back from what they could accomplish."

The group has launched a campaign to raise funds to improve acoustics and sound in the auditorium.

They received a $2,500 grant from the Catonsville Women's Giving Circle, a philanthropy group, and will use the funds for a feasibility study, Runge said.

"We're taking a multi-pronged approach to fundraising," Runge said, "We'll be looking at different funding sources."

Those funding sources include private donors as well as Baltimore County, Runge said.

"Once we have a fundraising goal identified, we will go full force into raising funds for the project," Runge said.

The group plans to meet again Wednesday, Jan. 21. Those interested in learning more can go to: catonsvillearts.weebly.com.

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