A year in review: Huss Center has set the stage as a heart of academics, arts, and community


Iya Abdulkarim

Faculty and students walk through the RedLeaf Commons in the Huss Center for Performing Arts.

Stephanie Li, The Rubicon Editor

When students leave St. Paul Academy and Summit School, they’ll remember the smooth, charcoal floors, the white walls, and the transparent orbs hanging from the ceiling. They’ll recall the Friday assemblies sitting in comfortable cushioned chairs looking up at the looming stage. They’ll relive the harmonious sounds of voices and instruments elegantly echoing off the walls. The Huss Center for the Performing Arts has become an integral part of the SPA community. As the school year comes to an end, faculty, students, and the Head of School reflect on the first of many years with the latest addition to the campus.

The Huss Center has offered plenty to student life, ranging from theater and musical performances to guest speakers to college information sessions. The building has become a place for students to come together and connect with the rest of the school. Although the transition from the gym to the auditorium as the main gathering space was expected, the community swiftly adjusted to the plush cushions, the formal atmosphere of senior speeches, and the expansive windows that welcomed sunlight.

Freshman Roan Chafee was surprised by the Huss Center’s architecture.

“I had expected [the Huss Center] to be like O’Shaughnessy, like a big gray concrete building, but it actually turned out really well. There’s a lot of really good architecture that I enjoy looking at,” Chafee said.

Sophomore Nolan Smith enjoys the atmosphere of the Huss Center.

“[It’s a] great space, calm, quiet, [and] colder than all of the rest of the school which is nice because it gets pretty hot on sunny days!” he said.

Junior Henry Ziemer believes the Huss Center has undergone many developments throughout the school year and is looking forward to next year and what it brings.

“The Huss center has experienced some dramatic changes even in its first year, there is still a great deal of potential for it to become a major and beneficial communal space,” he said.

Upon talking to the Head of School, Bryn Roberts, the first thing he was surprised by was what visitors had to say upon touring the Huss Center.

Students have absorbed [The Huss Center] seamlessly into their academic and social lives.

— Head of School Bryn Roberts

“When I talk to folks who are coming in for the first time, you get a sense of their amazement and their wonder that this is what the school’s done, it’s easy for us sometimes to forget how magnificent it is, how beautiful it is. Visitors remind us constantly that it’s really quite a remarkable building if you ever forget that,” Roberts said.

The Huss Center has provided a space for students to convene, advisories to meet, student group events to be hosted, theatrical performances, and speech experiences. Students have grown into it because it has become a place for almost anything.

“Students have absorbed it seamlessly into their academic and social lives here at school and that’s on a daily basis,” Roberts said.

Roberts believes that the Huss Center has given the SPA community a sense of pride because of its elegance and modern architecture, something that stands out compared to the rest of the school’s twentieth century building.

“Because of the exquisite architecture and the acoustics, [the Huss Center has] inspired students to reach, if anything, improve their performance, to really put a distinctive stamp on it. I think students like the fact that it’s theirs. It’s convenient. But most importantly it’s this magnificent place where they can be the very best they can possibly be,” Roberts said.

The Huss Center has inspired students to play instruments, sing, and act more passionately in a refreshing new setting because it has become the face of SPA.

Junior Lea Moore believes the Huss Center has offered another level of maturity compared to the Sarah Converse auditorium.

“Our shows, both with theater and with choir, have that extra level of professionalism. Even with things backstage, everything’s just amped up a level. It’s more realistic and more [like a] real-world application,” Moore said.

Summit Singers and Academy Chorale Women perform Ave Maria to open the 2016 Spring Concert on Apr. 30.

A video posted by The Rubicon (@therubiconspa) on

Moore takes part in both musical and theater performances. This year, she participated in The Laramie Project as well as Les Mis, which demanded students to spend a lot of time in the Huss Center.

“I spend most of my day in Huss working on the show just because we don’t have a ton of rehearsal time and so it’s really nice to have Huss right there instead of driving all the way to the Lower School,” Moore said.

Furthermore, the Huss Center has helped student actors and singers to dedicate more time to extracurricular activities such as musicals because of its convenience.

Moore recalls the lip sync that was held in the Huss Center auditorium. The experience was enhanced by the Huss Center’s enormous stage, acoustics, and lighting.

“I think it’s very adaptable and very realistic, [because] that’s what most stages are like,” she said.

Information collected from an online poll sent out by Ellie Nowakowski, The Rubicon Editor, to 418 students, grades 9-12 on May 10, of which16% responded.
Iya Abdulkarim

It’s apparent that students are attracted to the space because of its location on the school grounds. But, the building has also opened up new Fine Arts classes such as Introduction to Theatrical Arts and Honors Music Seminar.

What surprised Moore the most was the level of security around Huss. At the beginning of the year, the building had lots of areas that were prohibited and the general atmosphere of the Huss Center seemed inflexible.

“I’ve been very surprised at how easy it is to get around those restrictive problems,” Moore said. Moore, only one of the many involved students, has been able to work on props and costumes during her free period thanks to the help of the security department.

Upper School Choir Director Anne Klus appreciates the Huss Center for its new stage and acoustics.

“We now have a concert grand steinway that is designated for the space specifically which is really nice to have,” Klus said, “I can’t think of one negative thing about [the Huss Center].”

With the Huss Center, it’s been easier for faculty to schedule rehearsals and prepare for concerts. Such a commonly used space calls for the community to designate, reserve, and ensure everyone gets the time they need. It has transformed the relationships surrounding the building.

The Huss Center’s success leads back to donors John and Ruth Huss who are constantly impressed by the performances and the recognition the building is receiving.

“It gives a nice place for the students to perform in that is somewhat equal to their talent… With that kind of talent, they deserve a good hall to play in. I’m glad it seems to be working,” John Huss said, “It’s a win.”