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26 January 2017

Salem High School renovations take center stage: new performing arts center opens

by Doug Ireland (The Eagle Tribune)

SALEM, N.H. —  For more than a year, Salem High School has been a virtual construction zone as cranes have knocked down walls to make way for a state-of-the-art educational facility.

A 50-year-old building has been transformed into a modern, vibrant school. The $75 million project is expected to conclude in fall 2018.

The community can check out the progress during an open house Saturday. The highlight will be the opening of the Seifert Performing Arts Center, according to Superintendent Michael Delahanty and principal Tracy Collyer.

The open house is from 1 to 2 p.m., with doors opening at 12:30 p.m. A ribbon cutting takes place on the center’s stage promptly at 1 p.m. followed by remarks from school officials and the special student performances.

“It is incredibly exciting for all of us,” Delahanty said Wednesday. “It just gives a taste of what’s to come. I think people are going to be awestruck by the look of the facility as it is and what it will be.” 

Delahanty and Collyer said the open house will demonstrate to the community the importance of investing in its schools and the quality of the work that’s taken place since last year.   

“It’s huge for the community,” Collyer said. “We’re very excited.”

So are Jared Cassedy and Dominick DiOrio — Salem High alumni who graduated nearly two decades ago and will be on hand.

Cassedy is a Grammy Award-winning music instructor and directs the district’s performing arts program. DiOrio, an associate music professor at Indiana University, is an accomplished composer and conductor.

“It’s remarkable,” Cassedy said of the new center. “It’s been an honor to be a part of it.”

The old Seifert Auditorium was replaced with the performing arts center that boasts a new sound and video system, media lab, set design and construction space, dressing rooms, individual practice rooms, a multipurpose room, office space, and areas for band and chorus rehearsals, Delahanty said.   

Many of the old auditorium’s seats were sold to former students and staff for $20 as souvenirs. 

DiOrio, who returns to the area twice a year, is looking forward to stopping by his alma mater this weekend. The 2002 graduate is pleased that many of his teachers, including band director Marty Claussen, are still at the school.

“All of this just feels so wonderful,” DiOrio said. “For me, this is quite a full-circle moment to be part of something so special.”

The highlight for DiOrio and the crowd gathered in the 715-seat auditorium will be when he conducts the school’s concert chorus and band. They will perform DiOrio’s original composition, Mark This Day, in celebration of the event. 

Media coordinator Robert Berthel will present a brief video montage and there will be a performance of a scene from the upcoming musical “Cinderella.” DiOrio, the band and the chorus will then take the stage for the finale.

The performing arts center is just one segment of the six-phase project to recently be completed. 

Before the school year started, the district celebrated the completion of some of its new space, including a fitness room and some classrooms. The library, cafeteria, kitchen and Davis Gymnasium were redone as well, but part of the gymnasium is being temporarily used for classes as construction continues, Delahanty said.

The athletic trainer’s room, locker rooms and coaches offices were finished in October. The school offices were recently completed along with the student lounge, Collyer said. The entrance to the 1,400-student school was relocated and now faces Geremonty Drive. 

Administrators, staff and students are pleased with their new surroundings, Collyer said.

The students are so happy with the new building, they have been thanking project superintendent Bill Conte of Harvey Construction in Bedford, she said. Conte is a Salem High graduate.

“He said it really means a lot when the students stop and say ‘thank you,’” Collyer said.

Another milestone will be the opening of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM wing, along with completion of the Career and Technical Education Center.

In addition to Harvey Construction, the project is being completed by Lavallee/Brensinger Architects of Manchester and Trident Project Advisors and Development Group of Salem.