Northport school reaps benefits from NCAC
The Northport Community Arts Center, as the auditorium — as well as the group that runs it — is known, holds concerts year round that are as varied as Latin jazz from a band called Grupo Ayé and pianist Thomas Pandolfi, to the recent Sousa Concert performed by the Northport Community Band.
Northport School, which in the last few years has ramped up its drama program, puts on two or three plays per year in the auditorium, as well as the Northport Follies, a fundraiser that benefits the Northport Promise scholarship.
“Basically, it’s been a very good relationship,” said Norma Neve, executive director of the NCAC, which periodically helps to buy equipment for the auditorium, such as a projector, a DVD player and some risers.
Volunteers from the NCAC help students with set construction, help them to set up microphones and have taught students how to run the sound booth and the lights, Neve said. Students also sometimes help run the lights for NCAC performances, she said.
And the Northport Community Band, which falls under the umbrella of the arts center, can be seen at all of Northport’s home basketball games as the school’s pep band.
Steve Wetherbee, who teaches math, science and computer technology at Northport School and helps out with the drama program, said the auditorium benefits students in several ways.
“The first obvious benefit is that it gives the students a place to perform,” Wetherbee said. “It’s a wonderful place to perform. There’s a big difference between performing in a gymnasium and an auditorium.”
In addition, he said, kids who may not want to perform can build sets, use power tools, paint and learn stagecraft. “That’s a lot of fun for kids who otherwise would not be involved in drama,” Wetherbee said, though most students get involved in both ends of a production.
And then there are those students who enjoy the technical end of things and can learn the basics of electronic sound engineering while working on a production.
The auditorium is in a newer wing of the school that also includes a gymnasium, music and art rooms, a lobby and bathrooms. Built in 2001, the $6.1 million wing was approved by voters and funded by the sale of about $5 million in bonds and another $1.2 million in donations raised by the NCAC. Bonds are being paid back through a 15-year, 1.38-mill property tax.
There is also an endowment from the Warm family that pays for upkeep and maintenance of the auditorium and arts center. That endowment is administered by the Leelanau Township Foundation.
The center operates under an agreement between the school and the NCAC currently being updated that says the school is responsible for the physical condition and custodial care of the space, and the arts organization manages the business end, scheduling entertainment events.
“It’s the gem of the school,” Neve said. “We’re glad the school is getting a program and is finally using the auditorium. That is part of why the community wanted to build it. The fact is we have a lot of talented people and we would like to share that with students.”