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VOL. 128 | NO. 56 | Thursday, March 21, 2013

GPAC Names Main Theater in Honor of Duncan-Williams

By Andy Meek

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The next time an art lover heads to the Germantown Performing Arts Centre to take in a world music concert, watch a ballet or enjoy any of the host of other acts lined up for GPAC’s new season, they’ll be doing so inside the Duncan Williams Performance Hall.

Memphis-based investment firm Duncan-Williams Inc. has made a contribution to GPAC that includes naming rights for the main space that encompasses the venue’s main stage area. Fittingly, that’s where word of the renaming was presented to GPAC supporters this week – at an intimate gathering where attendees mingled on the main stage itself.

GPAC executive director Paul Chandler unveiled the Duncan-Williams partnership Tuesday, March 19, along with details of the venue’s new season, a 16-performance lineup that includes ballet, jazz, modern dance, bluegrass, gospel and other special events.

Among those special events, Chandler’s wife is noted chef and cookbook author Jennifer Chandler, and he acknowledged her influence in the creation of a food and wine festival happening in September that the GPAC head said would launch each new season for the venue.

Then, of course, there was the naming rights opportunity, which Chandler described as a game-changer for the venue. Chandler recalled some advice he’d heard that dates back to his long stretch in the entertainment business, including as a founding partner of Resource Entertainment Group – if you’re going to announce a season, he said, make a big deal about it.

“This season was done with a careful analysis of the last 18 years,” said Chandler, also noting that GPAC’s 20th anniversary is coming up in 2014. “I’ve also got a few years under my belt about what sells and what people are looking for. The partnership with Duncan-Williams will also allow us to grow and expand and will have a lasting effect on this space.”

Duncan-Williams president Duncan Williams was on hand for the event, as was his mother and firm co-chair Carolyn.

“The community is lucky to have these guys here,” Williams said of GPAC, before explaining his own firm’s wide-ranging investments in civic events and institutions, including sponsorships of the Live at the Garden concert series and of the Indie Memphis Film Festival.

“Anytime we look at sponsoring something we ask, ‘Is this something we believe in and is it something that’s going to make this community better?’” Williams said. “This was an easy sell. It’s in line with everything we do.”

GPAC is an 824-seat venue that includes a main stage, intimate black box theater, green room, spacious dressing rooms and a grand lobby for entertaining and assembling. It welcomes 64,000 people each year for performances, educational activities, visual art exhibits and community events.

GPAC provides a full subscription series of performances each season, as well as a rehearsal and performance space for arts groups including the IRIS Orchestra, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Opera Memphis, Germantown Symphony Orchestra and the Germantown Chorus.

Also on hand for this week’s announcement were Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy, members of the GPAC Foundation board of directors, Germantown city aldermen, GPAC sponsors and staff and members of the Duncan-Williams marketing team.

Among some of the first events for the upcoming 2013-2014 season are:

  • Mulgrew Miller with Bluff City Jazz Project, Sept. 19
  • Blind Boys of Alabama with Amy LaVere, Sept. 20
  • A new food and wine festival, Sept. 21
  • The Hungarian State Folk Ensemble, Oct. 13

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