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VOL. 129 | NO. 112 | Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Yearlong Party

Germantown Performing Arts Center celebrates 20th anniversary

By Andy Meek

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It’s perhaps fitting that the Germantown Performing Arts Center celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with Paul Chandler as its executive director, a job he’s had for almost two years now.

Paul Chandler, executive director of the Germantown Performing Arts Center, leads the organization into its 20th anniversary year with a season full of big performances.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

That’s because, looking back over the performance facility’s two-decade existence, Chandler actually has been a part of GPAC for 10 of its 20 years.

Back when it first opened in 1994, he worked for almost eight years as the assistant director. He came back for one year as the interim executive director around the time Resource Entertainment Group – where Chandler previously was a partner before coming to GPAC – was getting started.

GPAC’s 20th anniversary season kicks off this fall, with Dr. John paying tribute to Louis Armstrong as part of the “American Music Series” that Chandler instituted. He said the organization will be celebrating its milestone anniversary all year, but its big party for the year happens Oct. 4 with a performance by legendary trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

There will be a party after the show that’s slated to include the presence of the past two GPAC directors.

Looking ahead to the future, Chandler sees the eventuality of putting more importance on moving toward outside performances at GPAC, pointing to a park-like area on the north side of the building.

“We have continued to program the highest level touring acts in multiple genres,” Chandler said, looking back on his time at GPAC so far. “The one thing I created last year that we’re going to continue is the American Music Series, and that’s where we experiment with a variety of genres over and above jazz, because jazz has its own series. This season we’re also doing a few less main stage shows, but we’re spending more per act. So for our 20th season, we’re spending more on artists than ever before and bringing in a higher level.”

For its 20th anniversary season, GPAC is putting what it says is a special emphasis on international programming. Next February kicks off GPAC’s “International Series,” for example, with Kodo-Drummers of Japan, followed by Tango Buenos Aires in March and the dancers of the Russian National Ballet Theatre in April with “Sleeping Beauty.”

GPAC’s 20th anniversary season “American Music Series” includes Dr. John Sept. 7, followed by the roots music of Ricky Skaggs with Kentucky Thunder Nov. 8. Gospel legend Mavis Staples graces the stage Feb. 13 as part of the series.

Chandler said one of the goals right now for the organization is raising awareness of subscriptions. Full season and flex subscriptions for the 2014-2015 season are on sale now, and subscriber benefits include advance ticket purchases for special events and the ability to exchange tickets in case of a schedule conflict.

Last year, Chandler unveiled an important partnership for the organization. Duncan-Williams Inc. made a contribution to GPAC that included naming rights for the main space that encompasses the venue’s main stage area. Then, and now, Chandler described it with the same phrase – a “game-changer” – for the venue, a contribution that he said will allow the venue to grow and expand and which will have a “lasting effect on the space.”

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

About the facility more broadly, GPAC is an 824-seat venue with a main stage, black box theater, green room, spacious dressing rooms and a grand lobby for entertaining and assembling. It welcomes tens of thousands of people each year for performances, educational activities, visual arts exhibits and community events.

About why he decided to come back at this moment in time for GPAC, Chandler said it was an easy decision.

“Back when I was the interim director, they asked me to be the director and I passed,” he said. “I was 32 at the time and ready to conquer the world.

“I’m thankful to have gone out and gotten tons of business experience in the private sector. This opportunity came, I know how well the city of Germantown is run, I know all the players and I knew half the staff and that they needed a leader, and I guess it was time for me.”

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