Performing arts centre increases attendance and participation in school music programme
“As a performance area, the LPAC auditorium has provided a space which can be rarely rivaled within the ACT for its atmosphere and simple, yet highly effective and flexible performance area,” Danielle Sheville.
Lyneham High School, an inner city state high school in Canberra, Australia is renowned for its performing arts programmes. It provides a diverse and inclusive music programme offering concerts and jazz bands, performance-based music classes and drama and dance classes.
Students also have the opportunity to participate in numerous musical theatre productions. The programme is lead by a dedicated, highly skilled and enthusiastic team of teachers whose approach to teaching music includes the whole school community. The Lyneham Performing Arts Centre (LPAC) provides a dedicated purpose-built facility for the music programme.
LPAC is unrivalled for its professional atmosphere, technology and affordability and it’s not just for the use of students, it can also be hired out by community organisations. “Architecture can’t create communities, but it can make a space for music that changes the nature of that community. Working closely with the dedicated music teachers in the design of LPAC has been a career highlight showing that architecture can make a difference,” says Cassandra Keller, Director, HBO+EMTB.
The initial design brief asked for a new band practice room, teaching and support spaces and refurbishment of the existing school hall to enhance its use as a performance space. After reviewing the brief, HBO+EMTB established that a new purpose-built facility for music and performance could be provided within the budget. This space could then be designed with exceptional acoustics that would complement activities in the main hall and ancillary spaces.
LPAC enhances the rehearsal experience; students have greater engagement and this is reflected in the rise of class attendance since the venue was built. Music students can hear themselves play as an individual as well as with the whole ensemble. Previously, they were unable to do this unless they performed in a professional venue such as Australian National University Concert Hall. Teaching and learning outcomes of the whole school have been improved by having a separate purpose-built facility for music courses.
Other classes are no longer disrupted and the building has created a focus for the school’s outstanding music achievements and pride in their accomplishments. Acoustically designed practice rooms have seen an increase in students choosing Performance Music as an elective. The school has noticed improved performance standards as students can now practice their craft in a sound-proof environment. Lunchtime concerts have become a popular part of the school’s culture giving a sense of a unique community focused around music. This is made possible by the design of an indoor space with the ability to open out to the covered outdoor space and courtyard for the school audiences.
Staff morale has increased and the LPAC Centre’s staffroom has garnered commendation and maybe a little envy by other staff for its natural light, open feeling and amenities. It includes a kitchenette, used for catering for concerts, parent and community meetings, as well as providing facilities for music staff who regularly use the centre after hours. The Centre offers a wider public and cultural benefit to the Canberra community. It is a purpose-made public building within a public school that also provides a performance and practice space with world standard acoustics available for non-school community groups.
Community groups that have benefitted from the LPAC include the local Canberra Youth Music, which consists of several bands, choirs and orchestras, the Ginninderra Wind Orchestra, Tuggeranong Valley Concert Band, as well as schools visiting from overseas, including the Ichijo High School Band, from Japan. “LPAC is a fantastic asset, not only to the school and ACT public education system, but also to the strong Lyneham High School community,” says Danielle Sheville, Director, Ginninderra Wind Orchestra. Sitting within the existing Lyneham High School campus, LPAC consists of a 600-seat auditorium with stadium seating, keyboard laboratory, music teaching classroom, staff room and five practice rooms, purpose-designed instrument stores for over 1000 instruments as well as numerous outdoor spaces designed for performances.
An internal corridor has an entry directly off the school quadrangle and widens at its farther end to become a foyer addressing the public street serving as a formal entrance for performances. The keyboard room opens out addressing the school quadrangle, creating an intimate performance space where the audience can enjoy an undercover barbecue while enjoying the music.
The steps to the north of the Centre open to the school’s playing fields, providing a space for large outdoor concerts in the warmer months. This is the site of Lyneham High School’s annual Christmas Concert. LPAC’s now renowned acoustic quality was achieved by adopting a precast concrete sandwich panel wall system. This also offers an integrated weather-proofing, thermal and acoustic insulation, and acoustic resonance solution that is combined with a speedy and safe construction method.
The pattern cast into the wall panels was designed to enhance the acoustic properties of the centre, without the need for additional materials, making it an environmental and cost-efficient building system.
“The acoustics of the building are great and the sound and lighting is highly effective in providing a great atmosphere for young performers. It’s great to see the facility being made available for community groups. As previously stated, venues of this standard and at a reasonable cost are limited,” Ben Green, ACT Planning and Land Authority.
An integrated approach to building servicing, material selection and insulation results in summer comfort conditions being achieved through an evaporative cooling mechanical system. An emergency escape has been provided superceding the need for a sprinkler system, which was seen, through malfunction, as a potential risk of damage to expensive equipment and finishes. An advanced lighting and sound system ensure professional quality performances.
Danielle Sheville says it is a “professional-feeling space, complete with effective lighting, sound and seating. The availability of the centre to the community promotes the school, the public education system, and the place of the performing arts within the social fabric of the ACT and surrounding region.”
Benefits according to Debbie Masling, Musical Director, LPAC:
- Student engagement in rehearsals and classes has improved.
- Students are able to hear themselves as well as the ensemble, something that they were previously unable to do unless they performed in another venue such as the Llewellyn Hall.
- Students’ hearing is more protected than in their previous rehearsal room.
- Having the daily operation of the music department in a separate building means that other KLAs/classes are not interrupted by music, thereby increasing student engagement and improving teaching and learning outcomes.
- The practice rooms have resulted in increased participation in the Performance Music elective; students are able to work in a sound-proof environment resulting in improved performance standards.
- Lunchtime concerts have become a popular part of the culture at the school. In particular being able to fold back the doors in the keyboard laboratory and have the student audience in the under-cover area has been fantastic. These concerts are often accompanied by a BBQ thus increasing fundraising opportunities.
- The staff room is often commented upon by other staff for its natural light, open feeling and kitchenette. The kitchenette has been used for catering for concerts and parent meetings, as well as providing facilities for music staff who often have to work through into the evening when they have concerts.
- Having a front-of-house and backstage area has worked very effectively for concerts and musical production.
- Their Christmas Carols evening in conjunction with the P&C will be held on the back steps of LPAC.
- Having LPAC has enhanced community perception of the school.
- The functionality of the instrument storeroom and guitar cupboards has improved OH&S and security, as well as preserving the instrument cases.
- The multipurpose nature of the auditorium has provided flexibility for large and small-scale performances. The curtain configuration supports the creation of different performance spaces.
- They have run two full-scale pieces of musical theatre in the centre, the most recent of which was Les Miserables. There was a cast of 120 students and an orchestra of 20, all of whom had the space to perform effectively.
- Plans are underway to form a partnership with an RTO to develop a VET course in Technical Theatre.
The LPAC provides an affordable professional performance space to school and community groups, bringing the arts to the wider community. The facility has provided tangible improvements to student learning and attendance, staff morale and wellbeing, and has improved the image and standing of the school within the Canberra community. Community organisations can develop and broaden their member base through their continuing welcomed use of the LPAC.
“Everyone deserves the chance to shine musically and LPAC and its dedicated staff enables its students and local community to do exactly that,” says Cassandra Keller, Director HBO+EMTB.
The LPAC has a sophisticated sound and lighting system, designed for chamber orchestras, providing a local available space for the development of skills. The architecture employs an economy of materials, using current precasting technology to combine acoustic treatment within the building fabric.
The LPAC was achieved with a minimal budget. When the original brief was challenged, a purpose designed performance space with an exceptional acoustic could be provided within the budget. The hire of the LPAC to community groups at a nominal fee, and the availability of performances at reasonable cost, brings the performing arts to a much broader audience, allowing access to those from all socio-economic backgrounds.
The LPAC employs a number of sustainable practices in its design, incorporating best practice in all areas of its construction. An efficient heat reclaiming evaporative cooling system combined with effective insulation within the pre-cast walls provides a comfortable summer performance space. (Canberra regularly records 35°C/95°F days in summer).
The exposed internal walls of the insulated precast panels provide thermal mass to retain heat in winter, helping to reduce heating requirements. (Canberra regularly records -5°C/23°F nights in winter).
A minimal materials palette of concrete, steel and wood reduces the Building’s carbon footprint. FSC certified timber is used throughout. All paints and applied coatings are low VOC, benefitting the immediate air quality of the centre. Roof water is collected and reused via an underground tank. A computer controlled lighting system, combined with compact fluorescent globes, reduces the Centre’s use of electricity.
The enhanced learning capabilities of students engaged in the performing arts have been widely documented. The LPAC provides the opportunity for those from all backgrounds to obtain skills and practice in a professional environment that would not otherwise be available to them. This enhances productivity by giving the students broader education and employment opportunities.