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Spotlight shines on Spivey Hall

By Laura McMillan

In so many ways, the music world revolves around Clayton County. At least when it comes to Spivey Hall.

This September will mark the beginning of the 15th season that Spivey Hall, on the Morrow campus of Clayton State University, has brought world-renowned musical artists to the cultural forefront of Clayton County and the metro Atlanta area.

Sixty-eight soloists and ensembles with musicians from 19 countries are scheduled to perform at the 400-seat music hall from Sept. 14 to May 21, 2006. From talented soloists and young artists locally to world-renowned performers such as the Vienna Choir Boys, the schedule is as long as it is impressive musically.

"We just have some very good talent," acting patron services coordinator, Charity Pollard. "But we had good talent last year. We strive to have good talent every year."

But over 15 years, Spivey's coordinators may feel like a spoiled child in front of their grandparents, always knowing something special is on the way.

"Once you hear music in Spivey Hall, you're spoiled." said Executive Director Sherryl Nelson.

This year's schedule includes renowned talents like pianist Krystian Zimerman – a top prize winner of the 1975 Chopin Competition – and Grammy Award-winning violinist, Hilary Hahn, among others.

Spivey's attributes may go beyond its talented performers, though. The hall has launched new discounts and benefits for its season ticket holders, known as "subscribers." In turn, Spivey Hall Marketing Manager Jared Morrison has seen subscribers show their loyalty by continuously returning to concerts year after year.

"We launched some new incentives this year as far as subscribers go," Morrison said of discounts that include 10-percent for four concerts purchased and 20-percent for seven or more concerts. "We also seat our subscribers before any single ticket holders," he said.

An invitation only Subscriber's Day this year will include a tour of Spivey Hall and a meet and greet with Nelson.

And while the audience has been treated to great music over the years, the Spivey Hall staff has equally listened to its patrons.

"They have told us again and again and again three things: artists, acoustics, and ambiance," Nelson said.

Cecilia Raxter of Tucker has taken advantage of the benefits both as a subscriber and as a Friends of Spivey Hall donor, and said her loyalty has grown for "just the fact that they have the most incredible schedule. Once you're there, if you love music at all, you can't not go back. You hear nuances in the music that you don't hear at the symphony, at the Academy of Medicine, even at Emory."

As a premium subscriber, Raxter received a 20-percent discount on preordered tickets for 15 concerts she will attend.

"Another thing is price," she added. "The ticket prices at Spivey are extremely reasonable... compared to going to The Fox Theatre, or the Atlanta Symphony."

Ticket prices range from $5 and $10 concerts to $45 events, including one with Hahn on Nov. 11.

World-renowned organist, Hector Olivera, who is set to perform on April 29, is just one artist who fell in love with the atmosphere during his Spivey Hall debut many years ago.

"Their hall is magnificent, the best acoustics I have every heard," said Olivera, candidly discussing the combination of the hall and the organ – a combination which he calls "magic."

Olivera is a musician who has played halls around the world, calling a performance in Paris at Notre Dame a career highlight.

Still, "I know that Spivey Hall is on par with all those other concert halls," he said. "This is not something that you see around the corner. Atlanta is very lucky to have a place like that."

Purchasing 10 tickets at one time for a group to see a single show earns a 10-percent discount and middle school, high school, and college students receive a 50-percent discount with a valid student ID.

"We do see an increase in single ticket sales. For instance, our Jazz series has number of walk up sales," said Morrison, who expects the opening performance of this season's Jazz series to draw a particularly large crowd.

The experience is improved by several free pre-concert talks throughout the season, including some with Clayton State's Director of Vocal Activities and Opera, Dr. Kurt-Alexander Zeller.

"You get to meet the artists," she said, remembering one particular performance by an Italian musician. "Where else in Atlanta can you get your hand kissed by a lovely little Italian?"

Morrison agrees that other concert halls work as diligently to bring quality performers to Georgia, and he said that entertaining the Atlanta area is a collaboration.

"Our role here at Spivey Hall and the other performing arts organizations is that of educators," he said. "We're here to bring this world-class product to as many people as possible," said Morrison.

To reserve seats for these and other performances, call Spivey Hall at (770) 960-4200.