Northwest MS CC opens $30 million performing arts center

Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 7:25 PM CST

SENATOBIA, Miss. (WMC) - There’s a new venue for Mid-Southerners to get a taste of music, comedy, and the fine arts.

On the campus of Northwest Mississippi Community College (NWCC), a crowd of a few dozen watched school leaders cut the ribbon for the college’s performing arts center.

The facility is 65,000 square feet of recording space, classrooms, instrument practice rooms, and a 1,203-seat auditorium, its crown jewel.

There’s even a 100-yard practice field for the Northwest’s marching band.

In total, four years of planning and building, along with roughly $30 million, went into the project.

“We are top-tier,” said Dr. Andrew Dale, NWCC’s Associate Vice President of Community Relations. “We have a vision for the college to transform students’ lives, to enrich our community, and to strive for excellence in our educational programs and services. This building meets all three of those mandates in that vision.”

To fill auditorium seats, the idea was to make a big splash in entertainment for the surrounding area to enjoy, so the center’s new director, Kerry Goff, went to work.

“When you’re a new venue, there’s challenges because there’s no website,” Goff said. “A year ago, there was no website, no social media, but when (agents) discovered that this is real... they went, ‘this is a beautiful facility.’”

That work paid off.

For its inaugural season, the auditorium will have names like Jay Leno, Kristin Chenoweth, and Dr. Ben Carson to name a few grace the stage.

There will also be concerts, from Bobby Rush to the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, and plenty of options for the kids, like the stage adaptation of Winnie the Pooh.

For NWCC students, whether they wish to go into the art scene or just enjoy the resources at their disposal, the quality of the instruction will be invaluable, Goff said.

The facility has just been designated as an All-Steinway School, a designation given by the Steinway & Sons Piano Company to schools that provide top-of-the-line resources and education to students.

NWCC is one of only seven community colleges in the country to receive that designation.

“Community college gives those students affordability, but they’re getting world-class venues, equipment, instruction, and talent coming in,” Goff said. “That’ll give them master-class opportunities. They’re going to be able to work backstage. They’re going to be able to work in the lobby. You’re getting unbelievable experience at an affordable community college level.”

“For the students at Northwest to study music, musical theater, recording industry studies... it’s just fabulous,” Dale said. “When they leave here, they’ve got another two years to get a bachelor’s degree, but they’ve already had such great experiences. It provides so many more leadership opportunities. That’s what community college is all about.”

The center will officially be named the Heindl Center for the Performing Arts, after current NWCC President Dr. Michael Heindl.

Accessibility to resources like the Heindl Center is huge for a community like Senatobia and the surrounding area, and the expected impact of the center, leaders hope, will only further solidify the importance of NWCC.

Information on the upcoming season and tickets can be found here.

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