The auditorium is a central and important space in any high school lucky enough to have one. It is used for all types of formal assembly: lectures, award ceremonies, dramatic plays, musical theatre productions, concert performances of orchestra, band, chorus, jazz band, battles of the bands, dance competitions and so on. These varied events place a range of demands on the room. For all events, it is essential that everyone in the room hear, clearly and enjoyably, everything that is presented. This is the goal of acoustical design for auditorium spaces.
The acoustical design of an auditorium is different than that of any other high school space, because of the specific demands of the performing arts, which distinguish the auditorium from a common lecture hall. The auditorium will provide many students their first introduction to performing arts, both as audiences and as performers. We would like for this introduction to be a positive one, and we strive to provide a space that is highly functional, artistically flexible, easy-to-use and satisfying for performers and audience.
Dramatic theatre productions — Shakespeare and the like — rely on clear and easy intelligibility of actors’ speech and a natural connection with the audience. For most plays, it is important that this be achieved without the use of voice amplification. Similarly, concerts of orchestra, chorus or band showcase the natural, unamplified sound of these ensembles in the hall. These concerts require acoustical blend and reverberation as well as clarity, and these are best achieved through natural acoustics.
Jason Luciana, choral director at Wilmington High School in Wilmington, Mass., prefers to avoid amplification for choral concerts. For a cappella groups, he uses microphones for soloists, but will only resort to mic’ing the group “if something about the room is off.” In musical theatre productions, actors and featured singers are mic’ed, both for balance with the pit orchestra and for artistic reasons, to facilitate a Broadway stage singing style.