The Hagee Communications Center, which was built in 2014 at Southwestern Assemblies of God, houses the College of Music and Communication Arts. Inside the building now sits state-of-the-art production equipment, meeting the potential of the faculty and students.
Before the communications center was built, most degrees in this college were not offered, and existing programs were limited due to the lack of technology and space. The theater program initially performed in a chapel on the campus, but now, students act in a performance hall that can comfortably seat more than 600 people.
In late March, SAGU’s theater will put on Shakespeare’s production “The Tempest” on a 2,000 square-foot stage, which is also equipped with an orchestra pit and a 52-foot loft above for flying sets.
It’s not only student talent that runs the show as the college has built relationships with professional musical entities. As the school’s theater program puts on shows each semester, the Ft. Worth Symphony, Dallas String Quartet and the Waxahachie Symphony Association regularly book the schedule. The National Guard Jazz Orchestra from Washington D.C. performed there as well.
Dean of the College of Music and Communication Arts, Del Guynes, Ph.D., said having these relationships with prominent musical talent brings “awareness to the community that we are here. There’s some notion part of the administration that we can become the center of performing arts in south Dallas area.”
The theater portion of the building is also manned with a black box theater, which seats up to 120 people, a scene shop where students can design sets and store props. Across the hall from the workshop are male and female dressing rooms with a make-up area, rehearsal room and closets.
Focusing on the musical studies, students have access to the state-of-the-art recording and isolation booths. In these rooms users can manipulate the acoustics of the room to sound more like the environment they would be playing in, like an arena or cathedral.
“The latest cool addition from Wenger, which is an institution supply company of furniture and equipment, is called sound-lock practice rooms. They are acoustically insolated and have electronic record technology and acoustic modification inside those practice rooms,” Guynes said.
Pianos in the Hagee Communications Center are prized possessions as the majority of them are Steinways. In the performance hall is a 9-foot Steinway piano. Guynes said these pianos are the “crème de la crème of musical instruments.” He said having a certain percentage of their pianos made by Steinway “grants you a special status with Steinway and for people who are interested in piano performances.”
Working with the massive jump in technology Guynes said, “I would say this helps us strike a better balance between all of what technologies can bring and what the students are going to find in the real world, between that and the understanding that there are fundamentals that are essential to producing a quality product.”
The building also houses film screening classrooms with theater seats, a piano lab, recording audio and visual studios, digital and audio production suites and a television studio.
In the broadcast room, one student was showing off the newest equipment, a Freefly MoVI Pro, which is used to shoot Hollywood quality moving shots, eliminating the shaky camera look. The student also displayed the Sony F55 camera they use to shoot films. He mentioned that Netflix uses the same camera for their productions.
Some alum who have graduated from the program now have production jobs on the Ellen Show and another who’s a sports anchor at the NBC affiliate in Denver.
“The primary goals of our student films is to create a learning experience, but they have been received quite warmly by the SAGU community,” Guynes said.
Students create a film every two years that are later entered into competitions. Their students have placed first at Worldfest Film Festival for breaking news for cinematography, editing and script writing and second place for cinematography in the short film category. For the Intercollegiate National Religious Broadcasters, their student film category won first place. A student film also took home first place at the New Hope Film Festival.
Even though the students are utilizing the equipment and facilities, Guynes said the building has not been used to its full capacity. In other words, there’s plenty of room for growth.
Guynes’ theory is that the facility and technology do not make the talent, but instead, it’s the efforts of the students and expertise of the faculty that have set the bar so high for the college’s programs.