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Shenandoah Conservatory teams with Bright Box Theater

By Josette Keelor

Shenandoah Conservatory announced Tuesday it will partner with the Bright Box Theater on several performances from the school's upcoming performance season.

This will be the first such alliance the conservatory has made, said Sloan MacRae, managing director of the conservatory and artistic director of Performing Arts Live. The conservatory holds its yearly Bach-Handel Festival at Grace Lutheran Church on Boscawen Street each fall, but until now it hasn't offered musical events at other theaters or venues.

After touring the Bright Box, which opened in May, "it just seemed like a no-brainer," MacRae said Tuesday.

With Michael Stepniak, dean of the conservatory, MacRae has organized 10 events from its upcoming season to take place at the theater at 15 N. Loudoun St, Winchester, drawing acts such as the SF Jazz Collective, an all-star jazz ensemble comprising eight Grammy-winning professionals, to Winchester's Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall.

"For something like that, the Bright Box is ideal," MacRae said. A black box theater, it offers an intimate place to experience the nightlife of music rather than performing in a more institutional location.

The conservatory and Bright Box plan to announce their upcoming performance schedules soon, but on those schedules the conservatory's faculty jazz ensemble will be expected to perform at the Bright Box.

"Our faculty musicians also are just brilliant performers," MacRae said. They bring together a shared experience earned from performing with groups like the U.S. Army Blues in Washington, part of the "Pershing's Own" United States Army Band, "So when they come together to play, it's also extraordinary," said MacRae.

"The Bright Box is just perfect for them, " he said. "You're seeing world-class performers on the stage. You're right there."

Marilyn Finnemore, owner of Bright Box, said the partnership is a win-win for both sides, bringing the university into the downtown music community and offering a new layer to Winchester's recent old town renaissance.

Since completing its yearlong renovations to the walking mall this summer, the Old Town Development Board has packed the summer with musical events to draw in people to the downtown night life, and Finnemore said teaming with the conservatory banks on that growing community interest.

"This is really going to help put Winchester on the map as a downtown," she said. "I mean, this is going to be the place to be."

"We've waited until the right opportunity and with all the new energy coming into downtown, I mean now is the time."

For more information, contact Shenandoah Conservatory at 540-665-4589 or www.su.edu, or the Bright Box Theater at 540-665-2878 or brightboxwinchester.com.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com>


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