The History of Pensacola State College Lyceum

Home Features The History of Pensacola State College Lyceum

Tabatha Fields

The Corsair

Major productions have been performed in the Ashmore Fine Arts Auditorium for many years through the Lyceum series. The Ashmore Fine Arts Building was named after Pensacola State College’s first President, Dr. Henry Ashmore.

According to the 1958 issue of the Pensacola Junior College Corsair, Dr. John T. Venetozzi, chairman of humanities and music sections in 1958, founded the Lyceum.

Venetozzi was well qualified for the job. He was active in several professional activities. For example, he conducted at Mississippi Southern for their annual Contemporary Music Festival, attended National Band Master’s conference in Washington D.C., and conducted events at the Julliard School of Music.

The Pensacola State College Lyceum website explains how Venetozzi created the Lyceum in 1958, and his goal to draw programs of cultural and educational value to the greater Pensacola community as well as the college.

Don Snowden, current chair of the Music and Theatre department, said, “Venetozzi wanted to bring in more cultural events. He brought the New Orleans Philharmonic Symphonic here at the College.”

Decades later, the auditorium is still hosting many productions at the college. The students and staff work hard to bring the performances to their audience. The grandeur of the building, the acoustics and the available space make it possible to move freely and accomplish what needs to be done in order to achieve a good production.

In 1958, the Lyceum was equipped with practice rooms for applied music courses, lecture room for rehearsals, recitals and a place for band and chorus practice. The Lyceum is the same today as it was in 1958. The concert halls and practice rooms are still there.

Auditions are held for productions that will be performed at the theatre. Jarel Warren, a freshman at Pensacola State College, is a trombone and euphonium player at PSC. Warren performs frequently in the Lyceum.

“I like performing in the Lyceum. There are nice acoustics,” Warren said.

There is good news for those who would like to be a part of one of the productions.

“It is not required for you to be a theatre major to audition,” Snowden said. “You just need to bring your talent. I look for talent. A lot of it deals with the characteristics of the part, meaning if the role requires for a middle aged woman, African American or someone young. It all depends.”

If the audition is for a musical, a group decides on the cast. The director, choreographer, musical and technical director will review all the auditions and decide who they think would be best for the part.

“I also look at the fact if they ever acted before. I don’t want anyone who never had experience to do a lead,” Snowden said.

After the cast is decided there will be a post outside the office door by the ticket window in the theatre hallway, or it will be on the website.

Postings of auditions or any productions you may want to see are always posted on the Pensacola State College website. The website is www.pensacolastate.edu/mt. The contact person for the auditions is Rodney Whatley, director of theatre.

Many productions sell out and oftentimes people will have to be turned away because of the capacity.

“It would be nice if we had a bigger building for space. It looks big on the outside, but inside it is so cramped. We have to send people away sometimes because of the limited seating,” said Tevin Purifoy, freshman, majoring in music. Purifoy plays the euphonium in the Pensacola State College Band.

Before the decline of the economy, plans for a new auditorium were underway.

Snowden said, “I would have loved to have a new building, but because of the downturn of the economy, the funds are just not here to build a new auditorium.”

Venetozzi’s vision lives on. Decades later Pensacola State College is still bringing the best talents to entertain audiences.

“Sometimes we have to double performances in order to accommodate everyone,” Snowden said.

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