When lead singer Gianna Tartisel took the stage with bandmates Jake Needham and Sam Kristofferson on Thursday night at the Rancho Campana High School Performing Arts Center in Camarillo, it dawned on her that they were making history.
“We can say that we were the first to perform here and that will never change. It’s so cool,” said Gianna, 14, a ninth-grader at the school.
Their band, Loose Change, was one of several student acts that performed during a gala celebrating the opening of the arts center, the centerpiece of the Oxnard Union District high school that opened in 2015.
The 27,500-square-foot center on the 28-acre campus is the city’s first large-scale indoor performance venue for concerts and plays.
The $20 million center is also the centerpiece of the academy-based high school, which offers arts and entertainment as one area of focus.
The $135-million Measure H bond voters approved in 2004 paid for the center, which will also be available for local organizations to rent for plays and concerts.
Completion of the arts center marks the end of construction and the beginning of the full use of the facility at the high school, said Rancho Campana Principal Roger Adams.
“There really wouldn’t be a more appropriate way to start this than to say, wow, isn’t this amazing?” Adams said to the cheers of the crowd that packed the 700-seat center Thursday.
Adams said the gala, which also featured performances by Camarillo High School and Rio Mesa High School students, was a way to give the public a preview of the center and how it will be used to showcase community talent.
“Amazing memories will be created in this place and that’s going to start tonight,” said Adams.
The Camarillo High jazz band entertained guests arriving at the event, which was catered by students in the Culinary Arts Academy at Pacifica High School.
Visitors also got to tours the center, which features dressing rooms, a green room, an editing lab and film stage, and dance and music rooms.
“It’s a wonderful community asset. The high school district really did spend a lot of quality effort in making this just a premiere site for everybody to enjoy,” said Camarillo City Manager Dave Norman.
Linda Martinez, Camarillo High music booster president, said it’s a blessing to have the center in town because it’s next to impossible to get a performance venue a reasonable price.
“The kids are thankful. The parents are thankful. We just wish it happened sooner, but thank heaven we have it now,” said Martinez, whose twin daughters Katie and Kristen, 16, are in the music program.
“I knew it was going to look good, but I didn’t know it would look this amazing,” said arts academy student Taryn Liu, 15.
Rancho Campana student Asha Nahas, 15, performed a poem on stage at the event. She said she had been waiting a long time for the center to open and called the night “surreal.”
“It’s so beautiful and I honestly can’t even fathom it yet,” said student Darcy O’Toole, who performed a song she wrote.
“I can’t wait for all the memories that will be created here,” said O’Toole.