The Hudson Performance Hall at Northwest Classen High School will celebrate its official opening at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16 with a star-studded benefit gala headlined by Grammy-winning country music superstar and alumnus Vince Gill.
Look for my interviews with Gill about the benefit concert Friday and Sept. 14 here at BAM’s Blog, in The Oklahoman and on NewsOK.
A recreation of the popular mid 1960’s San Francisco rock band, The Mojo Men, featuring Cleve Warren, Jim Demopolos, Steve Crossley, Jerry Wilson and Michael Summers with hits including “Dance With Me,” “She’s My Baby” and the Rolling Stones’ “Off The Hook,” also will perform at the gala opening event, according to a news release. The opening of the Hudson Performance Hall will be a homecoming for Cleve Warren and Jim Demopolos, who graduated from Northwest Classen.
Joining The Mojo Men on stage will be 1965 NWC graduate Rick White. White, an accomplished guitarist, performed with the Smothers Brothers and Sonny and Cher on their popular variety shows.
Also on the lineup is Bill Maxwell, a child protégé born and raised in Oklahoma City who attended NWC. He was encouraged by his grandparents to study music when he was 2 years old. Maxwell’s mother was a jazz pianist who died two months after giving birth to him. He began playing the drums professionally at the age of 12. In his accomplished career as a musician and music producer, he has produced eight Grammy-winning records and has performed with renowned stars Ray Charles, Billy Preston, Quincy Jones, Anita Baker and Luther Vandross, among others. He also worked as the music producer and musician with the Coen Brothers on their film “The Ladykillers” and with John Turturro on his “Romance and Cigarettes.” Maxwell also was a featured musician on the film “Walk the Line.” In October 2008, Maxwell was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. He now performs with his new group called Open Hands.
An extensive renovation has transformed NWC’s 1,413-seat auditorium into an intimate performance hall capable of hosting national concerts, Broadway-style productions and local performances. Originally built in 1954 when NWC opened, the renovation of the historic auditorium was funded in part by the MAPS for Kids initiative. A $500,000 private donation from 1973 graduates Cliff and Leslie Hudson provided funds to upgrade a number of features and amenities, including the installation of state-of-the-art sound technology and engineering innovations to achieve a high level of acoustical quality.
“The grand opening of the Hudson Performance Hall at NWC represents a big milestone for us,” said Lynne Hardin, civic leader and NWC graduate who now represents the Friends of Northwest Classen Foundation, in the news release.
“We are so grateful for Cliff and Leslie generosity. Their lead gift has put us well on our way to raising another $1.5 million to support the new performance hall and a number of educational programs benefiting both the students at NWC and our community. The money generated from the gala and benefit concert will fund an endowment and additional amenities.”
“We have had a lot of talented people attend NWC who have gone on to enjoy successful careers in a number of fields including the entertainment business,” said Cliff Hudson in the news release. “Many discovered their talents and began pursuing their dreams while performing on this very stage as students at NWC. Leslie and I were inspired to make the gift not only to provide our community with a first class performance venue of this size, but also to give future generations a wonderful place to learn and experience the arts.”
“The newly renovated Hudson Performance Hall is a great addition to NWC and our community,” said Karl Springer, Superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, in the release. “It is a beautiful performance hall, and it will contribute to the lives of so many for years to come. The gift from Cliff and Leslie Hudson is incredible, and it reflects their appreciation and admiration of public education. We are so excited that these graduates are giving back in such a great way. For the performers who are coming back ‘home’, I imagine performing on the stage at the Hudson Performance Hall where it all began will mean so much more to them.”
The Friends of Northwest Classen Foundation raises funds to support teaching and learning programs at NWC.
“We are very grateful to Vince Gill, The Mojo Men, Rick White and Bill Maxwell for giving their time and talent to make this a truly special gala. It will be an incredible afternoon,” Hardin said.
The public is invited to attend the benefit gala. Tickets are available from $50 to $100 dollars. A few sponsorships are also available for $500 to $1,000 dollars, which come with two tickets to the gala event. Tickets are available at www.NWCFriends.org or by calling 840-2146.