Transforming the arts: SGA supports Wareham Opera House renovations 

The Wareham located in downtown Manhattan is currently under renovation with the support of the Kansas State Student Governing Association. (Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)

Out of all the Big 12 schools, Kansas State is one of the only universities without a dedicated concert or recital hall for the music program, Bryan Pinkall, director of the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance and an associate professor of music, said.

The Student Governing Association released a resolution expressing student interest and support of the renovation that will transform Wareham Opera House into a performing arts center. President of SGA, Parker Vulgamore, said he hopes the partnership will grant new opportunities for students and a better quality performing space.

“The added possibility of the Wareham opening up certainly presents a brilliant avenue for us to pursue performances, especially in a part of town that’s very vibrant in its own arts and culture,” Pinkall said.

According to the SGA resolution, “This space will provide Kansas State students the opportunity to be included in performances to showcase their talents.”

Vulgamore, senior in agricultural economics, said the Wareham is dated, needs renovation and is not being used to its full potential.

“I think this project is to preserve some of the cool heritage of the Wareham Opera House, but also develop it into this new exciting space,” Vulgamore said. “I think it’s an incredible opportunity to take advantage of this iconic space that should be utilized better and more frequently.”

Pinkall said the potential of the building creates exciting opportunities for K-State students to perform live.

 “I think there’s just a sheer joy involved,” Pinkall said. “It feels like you’re giving someone a voice in this world and they’ve maybe been long dead. It feels like you’re giving a new voice to their experience. And that’s the thing that I love the most.”

Kaitlyn Jones, a violinist in the K-State symphony orchestra, said the renovations are exciting to hear and provide a space for her to perform for a live audience.

“I think it’s so rewarding to get up on a stage in an auditorium, in your full concert outfit and just kind of knowing that everything that you’ve been working on for the past couple of months, all of the rehearsals, late night practice sessions … all of that is finally worth it,” Jones said.

Kameron James-Rose, local relations director of SGA, said a lot of work needs to be done to turn the 19th century opera house into a state-of-the-art concert hall.

“There were just flaws within the structure of the building, currently, that needed renovation,” James-Rose said. “For example, the HVAC system was the original HVAC system that had been in there since 1940.” 

K-State has spaces for performances such as Kermer Hall, Chapman Theater, the Purple Mask Theater, Faiths Chapel and McCain Auditorium. Pinkall said these spaces work but they are not ideal for certain ensembles.

“A student from the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance kind of spoke up and was like, ‘you know, McCain is great, but something like this with state-of-the-art equipment, a state-of-the-art sound system is what’s so unique to this space [the Warham],’” James-Rose said. 

The renovations to the Wareham will not only be utilized by K-State students but can also be used by community programs and enhance community outreach, Pinkall said.

“We’ve been brainstorming all sorts of ideas, and that could be anything from a swing dancing night and having a big band there, or maybe it could be really tailored to certain genres of music,” Pinkall said.

Pinkall said attending performing arts is beneficial towards students’ education. He said he recommends students attend more live events. 

“Go to a choral concert, go to the opera, go to a theater show,” Pinkall said. “What you’re gonna learn is more about humanity, more about yourself and more about expression of what it is to be human.”

Vulgmare said the Wareham is a great facility and will be beneficial for K-State students. 

“I’ve learned a lot in the classroom, but I can tell you over my last four years I’ve learned a whole lot more from cultural exchanges with new students, new friends, people from different backgrounds, cultures, religions and ideologies,” said Vulgamore. “Performing arts is such a beautiful, amazing way to foster that sort of connection.”