The University of Texas-Pan American family gathered at the Fine Arts Auditorium for her final curtain call on Sunday, June 3.
The term "coda" comes from the musical term signifying the end of a piece, and for many in attendance the auditorium's swan song was bittersweet. Organizers of the event said "CODA" was a fitting name to mark the end of an era and prepare for a new one with the new Academic Performing Arts Center to be completed by 2014.
It was an emotional day for Mary and Frank Munoz, who have directed the UTPA Folklórico dance troupe in innumerable performances on the stage of the Fine Arts Auditorium. A teary-eyed Mary, who also attended the brunch, recalled that she raised her four children in the facility that is scheduled for demolition later this summer.
"I brought in a play pen and a TV with videos to entertain them while we were in rehearsals," Mary said. "It's amazing, all of them followed and went into the arts."
"It touched their lives," her husband Frank added.
The couple, who have headed the dance program since the 1980s, said the 25th anniversary and 35th anniversary performances were among the most memorable in the auditorium. The troupe, initiated in 1970, most recently returned from Washington, D.C. where they performed by invitation at the National College Dance Festival at the John F. Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts.
The Ballet Folklórico was just one of the notable performances a packed audience enjoyed at the final concert. Standing ovations were frequent during the two-hour long concert that featured both UTPA student groups and current and former faculty who excel in the arts.
David Moreno, a junior music major and a trumpeter with the Mariachi Aztlán, said it was hard to explain how he felt about performing in the auditorium's last concert.
"I'll admit that it was a bit emotional," he said. "In a couple of years it is going to be a different auditorium, it's going to feel different. But it is going to be better for the school. We are going to have a better facility and it will be great."
The new 1,000-seat auditorium will have state-of-the art acoustics and lighting and be fully handicapped accessible. It will provide support space for four rehearsal halls - one for band, orchestra, choir and other groups such as the mariachi and dance troupes. It will also include dressing rooms and locker areas. The new auditorium's lobby will be able to accommodate 200 seats for receptions and serve as a gallery for art by students, faculty and guest artists. Two adjacent buildings will be renovated to provide more practice and small ensemble rooms.
The community will be invited to participate in a "wrecking ball" ceremony and celebration that is tentatively scheduled for late August.
Also performing at the Auditorium one last time was alumna and opera singer Linda Musollari (BA'04, MA'08), who reprised her role 12 years later as the lead in the "The Atonement," which was arranged by UTPA faculty emeritus Carl Seale. Her 9-year-old son Laert, who performed the role of a child in the production during the concert, accompanied Musollari on the stage.
"My son will be the last child to perform on this stage, a place that has meant so much to me and is very near and dear to my heart," Musollari said.
UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen thanked patrons, who filled the auditorium to see the performances.
"This shows you how important the arts are to the Valley and to the people here, and how we hold the arts in our hearts, and how we believe in them," Nelsen said. "This building has been very important to this Valley for over 40 years and it's been very important to all of the artists who have had the chance and the opportunity to be here and to entertain and to touch us and they have touched us."
"I wished we could have saved her, but we couldn't, because she's not in good shape, but she is our hermana (sister) and we will miss her," he said.
Though the new center will have more space for performances, it is missing a very vital piece - the recital hall, which the University had to cut from the original plans to stay within budget.
"Without a recital hall, our students, all of whom have to give a final recital in music, and our dancers, will not have a place (to perform)," Nelsen said.
That is why he and the University are asking for the community's help to raise $3.8 million to build the recital hall. On Sunday, a group of more than 50 special individuals dedicated to the arts in the Rio Grande Valley gathered at the UTPA Visitors Center for the CODA brunch to kick off the fundraising campaign to support the recital hall.
"I ask you to be involved and help us raise that money so that we can have the very best, because the arts are what make us human; the arts are what make us feel; the arts are our best way we communicate," he said.
If you would like to contribute to the next phase of the University's role as the cultural center for the arts in the Rio Grande Valley, invest today at www.utpa.edu/givenow.
See more of the concert and brunch here.