John Legend and members of the Springfield City School Board cut the ribbon at the John Legend Theater dedication on Sunday, October 9. Andy Grimm | PHOTO

The Arts, education, and collaboration were celebrated when one of Clark County’s favorite sons, John Legend, took the stage in his native Springfield for a performance marking the official opening of the auditorium that bears his name.

An estimated 1,000 people attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony before Legend performed the first concert in the Springfield City School District’s (SCSD) “John Legend Theater at the Springfield Center of Innovation: The Dome.”

The Oscar, Golden Globe, and 10-time Grammy winner spoke to the advantages students get from putting an actual performance together, even if a student doesn’t end up being a professional artist.

"Putting a show together teaches you how to work together in groups. It teaches you how to start something and finish it. It teaches you how to be thorough, and take care of all of the things you need to do to make something happen. And we need our kids to develop those kinds of skills while they are young...so they can become awesome, creative adults that get things done...which is why it is critical for our young people to have a space to perform in."

Legend also commented how the theater could bring people together for a greater good at such a divided time in our nation’s history, “I believe that, no matter what side of politics we are on, we know it is important to invest in the lives of our young people.”

SCSD Superintendent Bob Hill, and Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland also expressed their excitement on what the new John Legend theater represents for students and the Greater Springfield area.

“The John Legend Theater can make an enormous impact on the lives of our young people by offering them enhanced cultural activities...and (it will) support a wide variety of artistic performances showcasing the many talents of our students and community members,” says Hill.

Mayor Copeland declares that the theater’s opening is “The best thing to happen to Springfield in a decade!”

Some folks attending the ceremony couldn’t help but give a shout-out to Legend by the name they remember him using when he was their classmate, student, neighbor, or even fellow church member: Johnny Stephens.

“Johnny was always known as being very smart...I remember he won the (Springfield) city spelling bee!” remembers a retired SCSD middle school teacher attending Legend’s inaugural concert.

Legend shared the newly-renovated stage with SCSD’s “YOUmedia” students who sang along while Legend performed his smash hit, “All of Me,” along with other hits like “Save Room for My Love” and “Love Me Now” on the SCSD’s new Yamaha grand piano.

Some YOUmedia students commented after the concert that they had spent personal time with Legend earlier in the day. The students said their time with the Springfield North High School alumni made them understand the importance of staying motivated and working towards their goals. One young lady also commented that it made her proud to be in the SCSD. She also says she and other students think it is “fantastic” how “Someone as talented as John Legend comes from Springfield...and that he cared enough to come back and help open such a great theater for (students) to learn in.”

Located in the Springfield Center of Innovation: The Dome, the John Legend Theater sits in the heart of Springfield’s Promise Neighborhood. The 680 seat, $2.5million theater is an intimate space that will be utilized by the SCSD and surrounding school districts, as well as community groups.

Legend raised $500,000 towards the theater’s costs by holding a world-wide raffle for a private concert performed by him. SCSD matched funds to Legend’s donation and othere contributions made by Speedway, Security National Bank, the Turner and Springfield foundations, Jim and Julie Valentine, Kapp Construction, and other donors to finally complete the project. According to SCSD Spokesperson Kim Fish, the project was 10 years in the making and took a lot of collaboration. Many individuals, including Legend, commended Fish for spearheading the project and making it a reality.

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