Wednesday, March 19, 2014

CPMA School Theater: A Dream Come True

Under Construction
By Janet Poutré

Look into the future with me for a minute, not too far, just a year let’s say.  It’s a Friday night and you would like to see some live entertainment—but not a band, a play is more what you are looking for. You could head down to the Globe in Balboa Park or the Civic Theater downtown, but in the near future you will have a new choice: the brand new, state-of-the-art theater on the campus of the Creative Performing and Media Arts School (CPMA) right here in Clairemont at 5050 Conrad Ave. 

Architect's Rendering
Under construction now and nearing completion, the 450 seat theater is the centerpiece of a $13 million dollar arts complex that is the realization of principal Scott Thomason’s dream for the middle school that long-time Clairemonters still think of as Kroc Middle School.  “I’ve been here 5 years and have fought tooth and nail for this project. It’s always been the plan but it got shelved during the budget crunch, even though we had already done a lot of the preparatory work,” Mr. Thomason said. “It was really a bit of providence that it has become a reality.” Mr. Thomason explained that the District discovered they had $100 million from bonds that had to be spent, so they were looking for “shovel-ready” projects, ones that could be started almost immediately.  CPMA’s theater and arts complex fit the bill and grading got underway in the summer of 2012.
Architect's Drawing

Looking at the architect’s drawings and touring the inside of the building (with a hard hat!) one can see what a professional-level facility this will be. With rooms for the school band and orchestra to learn and practice, specialized sound proofing and pro-level lighting and sound systems the as-yet unnamed complex will offer its students what an arts magnet school should: a place to perform.

Beyond the student body, the vision is that the theater will be a community asset too.  “I think of this more as a community theater than a school theater,” Principal Thomason explained. “I foresee local dance and theater groups also using the venue for their performances and to conduct workshops with our students.  The bringing together of all the people in the area with an interest in the arts can only benefit our students and Clairemont too.”

There is a fly in the ointment however: there is no budget for operating the complex adequately. As most parents know, money for school programs outside of the basics is very hard to come by.   Mr. Thomason has a long list of things needed: staff (like a theater manager), instruments for the band, lighting, maintenance, and more. Fortunately, he is not alone in working on this.

A foundation has been formed, headed up by community leader Lori Sorbo, with the goal of finding funding sources within the community.  Naming rights are being made available and a non-profit status for the foundation is being pursued, so donations will be tax-deductible.  Even that is an expense supporters need to raise money for; Lori and Mr. Thomason have already invested $800 toward the non-profit status.  As Lori said with a smile, “We have a dedicated few in the community working on this, now we need a dedicated few with money!”

Admittedly, the kind of money the CPMA Foundation is looking for won’t be raised with bake sales.  Having this wonderful addition to the community named for you or your family would require a substantial contribution.  Still, Allen Boaz, another member of the foundation believes there are folks in Clairemont that could and would donate to have other things named for them.  “I know in San Diego’s largest community (80,000+ population) there are people who are passionate about the arts and who can see the benefit to all of us in having a performing arts center here,” Allen said. “So maybe it’s not a contribution of tens of thousands of dollars to have the smaller “black box” theater named for someone’s family, but a more modest check to have a plaque on a row of seats. It all counts.”

Principal Thomason expects construction will be far enough along to schedule a ribbon-cutting ceremony in mid-May. The Foundation is also starting to plan for a gala fundraising event in October.  Members of the foundation are brainstorming ideas for that event and compiling lists of potential donors to reach out to. As San Diegans know, there are a number of individuals in our city that are generous philanthropists, and Lori and the others plan to contact those folks in the hope that one or more will see CPMA’s vision of a vibrant community theater for Clairemont.

In the meantime, riggers are hanging speakers in the theater, electricians are hooking up lighting fixtures and Principal Thomason attends to the day to day business of running a middle school, while dreaming of a shipment of new trumpets for the band.

Stand by Clairemont; this dream, and all the rest, will come true. Save a Friday night sometime next year for taking in a play in a gorgeous theater right here in your own neighborhood.
If you would like to donate your time or money, or if you know someone who would be able to help the CPMA Foundation, contact Lori Sorbo at


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This was einstein jr high when I was a student there...shouldn't have changed name to Kroc.....


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