Dream Job | Brian Lynch

June 2017 View more

Since opening its doors in 2008, North Central College’s Wentz Concert Hall at the Fine Arts Center has brought many world-class artists to the city of Naperville. Fine Arts Director Brian Lynch plays a starring role in what makes Wentz such a sought-after venue.

You have a very impressive theater resume—touring companies of Aspects of Love, Cats, Les Miserables, a 1984 Jeff award for outstanding choreography— how did you land at North Central College?

My wife has been on the faculty there since 1986. When I was touring, the dean of faculty at the time, Jerry Berberet, came to see me perform as Jean Valjean in Milwaukee. When he heard I was leaving the show after being on the road on and off for eight years, he invited me in to talk and ended up offering me an adjunct position teaching in the theater department. What started as one advanced acting class turned into a full-time job in which I was heading up the project to build the Wentz Concert Hall at the Fine Arts Center.

What does the fine arts director do? For what are you responsible?

I am the presenter for the college. For any concerts here, I arrange the artists, negotiate contracts, schedule the events and sell tickets. I also handle the overall scheduling of all of the fine arts facilities, including academic performances and classes, as well as any outside rentals of the fine arts spaces.

What did it take to bring the Wentz Concert Hall at the Fine Arts Center
to fruition?

We started looking at comparable facilities right around fall of 2000. We wanted to see what other institutions had done in combining art, music and theater. From there, I received input from each of the three areas and came up with a preliminary space recommendation. At first, the building was far too big to be built. Then Grace Church, now Meiley-Swallow Hall, became available, which allowed us to reduce Wentz’s size while still maintaining the needs of the art and theater departments. The official opening was November 15, 2008, with the
Chicago Symphony Orchestra in concert.

Are the acoustics really as amazing as everyone says?

Yes. It is possibly the finest room in which I have ever sung, and we were in some amazing halls when I was on national tours. You are able to control every sound because you know you can be heard with a full range of tones. It’s amazing. There literally is not a bad seat in the house.

What does having a world-class facility like Wentz mean to Naperville?

The fine arts facilities at North Central College add to Naperville’s greatness. Cities of our size simply do not have concert halls of Wentz’s caliber. I routinely have agents asking me to book their artists because they have heard of the reputations of both the college and the city.

You’ve booked many prominent artists, from Yo-Yo Ma to Herb Alpert to Colbie Caillat. Who was your favorite?

Yo-Yo Ma was amazing. The finest cellist in the world was cracking jokes with us backstage before he went on and bared his soul through music. The late Gregory Hines was another favorite. As part of his show, he invited members of the audience on stage to dance with him. Several of my tap students did. He ended up thanking me from the stage for keeping the art form alive. I also got to sing a duet with Patti LuPone. Okay, one more: Bernadette Peters—absolutely amazing! We’ve had so many, it’s really difficult to choose.

Community Characters
Brian Lynch founded the North Central College Summer Music Theatre, a community theater group with members ranging from eight to eighty. There are younger performers there for the fun of it, students wishing to pursue acting as a career, families who are looking for a great way to spend summers together and everything in between. This year’s cast will perform Once Upon a Mattress, the tale of the Princess and the Pea, at Pfeiffer Hall weekends July 28 to August 6. For more info, northcentralcollege.edu/performing-arts.