City High dedicates arts wing


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When Candace Weibener first started as an orchestra teacher at Iowa City High, there wasn’t even a room for the students to practice. Forty-two years later, not only is there an entire new arts wing built at the school, but an entire room has been named after her.

City High officials held a dedication ceremony on Sunday for the new performing arts wing that included the naming of the orchestra room in addition to student performances and official speeches.

During her remarks at the ceremony, Wiebener said despite the lack of available facilities when she first started she did not let it stop her from producing a quality program.

“Our primary goal was to always provide the best possible music experience for the students,” she said. “People used to tell us that if the results of the program weren’t so fine, maybe we would have a better chance at getting new facilities.”

Janet Smith, a former student of Wiebener and now a City High parent, emphasized that Wiebener had a tremendous influence on her life and said she influenced her decisions to become a teacher.

“Ms. Wiebener demands excellence and provides all the support a student needs to achieve it,” she said. “She gets more out of kids than almost any teacher I’ve ever known.”

Wiebener, now retired, said she was very surprised by the dedication and had no idea officials were having the discussion.

“It’s a lovely gesture,” she said. “I’m very, very touched, and really very honored that they would do this.”

City High sophomore and orchestra student Maria McCoy said she believes Wiebener deserved the dedication.

“She just worked so hard, and she was here for so long,” she said. “She helped so many kids find music.”

After the ceremony, attendees toured the new arts wing. The project planning began in the fall of 2010, when City High Principal John Bacon began in that position.

Features of the new wing include brand-new band, choir, and vocal music rehearsal rooms, new practice rooms, and state-of-the-art sound systems. The old band room was also repurposed into three classrooms and a new computer lab.

Construction began in the fall of 2012 and lasted through the summer. The new wing officially opened on the first day of the 2013-14 academic year.

In total, the project ended up costing $6.2 million.

“It’s been an incredible process,” Bacon said. “We had really outgrown the previous facilities. We were in need of more space.”

Jim Berry, the director of choral activities, came to City High this year after leaving Bettendorf High, which just recently updated its fine-arts facilities.

He said it has been interesting to go from a school where he was involved completely in the planning process, to a school where the project is already completed.

“You learn how to make it work,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you go, nothing is going to be perfect, but this is pretty close.”

Bacon said it has been rewarding to see students using and enjoying the new facilities.

“Kids in the performing arts devote so much and really give their heart and soul to their craft,” he said. “To be able to have them have a beautiful facility to operate in is extremely satisfying.”

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