August 2023
AzPhil Moves to Ruth St. Theatre

Even those who don’t care for classical music are generally at least familiar with the names Beethoven, Bach and Mozart. Those are familiar because when you hear their great works, you are invariably deeply moved and feel closer in that moment to a higher, more universal part of the human mind. Many of us have been fortunate enough to take a field trip in school to hear a symphony orchestra, or in years past to have seen Leonard Bernstein on television introducing classical music to children so playfully and memorably.

We are fortunate to have some great musicians here in Prescott, including our own regional professional orchestra, the Arizona Philharmonic. Now entering its sixth season, AzPhil draws professional musicians from across the state in pursuing its mission to promote classical music, engage with the community and grow the performing-arts scene in our area. For the last five years the performing home of AzPhil was the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center, but Executive Director Henry Flurry recently announced that an agreement has been signed with the Prescott Unified School District to stage performances at the newly renovated Ruth Street Theatre for the next three seasons.

Ruth Street Theatre - Blushing Cactus Photography

This move will benefit both parties to the agreement. Our town has a limited number of venues known for classical music, basically just YCPAC and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Musicians, especially classical musicians, need to rehearse in the performance space, but in a busy space like YCPAC performers usually get only one chance to rehearse a program onstage before the concert.

“For any orchestra the ability to rehearse onstage improves the ability of the musicians to hear each other and how the hall responds. We’re excited about that aspect,” says Flurry. While the Ruth St. Theatre is primarily there to serve the school district, the orchestra will have more time to rehearse onstage.

A huge benefit for the district will be having a professional orchestra in such proximity. It’s hard to appreciate what you don’t experience. Rubbing shoulders in the hallway with professionals and hearing them rehearsing will be great exposure for the students.

Community Theatre Events Manager Amy Van Winkle is very excited about what having AzPhil at Ruth St. will bring to the students, including many possibilities for interaction with professionals. The pros can bring expertise into the classroom, students can attend rehearsals, and musicians can hold clinics with the school choir and orchestra. “They’re really a top-notch group, and I couldn’t be more excited about the partnership.”

Since the pandemic the Ruth St. Theatre has undergone a much-needed upgrade, which was a factor in AzPhil’s decision to move. When it opened in 1993 the facility offered state-of-the-art sound and lighting. Students who went through the theatre-arts department went on to careers on Broadway and around the country based on skills they acquired here. In recent months the theatre has had multiple updates, including a new sound system, repaired seats, new carpeting and paint. A new lighting system will be installed next summer, and with these changes the theatre-arts department will thrive.

Students have a hand in running the venue in roles from front-of-house to sound and lighting technicians. Acoustically it’s a jewel. “It’s a fairly live hall,” said Flurry, “you don’t need sound reinforcement on what goes out into the hall.” He is also pleased to have access to the theatre’s fine Yamaha piano.

AzPhil Co-Executive Director Abby Coffey points to a bright future for the partnership: “This move is really allowing us to live out our mission statement. We want to collaborate with other organizations and uplift other arts groups in the Prescott area, in addition to working with students and with other musicians of all backgrounds.”

For information on tickets, sponsorships and volunteer opportunities, visit or find Arizona Philharmonic on Facebook.

Abby Brill is Associate Editor of 5enses.

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