Wenger Scores Acoustical Touchdown at Iconic “Friday Night Lights” High School
Visit Pflugerville High School in West Texas and you may recognize its football field. It was a filming site for the popular “Friday Night Lights” TV series. But the high school also has a robust performing arts reputation.
Even more so since Pflugerville Independent School District (PfISD) chose to correct long-standing acoustical issues within Pflugerville High’s Fine Arts Center (FAC). Updates to the 1,000-seat auditorium, originally built in 1973, were overdue to better serve nearly 2,000 students, district-wide events, and the broader community.
The Challenge Was Clear: The Sound Was Not
Manuel (Manny) Gamez is the director of fine arts for PfISD, which includes four traditional high schools. Pflugerville High’s FAC is a multi-purpose site used for theater performances, band and choir concerts, music camps, dance and talent competitions, prom fashion shows and more.
Typical of many school auditoriums, FAC was an acoustically “dry” space. It worked well enough for drama performances and amplified events where less reverberation is desired. But the reverberation time was too short to provide good support for band and choir performances.
“The main challenge in our space was the ability [for the audience] to hear clearly what was being presented on stage,” Gamez said.
He knew about Wenger’s Transcend® Active Acoustic System and was ready to take a look. Transcend uses a system of microphones and speakers, and digital signal processing to create a customizable acoustic environment. Transcend can simulate nearly any venue’s acoustics at the push of a button.
Gamez suspected that Transcend would give FAC the ultimate flexibility, but he first needed to hear one installed. He accepted Wenger’s invitation to visit – and listen – to exactly that at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. His impression and report back to PfISD helped get it on board, said Matt Hildebrand, Wenger’s manager of acoustic products.
“Transcend helps to blend and balance sound throughout the space for the audience. It also helps give performers some feedback so that they can sing or play more freely and confidently,” Hildebrand explained.
Wenger Went to Work
The process began by Wenger’s experts first examining the space and listening to FAC’s natural acoustics. From there, the team determined the parameters of the Transcend System, specifically, the number and location of microphones and speakers that would pair with the processer. But some acoustical housekeeping was required first.
“Our intent was to create an even drier space for amplified events and remove the flutter echo for more performance flexibly,” Hildebrand said. That required some additional acoustic panels throughout the auditorium.
Wenger also switched out the ceiling tiles over the seating area with more sound- absorptive acoustic ceiling tiles. The feat required temporarily removing large sections of audience seating to accommodate lift equipment (which meant it was also an ideal time for the school to replace carpet before Wenger re-installed the seats.)
The Transcend System at FAC includes four microphones and a network of 23 wall-mounted loud speakers, 34 overhead speakers and four in-ceiling subwoofers. The school chose seven acoustical presets, each replicating a different venue:
- Voice Lift (Lecture Hall)
- Recital Hall
- Large Hall
- Medium Auditorium
- Large Auditorium
- Concert Hall
- Cathedral Hall
“Truly in Awe!” Results
The FAC acoustical upgrades were completed in Dec. 2017 and ready to face their toughest critics: students. Gamez said their reaction was immediate.
“Transcend made such a big difference. Our students were shocked. They were truly in awe!” He added, “Transcend has helped make Pflugerville High School the district’s flagship facility for many of its activities and performances. It’s very rewarding to see our students perform in this venue.”
Hildebrand agrees. “It’s a much more flexible space. Before the installation, it was not a good space for band or choir performances. Now it’s a multi-purpose venue for whatever event is happening.”
He says a Phase Two is likely on the horizon. Now that FAC has improved the audience listening experience, the school is looking ahead to expand acoustical efforts that improve acoustics for on-stage performers, using additional stage-mounted speakers. Gamez is ready to collaborate.
“The process of working with Wenger’s team on this project was amazing. I was taken aback by their knowledge and professionalism. Bravo!”
We Hear You
From high schools to world-class venues, visit Wenger to see how one company can provide the broadest array of innovative, high-quality products and services for your performing arts spaces.