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Grossmont College’s new performing arts center ready to step into the spotlight

After a long, quiet hiatus, live music will be returning to the Grossmont College campus.

The El Cajon school this week will welcome concert fans to its brand new venue — the $44 million Grossmont College Performing and Visual Arts Center.

The multipurpose theater, its exterior made of dramatic steel and glass with a soaring roofline, has one of the largest stages in the county, an orchestra pit, balcony, dressing rooms, a green room, a costume area and a makeup classroom. The center also serves as an instructional venue for the theater, dance and music programs and it houses the Hyde Art Gallery.

Grossmont will kick off its fall concert series at the 390-seat venue at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday with a performance of the Grossmont Symphony Orchestra and Master Chorale. The group has been performing over Zoom and on YouTube for more than 18 months.

The venue broke ground on the front of the campus in 2017. Thursday’s concert is the first musical performance inside the PVAC, and the second performance overall at the venue. A dance concert, “Breaking Boundaries,” the annual fall event hosted by the school’s dance department, was the first live event, held back in Nov. 2019. But then the COVID-19 shutdown hit, and PVAC has been dark since.

“This 390-seat venue has been a part of the original blueprint for Grossmont College from the earliest years,” said music director Randall Tweed. “It has been a long, arduous road. This new facility is a huge step up and being able to return for in-person rehearsals, even with social distancing and masking, has been great.”

Before the new performing arts center opened on campus, the Grossmont Symphony Orchestra and Master Chorale performed for decades at The Magnolia, the new name for the former East County Performing Arts Center in El Cajon. The ensembles also performed at several local churches.

The first live music event in the PVAC will showcase separate performances of the symphony’s brass and percussion, woodwind and string ensembles; the master chorale; and a multimedia performance of the Grossmont Symphony Chamber Orchestra. In pre-pandemic times, the ensembles performed as one large orchestra, but because of Grossmont College’s COVID-19 protocols limiting the numbers of people in one room, Thursday’s performance will be broken up, with each ensemble giving its own mini-concert.

The Grossmont Symphony Orchestra will perform again on Oct. 28, and then on Dec. 2 and Dec. 10. Several other music ensembles are also scheduled to appear this month at PVAC, including Grossmont Guitar Ensemble directed by Sean Bassett and Fred Benedetti on Oct. 13, Grossmont Concert Band directed by Russ Sperling on Oct. 20 and Grossmont Vocal Jazz Ensemble directed by Melonie Grinnell on Oct. 21.

Grossmont tickets are $5 for students, $10 for seniors and $15 for general admission. Reserved seating must be ordered via email by contacting the college’s music office at [email protected]. Tickets will be sold at the door on the day of the event, with only cash and checks accepted.

Additionally, Grossmont’s sister school, Cuyamaca College in Rancho San Diego, will open its in-person arts season at 7:30 p.m. Friday with the Cuyamaca College Choir presenting “One World: In Spirit, Ritual, and Song” at the Samuel M. Ciccati Performing Arts Center on campus.

Led by artistic director Jasper Sussman, the choir performance will feature a number of guest soloists with a repertoire including the piece, “Grateful Heart” by Hussein Janmohamed, dedicated to frontline workers and teachers.

Classical music will soon be returning to Cuyamaca, where the East County Harmonics Organization Chamber Music Series launches its third year of performances on Nov. 11. In-person rehearsals and performances also return to Cuyamaca College for the Rock, Pop, and Soul Ensemble led by instructor Taylor Smith. The Ensemble will perform U2’s album, “The Joshua Tree,” on Dec. 3. Tickets and details about Cuyamaca College concerts are available at

COVID-19 protocols are in place at both venues, requiring full vaccination or a negative PCR tests within 72 hours of performances, as well as masking and social distancing.