John Legend: Performing in Springfield key to his success

Springfield City School District will dedicate theater renovated in his honor on Sunday.

John Legend helped pay for the renovation of a historic high school theater in Springfield because he said performing here as a child was crucial to his current success.

“I knew how important that was for me when I was in high school and middle school and throughout my time in Springfield and how important the arts were and performance spaces were to me,” Legend said Friday in an exclusive interview with the Springfield News-Sun.

He will perform Sunday during a ceremony to open the John Legend Theater inside the Springfield Center of Innovation: The Dome, 700 S. Limestone St. The Springfield City School District gave out 200 tickets to the public for the performance in under six minutes.

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The ribbon cutting at 1 p.m. Sunday is open to public. Wristbands are required for entry into Legend’s performance after the ceremony. There will be no exceptions, school officials said.

Event-goers are asked to park at Hayward Middle School because there is an expectation of a high volume of traffic. The school will provide a shuttle service beginning at 12:15 p.m. until 1:15 p.m. from Hayward to The Dome and then again 30 minutes after the event concludes.

Legend said he got involved with The Dome to bring something good to his hometown community.

“This was where I was born and raised,” Legend said. “I know Springfield has had its struggles and if we are going to come back we are going to have to do it together.”

He said Sunday will be special for him and the Springfield community.

READ MORE: Tickets go fast as fans line up for John Legend’s Springfield show

“I am going to give a performance, but it is also about seeing the new facility and celebrating the fact that we all did this as a collaboration,” Legend said.

The Oscar and 10-time Grammy winner raised about $500,000 through a campaign where he called on fans to help raise money.

“It’s great and I am proud of what we have done together,” he said. “I am thankful for all my fans who are not even from Springfield or Ohio that contributed all around the world as part of the raffle. We raised a lot of money through there and they may never see the facility themselves but they were supportive of it.”

The Dome will be a game changer for students and community members interested in the arts, Springfield City School District leaders said.

“This space brings a lot of potential to bring smaller acts that would never sell out 1,500 seats,” district spokeswoman Kim Fish said. “Because it is owned and operated by the school system and run by students we hope to keep the prices to rent the theater low.”

Students from multiple districts, including Springfield City, will have the opportunity to utilize the theater and learn how to professionally run a production.

The Dome is more than 100 years old. It was first Springfield High School, then South High School, which closed in 2008 after the school district built a new combined high school. The building, with the help of Legend, won an $11.3 million grant to renovate part of the building. However, it wasn’t enough to complete the renovation of the auditorium.

Legend stepped up along with other donors like Speedway, Security National Bank and the Turner and Springfield foundations this year and donated the money to get the project completed.

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