A Look Backstage
Just as an audience is captivated by the merging of unusual notes and off-beat percussion, visitors to the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College will be mesmerized by the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center. The facility took center stage in Northern Virginia in September, 2001 with the opening of its breathtaking 981seat Mary Collier Baker Theater, the beautiful Wachovia Forum, the intimate Margaret W. and Joseph L. Fisher Art Gallery and Internet-ready seminar rooms.
Community-wide discussions between the college and local arts groups in the early 1990’s led to the concept for a premier performing arts center on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. As plans for the Center developed, details were added to the design so that the building could accommodate large performance groups and off-Broadway theater companies, yet remain affordable for local non-profit groups.
Fundraising for the Schlesinger Center began in 1993 and was led by the Campaign Management Committee for the Alexandria/Arlington Cultural Center. Among the leaders of the Campaign committee was Rachel M. Schlesinger, a violinist and board member of the Arlington Symphony. Mrs. Schlesinger’s love of music began at an early age and continued through her education at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, MA, her marriage to former Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Energy, Dr. James R. Schlesinger and the birth of her eight children. Mrs. Schlesinger worked tirelessly to raise money for the Center, but never saw the dream become a reality – she died in October 1995.
In 1996, Dr. Schlesinger donated $1 million to name the Center in his wife’s memory. Dozens of local corporations, foundations and individual donors generously contributed additional funds to build the kind of first-rate facility that audiences in this area have come to expect.