Performing arts programs inspire imaginations

Robert Allen ’08 has achieved something that many people only dream of — he’s made it to Broadway. You won’t see him under the spotlight, though. He is a sound engineer, working on various Broadway and off-Broadway productions, sometimes traveling with touring companies, to make the performers on stage sound amazing for their audiences.

Allen graduated in performing arts with a concentration in audio technology, but he had been attending programs at Clemson’s Brooks Center for the Performing Arts for years before enrolling at Clemson.

Allen was one of the thousands of children who file into the seats at the Brooks Center every year to enjoy performances of classical music, children’s plays, dance and more, made possible by the Bill and Donna Eskridge Tri-ART Series.

“I think Tri-ART’s primary influence would have to be the creation of a ‘comfort zone’ with the performing arts,” said Allen. “If it weren’t for my early exposure to theater, I may have shied away from studying at the Brooks Center and pursuing a career in the arts.”

That’s the kind of impact Bill and Donna Eskridge wanted to have when they decided to endow the Tri-ART program. The couple were introduced to the Brooks Center shortly after retiring to Lake Keowee in 1993. After learning about the Tri-ART program and its funding needs, they decided to support it by creating an endowment. They have also decided to include the program in their estate plans, to ensure that it will continue to inspire children for generations.

“It’s probably the best investment we’ve ever made,” Bill said. “I have a framed quote at home that says, ‘A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the kind of car I drove … but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.’ That’s the significance of the Tri-ART program, and why we wanted to support it.”

Each year, the Brooks Center hosts 18 Tri-ART programs, with an annual attendance of about 13,000 children. Children are able to attend the programs for $2, and some programs are free.

“There is nowhere else in this country where children can see events of this quality for just $2,” said Lillian “Mickey” Harder, director of the Brooks Center. “We are enriching the lives of thousands of children, and Bill and Donna Eskridge have made that happen.”

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