Amy Fulmer was a music teacher at Palm Coast’s Wadsworth Elementary in the early 1990s when her young students performed at the new Flagler Auditorium before a packed house of their fellow students and their families.
The performance was one of the very first events at the 1,000-seat venue on the campus of Flagler Palm Coast High School.
After almost 30 years of hands-on music teaching in Flagler County schools, most recently as Director of Choral Activities at the high school, Fulmer hung up her teacher’s hat on June 1 to become director of Flagler Auditorium, filling the position left vacant following the death of her friend Lisa McDevitt in January after 16 years at the helm.
“I love teaching music,” said Fulmer, who guided the high school’s area-renowned Formality Singers and taught guitar. “But I needed to grow and I wanted to give back. This allows me to take my passion for the arts to a new level.”
Fulmer, given her past 15 years as a music teacher at the high school, is no stranger to the auditorium, which was created by a public bond issue 27 years ago. Along with presenting big-name music stars, touring Broadway shows and other professional entertainment, as well as community performances and activities, the third leg of the venue’s mission is hosting numerous Flagler County school activities, including plays and concerts. The auditorium also houses the high school’s band room and, through its governing board, awards arts education scholarships to students and grants to area arts groups.
Fulmer came on board just as a $1.9 million auditorium renovation has been completed, including a new box office, upgraded bathrooms and additional female bathrooms, new handicapped access to the venue’s black box theater, and a new conference room, kitchen and office space. The renovations were partially funded by a $500,000 matching grant from the Florida Department of State’s Division of Cultural Affairs
“Previously we held meetings in the lobby,” said Laurie Alter, president of the auditorium’s governing board, with a wry smile as she and Fulmer admired the conference room.
The public can meet Fulmer and tour the venue at 5500 East Hwy. 100, Palm Coast, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the renovations at 5:30 this evening. The event will feature live music and food for guests.
Tickets to the venue’s 26-show, 2019-2020 season of professional entertainment will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday and will be available at the auditorium’s box office, by calling the venue at 386-437-7547, and on its website, flaglerauditorium.org.
The new season includes such performers as Marilynn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. (formerly of the 1960s-70s pop group the 5th Dimension), comedian Rita Rudner, the political comedy troupe the Capitol Steps, the Australian pop-classical singing group the Ten Tenors (a returning perennial Flagler Auditorium favorite), the National Ballet of Odessa, the comedic canine troupe Mutts Gone Nuts, and tributes to Queen, the Eagles, the Bee Gees and other pop-rock groups.
The ticket on-sale date is one change to auditorium procedure since Fulmer’s arrival – in past seasons, tickets have gone on sale in September. The new season’s first performance, a tribute to country singer Jason Aldean titled “The Ultimate Aldean Experience,” will be Sept. 14. But don’t expect major changes, at least at this point in Fulmer’s tenure.
“Our mission won’t change,” she said, noting the auditorium’s trifecta of hosting professional shows, community performances and activities, and Flagler school performances and activities. The venue will host approximately 100 professional and community events in the coming year.
Alter, the board president, said patrons may eventually see some change in the auditorium’s offerings: “We want to focus more on what the community wants in professional shows” she said, suggesting that the auditorium may conduct some sort of outreach to gauge the public’s interests.
As in past seasons, the auditorium’s upcoming lineup is heavily weighted toward “tribute” shows, in which generally not-well-known musicians will perform the works of such superstars as Queen, the Eagles, ABBA, Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson, the Carpenters and the so-called “Million Dollar Quartet” of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins (the music that foursome made in the 1950s will be featured during the show “One Night in Memphis” on April 4).
However, Fulmer said, keeping ticket prices low is a concern, adding “We offer some of the most affordable shows in the area – we rarely have a ticket price over $50.”
Indeed, only three of the upcoming professional shows – all featuring recognizable names –have the top-tier ticket range of $39-$49: the Ten Tenors, Rita Rudner, and Marilynn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. Most shows are priced at $29-$39 or $34-$44.
The 2019-20 budget projects total performance income (from the professional shows only) at $666,800, which includes $565,000 projected in ticket sales. Additional funding comes from “performance related grants” from sponsors, advertisers and such government agencies as Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Tourist Development Council.
The auditorium’s artist fees and operating expenses are supported mostly through ticket sales. Total performance expenses for the coming season are projected at $624,000, leaving a net performance income of $42,740.
The auditorium’s 2018-19 ticket sales for its 27-show season of professional shows totaled $489,538. Attendance for those shows has been relatively flat for the past several years: it was 13,532, or an average of 500 per show, filling just about half the venue’s capacity.
Past professional season attendance figures are:
2017-18 (27 shows) – 14,523
2016-17 (show total n/a) – 12,381.
2015-16 (show total n/a) – 14,375.
Projected 2019-20 “fundraising income” from corporate and individual patron contributions, Arts in Education grants, fundraising events, venue rental income and other sources is projected to be $136,693. All of those funds will go to capital donations to Flagler schools, additions to the auditorium’s capital reserve, and scholarships and grants given by the Flagler Auditorium Governing Board to support arts education and community arts groups, both inside and outside of the school system.
The annual salary of Fulmer, who also goes by Amelia, is $86,276, which she equates to “a principal’s salary” and took into account her almost 30 years’ experience with Flagler Schools, she said.
Even before McDevitt’s death, Fulmer began to pursue a master’s degree in performing arts administration via an online program from the Chicago College of the Performing Arts, Roosevelt University. One particular goal at that time was to gain more knowledge about writing arts grants, Fulmer said. According to the Roosevelt University website, “Students in this selective program will take a broad range of courses in the areas of marketing, public relations, finance, development, technology, community engagement and more. Course work is taught by current and former senior administrators of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and League of American Orchestras, among others, all of whom have firsthand knowledge and experience in the field.”
One change that Fulmer has implemented in her first few weeks on the job is to hold an “arts outreach” event Sept. 12 at the auditorium, in which the public will be invited to meet with representatives of such area arts organizations as the Palm Coast Arts Foundation, Flagler Playhouse and City Repertory Theatre, plus artist J.J. Graham of Salvo Art House.
The fledgling Palm Coast Arts Foundation has begun to offer concerts and plays on its outdoor pavilion stage in Town Center, just a few miles from Flagler Auditorium, including Shakespeare in the Park plays in partnership with City Repertory Theatre. PCAF’s goal is to build a 2,500-capacity indoor performing arts venue.
Fulmer doesn’t see PCAF as a competitor but as an organization that will increase opportunities for the arts in the area. For example, she said, Flagler Palm School High School students who are learning the technical aspects of theater, concert and events production may find opportunities to volunteer at PCAF, she said.
“Amy’s relationships in the community were a huge factor in her hiring,” Alter said.
“Things didn’t fall apart, but they could have” following McDevitt’s death, Fulmer said. “That shows it’s not just the director in this seat. This place has a ‘we’ culture that includes the school board, the governing board, the staff and students. We’ve achieved a lot, but this is just the beginning of what we can achieve. The arts are important to our community. They move us beyond politics and our differences.”