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October 1, 2014

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Smith Center’s Myron Martin reflects on first 18 months: Randy Travis, Cabaret Jazz and students

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Steve Marcus

Myron Martin, president and CEO of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, announces the Broadway shows for Season 2 during a donors reception at the Smith Center on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013.

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Randy Travis opens the Smith Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, March 2, 2012.

'Wicked' Behind-the-Scenes

Carpenters work during load-in for Launch slideshow »

It has been a truly remarkable debut year for our stunning Smith Center for the Performing Arts downtown: incredible stars, amazing shows, brilliant performances and fabulous concerts. If one man is to be singled out for the formidable first 12 months, it’s Myron Martin, president and CEO of the Smith Center.

Who could do a better job of looking back at the premiere year than Myron himself? I asked him to pen his thoughts and reflections, and I wanted his guest contribution to welcome me home now that I’m back in action from my European travels:

When Robin asked me to fill in for him with this column, I first thought that I would report on some of the great shows at the Smith Center during our first year — more than 450 of them actually — and all the fabulous people who were in attendance. You know, like a 5-week, sold-out run of “Wicked” or concerts with Diana Krall or the Cleveland Orchestra. But then I realized that I can’t compete with Robin — he’s the master.

Instead, I thought I would look back at some of my fondest memories in our first year and a half. People often ask me which shows have been my favorite or what has been the best part of the Smith Center’s first chapter. As you can image, I can’t answer that. It’s like asking someone which child is his or her favorite. I can’t pick a favorite.

But there a few things that do pop in my mind, some of the unsung moments and accomplishments that still give me goose bumps to this day.

It all started with Randy Travis. Before our magical opening night, the Smith Center hosted two concerts to honor the men and women who designed and built the center. Yes, two concerts because there were so many dedicated individuals who made this vision a reality that we couldn’t fit them into one evening.

Randy really enjoyed those audiences, despite battling bronchitis, and thanked them for being the hands that built such a beautiful hall. He left an autographed guitar behind with the inscription “one of the best sounding halls we’ve ever played” that I glance at daily in my office. We are all keeping Randy in our thoughts and prayers.

Cabaret Jazz is more of a household name than you thought. Someone recently called Cabaret Jazz the “best music venue you’ve never been to.” But that is changing. Artists and audiences are falling in love with Cabaret Jazz here at the Smith Center.

We wanted the biggest jazz and cabaret performers to share the stage — hence the easy-to-remember name. From Branford Marsalis and Doc Severinsen to Betty Buckley and Linda Eder, artists have loved performing inside this great space, and our audiences, including Robin, are regular attendees. They love being treated to extraordinary performances inside this intimate room. If you haven’t made it there yet, go buy your ticket. It’s time.

‘War Horse,’ More in Season 2 at Smith Center

Mary Stopa gets a close-up look at Joey, the puppet horse from Launch slideshow »

Duncan Sheik and Suzanne Vega at Cabaret Jazz

Duncan Sheik and Suzanne Vega at Cabaret Jazz in the Smith Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, April 15, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Our most important audience members may not even be old enough to drive yet. What I can say with confidence is that it would be difficult to beat any day here at the Smith Center when our campus is full of students. More than 42,000 Clark County students attended performances at the center in our first year. Other students were treated to in-school conversations with artists, and some lucky kids from our city even received one-on-one coaching from artists including jazz legend Al Jarreau.

Every time we bring busloads of students here, I think to myself that one of these kids — or 10 or 100 — might find inspiration today the way I did when I was in fourth grade, that one of these students may have awakened a passion or dream inside them for the first time.

Then I start to think about the moment we witnessed our city’s most talented high school theater performers join on Reynolds Hall’s stage as part of the first Nevada High School Musical Theater Awards. I was so moved when we were able to send two students from Nevada to the Big Apple to represent our state for the first time and perform on a Broadway stage participating in the national Jimmy Awards this summer. We’re proud to have made that happen for two future Broadway stars.

It’s these moments — and many more — that are the direct result of having such great community support. This time next year, it will be even tougher to pick my “favorites.” In the meantime, the goose-bump moments will continue, and we look forward to welcoming Robin back for many more great shows.

Myron’s success story for the Smith Center continues with the start of the second year and the new-look version of “Les Miserables” that runs at Smith Center from Wednesday through Sunday. Later today, we’ll have my Q+A with director Laurence Connor and then Thursday our Senior Editor Don Chareunsy will have a review of the production.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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