As a child growing up in Charleston, Quentin Baxter knew the Gaillard well. He'd been on public school field trips to the performance center and gone with his parents to see shows. And in the early 1990s, this world-class drummer went from audience member to performer when he played with the Tommy Gill Trio as part of a presentation of American Songbook Classics and Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.
"I was like, 'Wow, I'm finally on the stage,'" Baxter said.
But as he grew as a musician, producer and music teacher, Baxter began to see that the Gaillard wasn't living up to its full potential.
"The Gaillard was good for when it was built. It just became dated, that's all," he said. "It just needed a rebirth, a resurgence of what is important to this community."
Just thinking about that rebirth - with a due date in spring 2015 - gives Baxter goose bumps. He recognizes what this new performance center will mean for local musicians, visiting performers, audiences, children and Charleston's already world-class reputation.
"The potential is great. Because as a community member, we will have these experiences and have chances to reach kids and adults alike," said Baxter, also musical director of The Mezz - Charleston Jazz Bar at Sermet's Downtown. "As a presenter and producer, I can boast about producing world-class music here at home, and invite my friends who tour and it can be a place they can actually brag about when they leave.
"I can't tell you how wide open I am about this whole thing being successful."
As a child who grew up going to the Gaillard, Baxter is eager to introduce a new generation to music and show them how they too can make it to that stage.
Baxter, also a musical mentor and instructor at the College of Charleston, believes the Gaillard Center can become a hub for music education in the community and a way to enhance children's experiences in art and music.
"The Gaillard is an opportunity to have a forum for all kids, to have a forum for us, to have experiences where we all can be shoulder to shoulder and create and lift up a culture here in Charleston that's deserving of it," said Baxter, also former musical director at Charleston Grill by Belmond.
For performers, the enhanced acoustics and more intimate setting will provide a better experience for the musicians and the event attendees. "You just have to come to a space where the musicians are having a wonderful time playing and you will feel better," Baxter said.
The Gaillard Center will be "transcending," Baxter said, as it provides a space for young musicians and artists and takes its place on the world's stage as a sought-after space for performers of international regard.
"We're really giving Charleston yet another reason to be a destination," Baxter said. "We have to make sure of it - we can't drop the ball, it's important."