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Coming of Age

September 28, 1986

In population, commerce, education, and technological creativity, Orange County shed its role as a suburb of Los Angeles years ago. Tomorrow night, when Zubin Mehta raises his baton to christen the Orange County Performing Arts Center with its first symphonic fanfare, the county will shed its role as a cultural suburb as well.

Bold in design and strikingly beautiful, the 3,000-seat center comes to Orange County's South Coast Plaza late in life, following a first-things-first pattern common to the West. As with the Music Center in Los Angeles, first things included homes and roads, offices, stores and industries. But the dream was always there, waiting its turn.

Whatever arts are performed at Monday's gala opening, the center itself and its triumphant architectural style will, properly, be the star, representing for lovers of symphonic music, dance and opera a cultural coming of age for Orange County. In time and with hard work, the Center will start serving its real mission as a setting for the arts.

The catalyst for this coming of age was C. J. Segerstrom & Sons, led by Henry T. Segerstrom, who donated land for the center and started the building fund with a $6-million donation. That led to what became the largest private campaign in the nation's history for building a performing arts facility. In the end, the donations--some as small as $5--became Orange County's $73.4-million gift to itself. Now it can begin enjoying the rewards that come with such a rich gift.

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