Professional-level equipment is part of what makes Aetos Center for the Performing Arts appealing to national artists. (Photo by Susan Wade)

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A cultural treasure is putting Nixa on the national performing arts circuit.

The Aetos Center for the Performing Arts is drawing in national touring acts, such as country music star Martina McBride, contemporary Christian artist Steven Curtis Chapman, acclaimed actor Richard Dreyfuss and others to be announced soon.

Not bad for a facility built to serve high school students.

Zac Rantz, general manager for Aetos and spokesman for Nixa Public Schools, said the idea to build a performance facility was proposed because the old facilities at Nixa High School weren’t serving students well. 

Before it was presented to voters who would have to approve a property tax hike to build it, the idea grew and soon became a $16 million project.

“In typical Nixa fashion, people asked ‘What if we did this?’” Rantz said.

Voters liked the idea, and in 2019 approved a 41-cent property tax levy increase for teacher salaries and construction of the Aetos Center. The increase was rolled back by 21.68 cents due to the Missouri Hancock Amendment, making it 19.32 cents.

The performing arts center opened in February 2023 with a beautifully adorned lobby, professional light and sound equipment and seating for 1,136 people.

For comparison, Gillioz Theatre in Springfield has about 1,000 seats, Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts has 2,220 and the Landers Theatre has about 530.

Aetos, Greek for “eagle,” the Nixa schools mascot, is small enough to be intimate while big enough for ticket sales to cover the cost of performers with national followings.

Those national acts are an economic boon for Nixa.

Impact on the Nixa economy

A crowd cheers for Colton Dixon, of “American Idol” fame, during his recent performance at the Aetos Center for the Performing Arts. (Photo provided by Aetos Center for the Performing Arts)

Rantz estimates the nationally-recognized shows booked at Aetos have injected $225,000 into the Nixa economy with patrons staying in hotels, eating at restaurants, shopping and buying necessities. To date, Aetos has drawn in patrons from 23 states and Canada.

Tickets sales aren’t included in that financial figure. Prices are set to cover expenses, not to make a profit.

“Our goal is to break even and pay the bills,” Rantz said.

In 2023, 5,000 tickets were sold at Aetos, a number already surpassed in 2024 and growing with 15 shows booked for the 2024-25 season and negotiations underway for more. 

“It’s kind of cool because we now have agents calling us,” Rantz said.

Nixa's facility and crew impress the performers

Magician Mike Super has performed twice at Aetos Center for the Performing Arts. Super won the NBC show “Phenomenon” and was a finalist on “America's Got Talent.” (Photo provided by Aetos Center for the Performing Arts)

Robin Nemanick, tour manager for Mike Super, a magician and illusionist who has booked at Aetos twice, said she was impressed with the facility and the people running it, including the students. 

“They have a student volunteer crew, which was absolutely amazing,” Nemanick said. “Those kids were in the moment and willing to learn.”

Nemanick said she’s keeping an eye on Aetos and hopes to book Super’s act there again.

“I think they’re doing a great job for the community,” Nemanick said. “They’re bringing in top-tier performers.”

While booking national touring acts and bringing them to Nixa is impressive, it's important for Nixa Public Schools administrators to use Aetos for learning opportunities for students and for productions and performances featuring students.

An education-based mission

Nixa theater students presented the Wizard of Oz at the Aetos Center for the Performing Arts on the same stage where national touring acts appear. (Photo provided by Aetos Center for the Performing Arts)

Along with learning how to run lights and sound, manage a box office and do all the other tasks that come with operating a performing arts center, students have opportunities to hone performance skills in ways most don’t experience until they go to college.

Abigail Tiberian, who just graduated from Nixa High School and will pursue a degree in music education at Missouri State University, said performing at Aetos has given her real-world experience she wouldn’t have gotten in the school’s old facilities.

“Even if there’s no audience, you can pretend and experience the real thing,” she said after a recent practice of “Never Enough” on the Aetos stage.

Abigail Tiberian, a recent graduate of Nixa High School, practices singing “Never Enough” on the stage at the Aetos Center for the Performing Arts. (Photo by Susan Wade)

Besides bringing high-quality entertainment to Nixa, Aetos provides opportunities for arts patrons to volunteer and be part of their community and schools in ways that weren't available before.

Upcoming shows at Aetos Center for the Performing Arts

More information on the Aetos website

  • June 9 - We Are Messengers
  • June 14 - Martina McBride
  • Sept. 11 - An Evening with Richard Dreyfuss
  • Sept. 22 - Puppy Pals Live!
  • Oct. 7 - The Coalminers Present Always Loretta, the ultimate Loretta Lynn Tribute
  • Dec. 15 - Steven Curtis Chapman Acoustic Christmas
  • Feb. 28 - Reed Timmer
Professional-level equipment is part of what makes Aetos Center for the Performing Arts appealing to national artists. (Photo by Susan Wade)

Susan Wade

Susan Wade’s career includes nine years at the News-Leader in Springfield where she covered various topics, including Christian County, Greene County, higher education and many others. She has a bachelor’s degree in public relations and journalism and a master’s degree in communications from Missouri State University. She is a lifelong resident of southwest Missouri. Email her at More by Susan Wade