Music Hall unveils fund-raising, events strategy

A comprehensive fund-raising campaign and an expanded schedule of “trademark” events are the highlights of The Music Hall of Portsmouth’s recently unveiled two-year strategic plan.

The 2005-2007 plan, unveiled by Executive Director Patricia Lynch and Gail VanHoy-Carolan, board president, also includes a strategy for the performing arts organization’s approach to matching the federal “Save America’s Treasures” grant awarded in 2004.

Since joining The Music Hall in 2004 – the year of The Music Hall’s 125th anniversary — Lynch said she has been listening, learning and planning with the facility’s board and staff. “I promised changes and new initiatives and I believe the strategy will meet — and in some cases exceed — the goals and hopes of the community,” said Lynch.

The facility — which was saved from the wrecking ball in the mid-1980s — has since emerged as the Seacoast’s premier performing arts center hosting 70,000 patrons yearly and operating on an annual budget of $1.8 million. It relies on its membership to help support its operating expenses.

The new strategic plan presents The Music Hall’s mission “to present the very best of diverse performing and related arts and to serve as an active and vital arts center for the enrichment of the Seacoast community.”

It also outlines the vision, values and fund-raising goals, setting a blueprint for the facility’s growth.

At the top of the agenda is the “Save An American Treasure” restoration project.

In 2003, the U.S. Senate added The Music Hall to the list of “America’s Treasures,” including it in a program supported by the National Park Service and The National Trust for Historic Preservation. With the designation came a matching grant for $395,000.

To date, The Music Hall has secured $179,000 toward the match from foundations and individuals. The balance will be raised in stages, in a multi-year program, said Lynch.

“We are currently concentrating our efforts on a small number of corporations, individuals and foundations while at the same time securing much-needed operating funds. As we move forward with the two phases of our renovation plan, we will have opportunities for the entire community to participate.”

The funds will be used for a restoration program that will include repairs to the roof and stairs, a visually striking restoration of the proscenium arch, including the plaster and gold leaf work, upgrading the stage lighting and stabilizing the ceiling dome.

A large vintage crystal chandelier will be acquired to replace the one that is now missing, lost to previous “modernization” efforts.

Additionally, excavation of the basement ledge rock will allow for the expansion of the restrooms to accommodate more patrons and the construction of stalls for disabled patrons without altering the footprint of the downstairs lobby.

John Merkle of TMS Architects in Portsmouth was selected to lead the restoration.

The Music Hall also is planning what Lynch called new “trademark” events, beginning with the 2005-2006 season. The events include a pop music series, “Intimately Yours,” and another series called “Writers on a New England Stage,” which will be produced in collaboration with New Hampshire Public Radio and RiverRun Bookstore of Portsmouth. The program will air on public radio stations in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.

“The next three to five years promise to be among the most exciting and rewarding times for The Music Hall and its supporters,” Lynch said, adding that “a well-deserved restoration coupled with trademark events that complement our already vibrant programming and outreach will yield rich rewards for the entire Seacoast in economic and cultural vitality.”

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