Nonprofit Insider

The Music Hall’s Gail VanHoy Carolan Announces Retirement after 18 Years with the Theater

Portsmouth - Gail VanHoy Carolan, Director of Institutional Advancement, has announced her retirement from The Music Hall at the end of December 2021. VanHoy Carolan served the arts and entertainment center for 18 years—ten on the board of trustees and eight years as part of the creative professional staff.

“I will forever be grateful for the many ways that this community has supported The Music Hall. Together, we’ve been part of something transformational, ensuring the sustainable health of this American Treasure, using arts and culture to ignite an economic renaissance in downtown while building a close-knit and diverse family,” said VanHoy Carolan. “The steadfast support throughout the extenuating circumstances of the pandemic, combined with Executive Director Tina Sawtelle and a remarkably talented leadership team and staff, has given me the confidence to take this next step. I wish for the organization the greatest success and can’t wait to see what’s ahead!” 

As a board member, four of those served as Chair with a stint as Interim Director, VanHoy Carolan was instrumental in growing The Music Hall into a mature organization, recognizing the need to strategically invest in staffing, most notably, recruiting former Executive Director, Patricia Lynch, and more recently assisted in onboarding Tina Sawtelle as the current Executive Director.  She worked in conjunction with Lynch and the board to establish metrics centered around membership growth, annual giving, and ticket sales, focusing on annual goals as well as larger capital projects. VanHoy Carolan, serving as co-chair of Treasure the Future capital campaign alongside Jameson French, worked collaboratively with various staff and board members to position the organization. They successfully raised more than $13.5 million inclusive of planned gifts to renovate facilities and address critical infrastructure needs for the Historic Theater.

A true champion of The Music Hall, VanHoy Carolan joined the staff in 2012. Her creative thinking and inspiring devotion led to increased individual and corporate support; under her tenure, membership has grown to a high of 4,000+ households and corporate sponsorship to 80 businesses. She reimagined the corporate program, strategically aligning partners with opportunities to maximize a return on their investment. For members, she augmented offerings with social opportunities that complement programming, including the popular Director’s Club and Book Club, simultaneously building a community and enhancing the value proposition. She also created a new category of Impact Investors and grew Stakeholders donors from 28 to 70 households. Patrons have benefitted from her drive to reimagine the Box Office with high-touch concierge services and the use of analytics to inform strategic directions. While on staff, VanHoy Carolan continued to lead campaigns to enhance The Music Hall campus and equipment, raising an additional $3 million and working with dedicated friends to ensure this special theater’s place in our community for generations to come. 

Recognizing that commitment to the theater can be lifelong, she is a major advocate for the 1878 Legacy Society of donors who include The Music Hall in their estate plans. Beyond her stewardship of The Music Hall, her mentorship of young professionals in the arts and philanthropy is one of her biggest points of pride and her “kids” now work at nonprofit organizations around the country.

“Gail’s dedication and devotion to The Music Hall has been nothing short of astounding, monumental, and inspirational—without her, we might not even have an institution to support. Gail’s steadfast commitment to the Hall, its team, and its mission has in turn enriched the lives of those here in our hometown as well as the culture of our greater community as a whole,” said Bob Lord, The Music Hall’s Board Chair. “We all will miss her tremendously, but I am simply grateful for all the passion, energy, and love she brought to us for so many years. Thank you Gail!”

“While we knew this day would come, Gail’s retirement at the end of this year is bittersweet. It will be difficult to let her go and impossible to replace her,” said Executive Director Tina Sawtelle. “At the same time, knowing that her work has strengthened The Music Hall and set us on a course to success, it fills me with confidence that whoever steps into this role will be well-positioned to build upon and carry on Gail’s extraordinary work.” 

The Music Hall has conducted a national search for her replacement with more announcements to come soon.


About The Music Hall
The Music Hall is an active and vital cultural center in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire, dedicated to the advancement of the tri-state region’s cultural life through the performing arts, literature, and education. A community-supported 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, it presents entertainment from around the world and around the corner—the greatest musicians, writers, and performers of the time, extraordinary films and award-winning documentaries. Its 600 yearly events delight an annual audience of 100,000 (including 20,000 children) in two theaters—an 1878 Victorian-era Historic Theater and modern and intimate Loft space. The Music Hall was recently named Editors’ Choice “Best All-Around Entertainment” by Yankee Magazine and is a federally designated “American Treasure for the Arts.” Through innovative community partnerships, it subsidizes thousands of tickets each year to make the arts accessible to all. The Music Hall is community-oriented and committed to helping the Seacoast region flourish. 

Posted on: December 13, 2021
Topics: Staff Changes | Something New

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