Glenda Noel-Ney Heads for Jazz at Lincoln Center
Developing Community Support
|After five years, Glenda Noel-Ney recently left her position at the Overture
Center as vice president for advancement to take a similar position at Jazz at
“We’ve had incredible donors who gave money for arts access,” Noel-Ney said in an interview before she left Overture to become a director of development at Jazz
at Lincoln Center in New York City. “And also County Executive Joe Parisi’s office supports it to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to come to Overture.
One of my favorite stories is when Lion Ling was here. We had a very generous donor who helped to create an opportunity for a family of four, to pay $75 for
mezzanine seats. That’s $75 in total for four tickets. And if you wanted to see it, but couldn’t afford $75, then $50 would get you four tickets upstairs in the balcony.
That made a great difference in terms of allowing families to come and see a show. And we have the same situation again with the same donor. And we have a
situation coming up that I can’t speak of at this point who is doing something really special in the community to make sure there is arts access. We also had noticed
that a certain segment of the community couldn’t afford those price points, so we also had $5 and $10 tickets available to make sure that there wasn’t a barrier to
coming and enjoying the arts. There are so many studies that show that when a child has access to the arts, in all likelihood, they will go on to high school. They will
go on to college. They will graduate and become a contributing member of the community. That is what we try to do, from the Kids in the Rotunda opportunities to On
Stage. There is always some sort of entryway to see the arts and participate in Overture.”
Not only was it important to bring people from all segments of Madison society into the Overture Center for the programming and shows through programs like Rising
Stars and Kids in the Rotunda and diversity of programming in Overture Hall and the Capitol Theater, but it was equally important that Overture Hall not look like a
segregated performance art space with the people of color mainly seated in the balconies.
“Ed Holmes, director of Diversity & Inclusion and Lex Poppins, our VP of Marketing wanted to make sure that we look at the seating as well so that people weren’t
just up in the balcony,” Noel-Ney said. “Now there is really a great mix so that when an artist of color is looking down, they are also seeing people who look like them
in great seats in the orchestra. So I think we have purposefully done a lot of things to make sure that it’s not just the elite who are coming to Overture, that everyone
And the focus on diversity and inclusion has also contributed greatly to the overall health of the Overture Center.
“When I first started, my goal was to raise $1.75 million and I raised $1.83 million,” Noel-Ney said. “And with every year, we’ve increased anywhere from 15-20
percent. Last year, our goal was $2.5 million and we raised $3.3 million. It was a lot of hard work, but it was also being smart about where we spent our time. We get
to know people and build a relationship. One of my best memories from last year was having a phone call from someone who said, ‘Tell me what Local Legends
are?’ We spoke for maybe a half hour or so. And then that person said, ‘I’m interested’ and became a Local Legend. That doesn’t just happen. But it was really
wonderful to see that people in the community are paying attention for what we are doing and wanting to be a part of it. And I feel personally that we’ve done a really
great job of getting to know our donors.”
Next issue: Departure for Lincoln Center
Part 1 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
When it was first conceived back in the late 1990s, the Overture Center was
thought of as more of an elite institution that would be primarily supported by an
endowment and little community support would be needed beyond an annual city
government subsidy, proceeds from the endowment and ticket sales.
But then the Great Recession hit and state government revenue controls restricted
local governments ability to meet community needs, which placed further
pressures on Overture’s budget. Overture would have to rethink how it was going
to secure its long-term future.
In 2012, Ted DeDee was hired as the CEO of Overture. He came to Overture from
Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts in New Albany, Ohio with an
emphasis on community. DeDee set out to build community support for Overture
and one of his most important first hires was Glenda Noel-Ney as vice-president of
advancement, Overture’s chief development officer. Noel-Ney was hired away
from the UW Foundation where she was the lead fund developer for the rebuilding
of Union South and renovation of the Memorial Union among other projects.
DeDee’s and Noel-Ney’s philosophies meshed and along with Tim Sauers, vice-
president of programming & community engagement and others at Overture, the
Overture Center became a true community performing arts center with a greatly
expanded base of community support.