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
As they say, all good things must come to an end and early this month, Noel-Ney was tapped to be the development director for Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York
City. It wasn’t an opportunity that Noel-Ney was looking for. Perhaps she caught Wynton Marsalis’ eye when the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton
Marsalis performed at Overture Hall last year. But nonetheless, Jazz at Lincoln Center came looking for her.
“I was recruited for this Lincoln Center position,” Noel-Ney said. “It’s been a weird year because last year, I had one organization approach me three times. And this
year, the year started off with some inquiries. And I was thinking, ‘Well, should I pay attention to any of this.’ With the first one, I said, ‘I’ll just test and see’ and I got
an offer and I didn’t take it. And then I got a second offer, which was interesting and I didn’t take it. And then with this one, it’s Jazz at Lincoln Center. It’s a world-
class institution. And the thing that really stuck with me was when Wynton was here, afterward her performed he came back to the Audubon Room and met with our
donors. And he said things that really and truly resonated with me. He talked about how important everyone in that room was and if they realized what they are
providing to this community. And he talked about our space. He talked about the sound equipment. He talked about the beautiful dressing room. And he said ‘Thank
you’ to all of them. And I know everyone felt really special when he said that. And then he also mentioned about how he felt about his development staff and his
board. I thought ‘Wow, this is really nice’ because he didn’t have to say any of that. That kind of stuck with me.”
Noel-Ney went out to New York to interview for the development director job. And they pulled out all of the stops to woo her for the position.
“When I was out there, they asked me if I would come to a concert,” Noel-Ney said. “And I was blown away. I’ve seen them perform before. But to be in their hall and
their space and experience the entire band and just the creativity and the comfort and the love that you felt in the room was really exciting. It did seal the deal. But
then two of the VPs took me back stage. And it was almost surreal because it was to meet him. And he walked down the hall. And they suddenly disappeared. And
my husband Willie and I were standing there. He came up and we chatted for a few minutes. I reminded him of being at Overture. And he said, ‘Did I do well?’ I told
him that he really impressed our donors with his comments. And he said, ‘Good.’ Willie was nudging me to say to him that I had applied for the job. And he said, ‘I
know. She’s got the job.’ He kissed me on my cheek and he said, ‘You’ve got the job.’ He put his arm around Willie and said something else that I won’t say. But
afterwards, Willie looked at me and went, ‘Oh my God.’ It was almost like a family being together with the other musicians because we were allowed to go
backstage and meet this guest artist who was there. It was just very, very special. The people I met in the interview process, it was from 10 a.m. until about 7 p.m.,
the process of meeting with people who had worked with Wynton for 16-26 years, so there is a real commitment to the organization.”
The beauty of Noel-Ney’s career is that each stage has been a greater challenge than the one before, a challenge that she has met every time. Jazz at Lincoln Center
is that next stage in her career.
“I have to kick up my game a heck of a lot,” Noel-Ney emphasized. “My position is to raise significant gifts. It’s the six and seven figures and more. That’s my job. I’
m a part of a team that is being led by Pamela Butler and it is principle gifts for the organization. I already have a couple of ideas of things that I want to do. But it is
building new relationships and expanding others. It will be some cold-calling, I’m sure. I think that has always been one of my strengths to find the unknown. And I
think New York is a big unknown, more so because they travel so often, there will be other opportunities around the country to find others who could potentially be
supporters of Jazz at Lincoln Center.”
In the building of her career, each stage of Noel-Ney’s career has laid the foundation for the next. And she readily admits that she would not be where she is today if
it weren’t for the positions she has had in Madison and the mentors who have taught her.
Part 2 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.
“It’s going to be a real honor to work with Wynton Marsalis and his colleagues because just being
there seeing all of the world-class musicians is amazing,” Noel-Ney said. “It is a nexus of jazz. And to
be a part of making sure that it continues and grows, is a huge testament to everything I’ve learned
being here in Wisconsin. Remember, I used to be a funder of the arts. And I think that helped me and the
past few years of working with the unions project, working with the College of Letters & Science, even
working with the UW-Madison Vet School, of all of those different areas, I’ve learned so much. I’ve
learned so much from my colleagues at UW Foundation. I’m always grateful for when Mike Knetter
came in and took leadership of the foundation because he had a different method of doing work. He still
builds relationships. But you also have to be comfortable in asking. Having the opportunity to work at
Overture and realizing that I have a year to raise X amount of dollars and you have to ask. I have a
comfort level in asking. I’m not afraid or ashamed to ask because you have to if you care about the
institutions that you are working for. And there is a mission and things that have to be accomplished.
And there are very, very wonderful generous people in Madison and Wisconsin.”
A part of Noel-Ney is sad leaving Madison because of the great relationships she has fostered over the
years and because of the things that inevitably are left undone when someone moves on to the next
stage. In this case, it’s the creation of an endowment for Overture.
And if there is one thing that she will carry with her is the memory of the generosity of W. Jerome
Frautschi and Pleasant Rowland.
“I really want to say thank you to Jerry and Pleasant for what they have done for this community by
creating Overture Center for the Arts,” Noel-Ney said. “The fact that in this size of a community that we
have such a large arts center is amazing. For a long time now, I’ve been saying that this is the Lincoln
Center of the Midwest and that is truly how I feel. I feel that this is the home for the arts and that there
are so many great things accomplished. So I want to say a special thank you to them for the opportunity
to be here and work here and hopefully set things on a course to do really great things in the future. And
I am leaving behind a great team as well.”
Glenda Noel-Ney is leaving behind memories with the rest of us as a vital member of a team that set
Overture Center on a sustainable course. May the folks at Lincoln Center for the Arts have similar
memories of Noel-Ney someday in the future.