Meet Levitt Pavilion's New Executive Director, Meghan McNamara | Westword

Meet Levitt Pavilion's New Executive Director, Meghan McNamara

"Her experience and leadership will be invaluable as we continue to bridge cultural gaps and erase divisions in our community through music."
Meghan McNamara is Levitt Pavilion Denver's new executive director.
Meghan McNamara is Levitt Pavilion Denver's new executive director. Courtesy Kyle Flubacker
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For Meghan McNamara, creating and presenting arts-based programming centered around live music is about more than just bringing in the hottest hitmakers and packing a venue. Instead, she sees the stage as an opportunity to introduce more diverse talent to different audiences and ultimately build inclusive communities.

McNamara’s longstanding ethos aligns perfectly with that of Levitt Pavilion Denver, a nonprofit built around the idea that "nothing brings people together better than music,” which is why she was recently named the organization’s new executive director after an international search led by Arts Consulting Group Inc.

“After an exhaustive search, we are thrilled to welcome Meghan McNamara to the Levitt Pavilion Denver family. Her experience and leadership will be invaluable as we continue to bridge cultural gaps and erase divisions in our community through music,” Levitt Pavilion Board Chair María Corral shared in an announcement highlighting the new hire, whose first official day was Monday, April 3.

With more than fifteen years of experience in arts management and nonprofit leadership, McNamara had most recently overseen programming, marketing and partnerships for the Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater in Chicago. As vice president of programming and audience, she curated programming for Harris Theater Presents, which brings innovative and boundary-pushing productions by world-renowned artists and emerging voices from around the globe to Chicago.

While studying politics and social movement at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, McNamara began her career in the arts with an internship at Molo Songololo, a children's-rights organization with arts-based programming in Cape Town, South Africa.

“At that point, I knew that this was the space that I wanted to work in and have a professional path where creativity and community-building can really come together,” she says.

After returning stateside, she joined the team at Carolina Performing Arts before working in the Windy City. Her diverse arts and events background affords McNamara a unique understanding of audience relationships and thoughtful community engagement that’s ideal for her new role in Denver, and she’s happy to be here.

“As far as Denver goes, there are a couple of things that really drew me to the city. On a personal level, I enjoyed being here as a visitor over the years. It’s a city that I knew would be great from a lifestyle perspective,” McNamara says. “In terms of the cultural sector, I think there’s a pretty unique challenge being a not-for-profit music presenter and venue in a city that has such a rich music scene — and a very saturated one, in some ways. But really carving out the unique space for Levitt and establishing and building on that institutional identity is something that I’m really looking forward to digging into.”

Located in Ruby Hill Park in southwest Denver, Levitt Pavilion hosts an annual free concert series as well as ticketed shows, with local, regional, national and international acts in a relaxed, open-lawn setting. The full summer season slate was announced on Tuesday, April 11, and begins Saturday, May 6, with Fishbone and Frontside Five. The wide variety of musicians and genres is just another reason McNamara is proud to be part of such a space.

“I’m excited that there are some bigger names like La Santa Cecilia [Saturday, May 13] and Soccer Mommy [Thursday, June 22], because there’s a great deal of visibility that comes with having those bigger acts and audiences discovering the venue that way,” she says. “Personally, I’m super excited for Son Little [Friday, May 19]. I love R&B and soul, and I think he has such an incredible songwriting talent and a really distinctive voice.”

She adds that Levitt’s “festival formats” and partnership-driven cultural programs also make for a positive guest experience.

“I love that format with multiple artists — and multiple genres, in some cases. I think it creates a really rich experience, whether people identify with the artists who are performing on that particular day or perhaps they’re discovering the layers of a culture through those programs,” McNamara says.

A fan of everything from hip-hop to free-form jazz, McNamara plans to catch a show at Red Rocks soon, or at least whenever she's able to while helping to put on fifty free concerts and more throughout her first season with Levitt. She knows that building community through music takes dedication and consistency from everyone involved. Plus, she adds, it’s important to do “a lot of listening” in order to learn from partners and patrons and “create a welcoming and enriching experience for everyone who comes through the venue.

“I really think that some of those partnership-driven events are such a critical piece, not to just make sure that there’s a really diverse range of artists on stage," she continues. "It establishes credibility for the organization, because those partners have relationships in their own respective communities, and by saying that we want to partner with this venue and inviting people in it creates a credibility and a trust that you can’t build overnight. It’s work that requires constant investigation and nurturing relationships and challenging ourselves to think about who might be missing or what we can do better. I love that it’s foundational to the Levitt mission and something that we’ll continue to build on.”

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