Jeff Johnston and Mark Stebbins: Award-Winning Actions

On behalf of The Music Hall and our Portsmouth colleagues and friends, please join me in congratulating Jeff Johnston and Mark Stebbins, recipients of this year’s Business Leader  Arts Awards! Winners were announced Wednesday night by the New Hampshire Business Committee for the Arts at their 37th annual event, Hidden in Plain Sight.

Honoring businesses, individuals, and organizations for their contributions to our arts and cultural scene, NHBCA’s signature awards event showcases artistic excellence throughout the state. Innovation was a theme of this year’s event, making Jeff and Mark a perfect fit.

Jeff, of Cathartes, and Mark, of XXS Hotels, are the geniuses behind the Together 250 Challenge. This unusual collaborative fundraising challenge, originally known as the Together 200 Challenge and intended to bridge the critical 100 days leading up to what we all hope will be a busy summer season, officially came to a successful conclusion in mid-May. Jeff and Mark challenged the Portsmouth community to raise $100,000 and committed to match those donations with their own contribution of $100,000. We thank all of you who participated, giving to The Music Hall and the other participating nonprofits. We so quickly met that $100,000 goal that Jeff and Mark offered an additional $25,000, growing the challenge from 200 to 250.

Funds raised are benefiting The Music Hall as well as our nonprofit peers Cross Roads House, Gather (Take Out Hunger), 3S Artspace, Prescott Park Arts Festival, Seacoast Repertory Theater, and the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center. 

When they announced the award, hosts Tricia Soule of NHBCA and Tom Raffio of Northeast Delta Dental declared that Mark and Jeff were the “ideal recipients of this award,” noting that the committee was so impressed with their inspirational vision and the way they recognized their impact could be stronger if they worked together. That has certainly been a theme for The Music Hall this past year!

The Music Hall is thrilled to have Mark and Jeff advocating for the nonprofit organizations in our community, and supporting that advocacy with action. We are fortunate to benefit from their ingenuity and delighted to celebrate them across the Granite State. Their leadership has set an example for all to follow!

The Music Hall was the recipient of a NHBCA award, too. As part of the Performing Arts Venues Group, a loose collaboration of New Hampshire arts venues, we were recognized as the Artsbuild Community Award Winner. We were happy to see many familiar faces at the event, including many of our Performing Arts Venue Group colleagues as well as Paul McKeon of B2W (last year’s Arts Award winner), Jaime Yates of Service Credit Union (winner of this year’s Large Business Award), and of course Tom Raffio, who recently interviewed Music Hall Executive Director Tina Sawtelle on his radio show.

We thank the New Hampshire Business Committee for the Arts for organizing these awards and providing nonprofits like The Music Hall with an opportunity to recognize contributions in our community. A statewide membership organization for businesses of all shapes and sizes, artist entrepreneurs, and arts and cultural organizations, the NHBCA is dedicated to breaking down barriers between the business and arts communities to develop relationships that more broadly define how art and businesses can support one another. To learn more about the NHBCA and to join the effort, visit