Member Spotlight: Jackie Gadsden and Laurel Dunn

Actually, it’s almost hard not to run into them! They live right on Islington Street, near the wonderful Portsmouth restaurants they frequent and Goodwin Park, where Laurel daily walks their cat. Though only having lived in Portsmouth for a couple of years, they’ve become entrenched in the community through the many causes they support: the NHSPCA, the NH Food Bank, the United Way, and The Music Hall, among many others. Four of their five grandchildren live just over the bridge in Kittery and they make the most of the proximity by being available for drop off and pickups, impromptu lunches at school, and special Sunday dinners at Café Med that include a visit to Diversions to choose a small surprise.

Laurel and Jackie also make sure to share their deep passion for the arts with the grandkids, taking them to New York, Paris, Barcelona, and frequent shows at The Music Hall. Having found joy and confidence through playing musical instruments in their youth, they make sure to foster appreciation for the arts not only in their family, but they also take every opportunity to provide access to the arts for those less fortunate. As Laurel contends, “art is so important, especially for its ability to encourage expression; to share our views and our heritage. Art allows communication regardless of disability.”

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at The Music Hall was a family favorite last holiday season, so they purchased 12 tickets for the December 12 show of this year’s production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas to bring the whole family…and then some. Two of their tickets were for teen girls who participate in Arts in Reach (AIR). Jackie is on the board of AIR, which strives to empower at-risk teen girls through creative expression. And, when they heard about The Music Hall’s Give the Gift of Magic campaign, which provided 300 White Christmas tickets to families in need through partnerships with Families First and Cross Roads House, Jackie says, “It was a no brainer! Of course we wanted to help.”

Laurel has retired from a career centered on giving back. First, as a school counselor, then working at Easter Seals and later supporting HIV/AIDS causes. Jackie is Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at Comcast. Both women observe and appreciate the acceptance of differences and efforts to share cultural diversity both in the City of Portsmouth and at The Music Hall they love, but are rooting for more. This month, as two dozen AIR girls will be experiencing the music of The Garifuna Collective Featuring Umalali in the Loft, Jackie and Laurel will be there, too.

They don’t miss many Music Hall shows – it was a source of pride for Jackie to be one of the very first members in line to buy tickets on First Saturdays. However, one fateful Saturday, she left her house before dawn, certain to be the first to choose her favorite seats (second row, on the aisle), only to find another couple already waiting with lawn chairs and blankets. That was the day Jackie learned that a membership upgrade would allow her to take advantage of The Music Hall’s concierge ticket service – no more lines!

We miss seeing her the first Saturday of each month, but thoroughly enjoy having both Jackie and Laurel’s infectious enthusiasm and generosity in The Music Hall family. Be sure to say hello next time you see them at the theater – you just may end up making some lifelong friends.