Staff Highlights: Jeff Kamensky

You’ve definitely seen today’s staff member before! Jeff Kamensky, our Senior Front of House Manager, shares how he found his way to The Music Hall, his favorite moments, experience, and maybe some cocktail advice…

How long have you been at The Music Hall? Where were you before and why did you decide to bring all of your know-how to the arts? 
I’ve been working at the Hall for almost 4 years. I started out as the Food & Beverage Manager (I mostly ran the bars) and now I am the Senior Front of House Manager. Before that, I spent 20 years in the restaurant industry working my way up from busboy to bartender and everything in between. I love the restaurant industry – it taught me everything I know – but I was ready for a change. The Music Hall combined two of my passions: hospitality and the arts. I grew up playing instruments and I’m a huge fan of live music in general. It seemed like the perfect fit!

You work most of the events, what brings you joy every time? 
The breath of relief after a smooth “in” of a performance – just like getting through a dinner rush in my restaurant days. Seeing a full house of patrons all settled in to enjoy a show with popcorn and a drink in hand. It’s gratifying. 

I love living vicariously through the patrons and witnessing the joy they experience seeing their favorite band or hearing an inspiring author. Even if the performance isn’t necessarily “my cup of tea” I get joy from seeing others experience joy and knowing we helped make that happen. 

What’s been your favorite live show so far?
That’s a hard one… Andrew Bird, Trombone Shorty… Caroline Campbell playing Kashmir during Chris Botti’s set – a religious experience. But my favorite performance I’ve seen so far would have to be Galactic this February with special guest Chali 2na from Jurassic-5. Seeing a hip-hop artist from my youth on our intimate stage, very cool. And a hip hop performance with a live band, not just a DJ, the acoustics of the hall are just so good! Most of our patrons would never think of us as a hip-hop venue, but we truly have something for everyone and I hope to see more acts like this booked in the future! 

When you’re not running the show as our Senior Front of House Manager, where are we most likely to find you?
That all depends on the season. In the winter I follow the snow and you can find me and a board taking full advantage of my pass to Sugarloaf or Sunday River. In the summer I’m at the beach or on a mountain bike. Otherwise, I’m home “negotiating” with my wife about our latest home improvement project (oh, the joys of buying a fixer-upper!) or trying out a new recipe – I love to cook. 

You just got your Food Protection Management Certification! How will this play into the care you give our food service and concessions? 
It was an enlightening course that will certainly provide guidance for our concession service when we reopen. It reinforced the things we’ve always done for food safety and also drove home a few points that will help sharpen our practices going forward. I hope to instill confidence in our patrons that we are prepared to handle the new COVID-19 climate. We’ll be doing everything we can to keep our staff and patrons safe and healthy. 

While most of what we do is candy and popcorn, we also do lots of catering and special events. Kim McNamara and the rest of the City of Portsmouth Health Department have always offered guidance and support when we branch out into new territory, like serving hot dogs for Telluride By The Sea. This certification is another tool in the toolbox. 

You interact with patrons at each and every show, what makes the Seacoast Community so special?
The Seacoast continues to blow me away with their dedication to the community and the arts. Events like Fill the Hall, our annual food drive with Gather; and the Kitchen Tour, when neighbors open their homes to the public to help support The Hall; speak to the big hearts of our locals. 

But what’s truly special about our Seacoast Community? That so many choose to spend their free time volunteering at The Music Hall! Our volunteers are our family and we’d be lost without them. 

Give us your best pro-tip for those stuck at home during this time who find themselves with a cocktail shaker, strainer, spirit of choice and have no idea what to do with it (…asking for a friend). 
This is a toughie because it really depends on what’s in your liquor cabinet. But the key to bartending is creating a balanced cocktail – so don’t be afraid to measure to get your ratios right! And if at first you don’t succeed… try, try again! I’ve been really impressed with the cocktail kits our local restaurants are putting out since we can’t sidle up to their bars. I’d check out Vida Cantina’s margarita mix (just add tequila & orange liqueur of your choice!). Mr Kim’s and The Black Trumpet are putting out some great mixer options for their signature cocktails too. When all else fails, you can’t go wrong with a dirty martini! Mine comes absolutely filthy with Tito’s.