Staff Highlights: Thérèse LaGamma

We’re taking this time to highlight members of our staff of arts professionals to hear more about how they got here, what makes them tick, and what are their fond memories at The Music Hall. Today, let’s get to know Director of Programming, Thérèse LaGamma!

What made you want to program for The Music Hall? 
I was exposed to the art world from a very early age. My father is an avid art collector and music was always around. It is what initially drew me to work at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston where I oversaw and programmed their music series and was involved in other aspects of their public programming. I got a front-row seat to the vibrant visual art world. I met Jenny Holtzer, Baldassari, Mark Morris. I love working with creative teams of people. Portsmouth was always a destination and a welcome escape from city living. We had friends we’d visit up here. The Music Hall always impressed me. When I saw they were looking for someone with my experience, I jumped at the opportunity. 

Tell us more about your music and comedy background? 
I had a highly unconventional upbringing. Much of my childhood was spent traveling and living abroad in Francophone Africa and Italy.  Music has always been part of my DNA. When I was five my parents enrolled me in a church choir in Italy. In the years that followed, I auditioned and performed in acapella choirs, theatrical productions, studio sessions, and nightclubs.  I attended a high school that excelled in the performing arts and then went on to major in music in college. Comedy came a bit later. We’ve hosted so many amazing comedians throughout the years in both our venues. When Trevor Noah was getting ready to take the reins from Jon Stewart, he came to Portsmouth to work out the kinks. I was blown away by his uniqueness, worldly outlook, and global perspective. I love to laugh and I love good comedy! 

What has been your favorite show? What are your favorite moments from over the years?
It’s hard to name one moment. There have been the important collaborations we’ve done with Soweto Gospel Choir and the African Burying Ground, our Concert in the Lot with the City of Portsmouth, our work with NHPR on live broadcasts from The Music Hall Loft when we first opened our doors and WNES, and producing the Portsmouth Singer-Songwriter Festival!

Joan Armatrading put on an incredible show when she first appeared on our stage. Patti Smith visited with her book as part of our Writers On A New England Stage series and treated us to a lovely acapella performance. The amazing double bill featuring Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings performed an electrifying show of soul music for us some years back. The Moth Mainstage is an event that brings together community and never fails to delight. Justice Sonya Sotomayer braved a blizzard traveling from D.C to Portsmouth to read to us from her memoir. 

You juggle music, podcasts, comedy, and school days: What do you like to program more?
I love it all. It’s the mix of everything that keeps things interesting. I am lucky to work alongside a very talented team of creative individuals. Everyone who works here is a passionate arts connoisseur.

You’re a radio DJ and can be heard singing throughout the office! Tell us more!
I love to sing!  I love being able to share new discoveries with people. I have been curating playlists for friends and family for as long as I can remember. The opportunity to share these discoveries with a broader audience on a weekly basis at 91.3 FM WUNH has been a dream come true. I am truly blessed to be part of the WUNH community. It’s a passionate group of community members and students. It exposes me to new releases and artists on a daily basis. I use this platform to promote happenings on the Seacoast and beyond, and it helps me keep up with ongoing trends in the industry. 

What are you listening to now?  
At the moment I am listening to Bill Withers and John Prine. Both artists have left us with vast catalogs of music. A couple of years ago, Jose James came out with a fabulous tribute album to Bill Withers. It’s exciting to see artists from different generations honoring their mentors through collaborations. Brandi Carlile recently went into the studio with songs she’d written specifically for country music artist Tanya Tucker. Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy has an ongoing collaboration with gospel legend Mavis Staples. Jack White is mentoring younger artists like Margo Price. I love soul. Raphael Saadiq, Leon Bridges, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings often find their way onto my playlists.