As the 2024 Levitt season kicks into high gear—bringing the joy of free outdoor concerts to 40+ communities across America—the Levitt Foundation is taking a moment to applaud the seven phenomenal executive directors of Friends of Levitt nonprofits within the Levitt network, who, with the support of their incredible teams, are empowering communities through free, live music. Throughout the year, these talented executive directors are spearheading cross-sector collaborations and partnerships to deepen their venue’s impact and ensure programming authentically reflects and holistically engages their community. Give it up for these changemakers!  

Nancy Halverson, Levitt Shell Sioux Falls

Shown center, Levitt at the Falls Executive Director Nancy Halverson strikes a joyful pose with her fellow team members, Rose Ann Hofland (left) and Laura Mullen (right).

Levitt Shell Sioux Falls Executive Director Nancy Halverson’s second home has always been a stage. From the Children’s Theatre Company of Sioux Falls (which she founded) and Phoenix, Arizona’s South Mountain High School for the Performing Arts to the University of Illinois, Halverson has directed and taught at numerous performing arts institutions. So it only makes sense that, in 2018, she was approached to become the founding executive director of Levitt Shell Sioux Falls (which opened the following year)—which would quickly become a regional destination in South Dakota and a favorite place for the community to gather for free, live music.

At Levitt at the Falls, Halverson oversees strategic partnerships, programming, and fundraising—each an essential aspect of ensuring that the Downtown Sioux Falls venue fosters connection and belonging amongst community members. “Seeing the growing diversity on our lawn brings me the greatest joy,” Halverson explains. “We’ve been so intentional about curating a season that represents our entire community and to see folks from all walks of life coming together, seeing themselves on our stage, and experiencing the lawn together is pure magic.”

Beyond presenting over 50 free, high-caliber concerts a year, Levitt at the Falls is home to a variety of accessible arts programs, including Levitt Jam Camp, a summer youth music program, and Levitt Music Maker Mixers: opportunities for local Sioux Falls musicians to foster new connections with fellow creatives. Looking ahead, Halverson says she’s particularly excited about Levitt at the Falls’ upcoming capital expansion of the Levitt Shell, which will include an indoor performance space and promises to take programming to new heights. “The additional space will make our venue more functional for staff and more comfortable for artists,” she says. “It’ll be thrilling to also have a dedicated programming space that will allow us to provide year-round programming for our community!”   

Meghan McNamara, Levitt Pavilion Denver

Shown left, Levitt Denver Executive Director Meghan McNamara is all smiles alongside taiko drummer Courtney Ozaki at Levitt Denver’s Japan Fest 2023.

What’s Levitt Pavilion Denver Executive Director Meghan McNamara’s favorite part of the job? “Watching others experience the magic of Levitt,” she says. “Audiences filling the dance floor, kids running around the lawn, artists taking in the sunset views from stage, our team finding a few moments to laugh together on a busy night. What a gift to work in a place that creates joy for so many people.”

And what a joy it is to have a seasoned pro like McNamara as the executive director of Levitt Denver, following years as the vice president of programming and audience at the Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater in Chicago. Following a national search led by Arts Consulting Group Inc., McNamara was selected to lead the Denver venue located in the expansive 83-acre Ruby Hill Park on its mission to foster connection, belonging, and community pride through free concerts. Since 2023, her first concert season at the helm, McNamara has seen her passion for building inclusive communities in action with the venue hosting a variety of cultural events on the Levitt stage, including Indigenous, Hispanic/Latinx, Africana, and Japanese music festivals, as Levitt Denver continues growing their audiences, deepening partnerships, and enhancing the Levitt lawn experience.

She’s most excited about how Levitt Denver is making waves in the larger music ecosystem overall. The Levitt Denver team is committed to elevating Bodies of Culture, a program focused on advancing a more equitable music ecosystem and empowering Denver’s BIPOC youth. “My hope is that through our investment in emerging artists—including programs like Bodies of Culture and our season-long internships—Levitt Denver plays a part in creating a more vibrant and inclusive music industry,” McNamara shares.

Allegra Padilla, Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles 

Shown left, Levitt LA Executive Director Allegra Padilla can be found on the Levitt LA lawn any summer weekend, rallying support for Angelenos’ local Levitt.

Last year, Levitt Los Angeles Executive Director Allegra Padilla celebrated the conclusion of her first concert series as the organization’s leader, steering the venue on its mission to build community through music—a chapter she remembers fondly. “One of the proudest moments as Executive Director was closing out my first season in this role in 2023,” Padilla says. “I could tell how the team had built strong relationships amongst one another throughout the process and that we had made an impact by hosting over 25,000 people at MacArthur Park. Seeing the artists, volunteers, audience, and crew celebrate the end of this cycle was somewhat bittersweet, too! It takes a few shows to hit your stride and somehow the end came up too quickly.”

Though 2023 was her first season as an executive director, Padilla’s “stride” alongside Levitt LA began over a decade ago. In 2007—just months after Levitt LA opened—she served on the organization’s Community Advisory Council. Twelve years later, she joined the Levitt LA team full-time to lead community relations and partnerships.

Today, under Padilla’s direction, Levitt LA is as lively as ever. Last year, the venue presented over 30 free concerts and 200 artists representing a range of genres to Angelenos of all backgrounds. Levitt LA also continued as one of metro area’s only bilingual venues, reflecting the diverse communities that call Southern California home. “I want Levitt LA’s impact to help people of all walks of life understand the importance of investing in the arts at the individual and systemic levels to help us heal, unite, and engage in creation together,” Padilla says.

Shayna Super, Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks

Shown center, Shayna Super, alongside SteelStacks’ volunteer crew, has been part of Levitt SteelStacks in various capacities for over five years, now leading the venue as its executive director.

Eastern Pennsylvania native Shayna Super’s journey to becoming executive director at Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks mirrors her commitment to building community through music at all stages of her career. In 2015, freshly graduated from Syracuse University, she joined Levitt nonprofit partner ArtsQuest (operator of Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks) as a performing arts assistant. After supporting Northeastern arts organizations like Philly-based event producer CID Entertainment and New Jersey’s Mayo Performing Arts Center, she returned to Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks in 2019 as a performing arts specialist, later becoming a programming manager in 2021. Today, she deftly wears two hats: one as ArtsQuest’s programming manager and another as Levitt SteelStacks’ executive director.

Year after year, what’s fueled Super’s fire most is seeing the Bethlehem community’s social fabric grow stronger. “The community building is what excites me,” she explains. “The musical talent out there just keeps getting better, more diverse, and more representative, and the more we involve other community institutions, partners, and organizations, the more we are going to see Bethlehem thrive as a city and an exceptional place to live.”

During Super’s first season as executive director last summer, Levitt SteelStacks not only presented 50 free concerts but a bevy of exciting events, including ¡Sabor! Latin Festival, One Earth ReggaeFest, and the Blast Furnace Blues festival. So far, Super’s proudest memory has been kicking off the 2023 season. “I’ve been a part of Levitt SteelStacks in many ways over the last 10 years now, so to have the season kickoff with great weather, a full lawn, and a successful member backstage party—it was an evening I will always remember,” Super says.

Letatia Teykl, Levitt Pavilion Arlington

Since 2019, Levitt Arlington Executive Director Letatia Teykl—shown right, alongside Levitt Foundation Board President Liz Levitt Hirsch, left—has led the venue to become the Arlington community’s premier destination for free concerts and cultural festivals.

In 2019, homegrown Arlington community affairs expert Letatia Teykl was tapped to build upon Levitt Pavilion Arlington’s strong foundation and to continue leading the venue’s efforts to bring together the Texas city’s increasingly multicultural community through free, live concerts.

Fast forward five years: with Teykl at the helm, Levitt Arlington is not only presenting more than 50 free concerts a year but also a cornucopia of events that authentically speak to the city’s diverse population, which is majority people of color. Many of these community members often refer to their local Levitt as the “family room of Arlington” or “Arlington’s backyard—I’m proud to know that my decisions have helped elevate the Levitt to being one of the most important public spaces in the city,” Teykl explains. “We’re a place where friends and family spend quality time together, where local musicians connect with audiences, where seasonal celebrations happen, and where the community celebrates our rich diversity of cultures.”

In collaboration with the City of Arlington and community partners, Levitt Arlington presents Hispanic/Latinx, Asian, and African American cultural celebrations, along with LGBTQ+ pride events. Under Teykl’s leadership, the Levitt Arlington team has demonstrated the importance of developing both cross-sector collaborations and cross-cultural relationships to foster inclusion and belonging through music. With eyes on the horizon, Teykl hopes to lead the Levitt Arlington team on its impact journey by activating the venue space even further. “In the future, I see the Levitt Pavilion activated more days and nights to better serve North Texas residents, businesses, community organizations, and music fans of all kinds,” Teykl says. “We’ll continue to innovate and maximize the use of our space for the benefit of the nonprofit, the city, and our supporters!”

Lisa Wagner, Levitt Pavilion Dayton

Over the last seven years, Levitt Dayton Executive Director Lisa Wagner has watched Levitt Dayton blossom into a community destination welcoming residents of all walks of life.

In 2017, when Lisa Wagner was asked to become Levitt Pavilion Dayton‘s first executive director and lead its journey to becoming downtown Dayton’s premier venue for free, family-friendly outdoor concerts, she enthusiastically accepted the challenge. Until then, she’d spent 15 years overseeing ticketing and hospitality operations at the Victoria Theatre Association, a historical cornerstone of the Dayton arts community. The thought of hitting the ground running a start-up was daunting—but incredibly worth the rewards, Wagner says.

Wagner was involved in the capital campaign to construct the venue and had some building to do herself—of Levitt Dayton’s staff, that is. “When we hired team members, it was rewarding to be able to establish culture and core values as a collective,” Wagner reflects. Today, she considers launching Levitt Dayton—which celebrated its inaugural season in 2018 at the revitalized Dave Hall Plaza—to be one of her proudest moments as an executive director, with every season since being a joy. “Over the six seasons we’ve been activated, we can see the real change happening in our community,” Wagner explains. “Our hearts become so full when we see people crossing our lawn, hugging one another because they have missed each other all winter long—the connections and the healing that happen here are so palpable. It connects all the hard work and investment that happens in the off-season to our ‘why.’”

This summer, Levitt Dayton will present 40+ free concerts, including a variety of events honoring Dayton’s diverse communities, including veterans, the LGBTQ+ community, Black Americans and Indigenous peoples. Most recently, Levitt Dayton has partnered with the City of Dayton to present the Amplified music series, paying homage to Dayton’s ‘Land of Funk’ legacy, showcasing the sounds of blues, funk, and reggae.

Freda Welsh, Levitt Pavilion Westport

Shown right, alongside her daughter Carleigh Welsh (who is Levitt Westport’s marketing and development director), Levitt Westport Executive Director Freda Welsh has steered the venue in its journey to build community through music for nearly 30 years.

For Freda Welsh, the Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts in Westport, Connecticut, is forever home. Joining the Levitt Pavilion in Westport as a board member in 1980—just a few years after the venue presented its inaugural season in 1974—and becoming chairperson two years later, Welsh has been the outdoor performing arts venue’s executive director since 1995. Welsh’s lifelong passion for the arts and her dedication to her community drives her as she manages the pavilion, driving fundraising efforts, partnerships, strategic planning, and beyond.

Under Welsh’s leadership, Levitt Westport has continued its longstanding legacy as Westport’s go-to community gathering space for both accessible outdoor concerts and additional award-winning programming that strengthens the Westport community through the joy and excitement of live music. During the Westport concert season, you can regularly find Welsh on the lush Levitt lawn, relishing the power of live music under the stars!

The Levitt Foundation is proud to celebrate all the changemakers—past, present, and future—who have made free, live music in our communities possible. On that note, here’s a look at what the 2024 season has in store!