Staff Spotlight: Grant P.H. Barber

Name: Grant P.H. Barber

Position: Development Manager

How long have you worked at Town Hall?

I’ve been here just over two years and have held a few different roles. As Development Manager, I steward all our awesome members.

What attracted you to working at Town Hall?

The commitment to accessibility and the breadth of awesome programming.

What book could you read over and over again?

2001: A Space Odyssey. Arthur C Clarke’s surreal depictions of space and time blow me away every single read-through.

Who would you most like to see presented at Town Hall?

Michael Pollan. He’s such an educated and articulate food writer—his thoughtful critiques of our relationship with food would be perfect for Seattle’s gastronomes.

What do you do when you aren’t working?

I love to take advantage of our gorgeous city and natural spaces, so you’ll often find me running, biking, and traveling. I also take my culinary hobbies seriously. I bake a lot of bread, brew my own beers, and I’ve taught workshops on traditional Nordic brewing methods!

Staff Spotlight: Amanda Winterhalter

Name: Amanda Winterhalter

Position: Event Manager

How long have you worked at Town Hall?
Almost one year!

Who/what has been your favorite Town Hall event?
David Duchovny with Jess Walter back in February was one of my favorites, and I also loved Ijeoma Oluo’s and Ahamefule Oluo’s conversation in June.

What are you most excited for during Inside/Out?
Inside/Out provides a unique opportunity to bring our programming into other communities in Seattle and introduce it to people who haven’t experienced Town Hall yet. I’m excited to connect with members and new attendees in their own neighborhoods.

When you are not working, what are you doing?
Performing and writing music! I’m a musician and a songwriter, so I spend most of my free time feeding that art.

What is something people may not know about you?
I am really good at rolling out the lefse.

What book could you read over and over again?
Shrill, by Lindy West.

Staff Spotlight: Michael Breeden, Capital Campaign Manager

How long have you worked at Town Hall?

It will be two years next month!

What attracted you to working at Town Hall?

Primarily, the commitment to access for the entire community. Our $5 tickets, and below market rental rates make it possible for virtually anyone to join the conversation…or to take the stage and lead the conversation. I remember coming here as a student, and being so blown away by the fact that I could pay only $5 and have access to the most amazing speakers and conversations.

What book could you read over and over again?

I grew up on the Great Plains in Kansas. I’ve always been a fan of Willa Cather, and have read several of her books multiple times. It has become more important to me as I’ve moved away from my “roots,” and a way for me to reconnect and remember where I come from.

Who would you most like to see presented at Town Hall?

I would love to see more visual artists on our stages. I so enjoyed when SAL presented Marina Abramovic here this winter. But even at a local level, we have incredible artists working here in Seattle. I would love to see them onstage and speak to their creative process, and their experience as an artist in Seattle.

When you are not working, what are you doing?

I think the most consistent activity is going to museums. I’ve always felt at home there. It’s a very personal and intimate experience for me, and the place I go to reflect, draw inspiration, and ground myself.

What is one thing people may not know about you?

I grew up on a working farm. I have all sorts of random knowledge about farming…from birthing a calf to raising a healthy wheat crop.

What aspect of your job do you never get tired of?

Hearing the stories. I know that I love Town Hall for my own reasons, but it is such a privilege to hear from all of you about what this place means to you and why you love it. It’s such a joy to hear these stories, and I count myself very lucky to be in the position where I have the opportunity listen to your tales of this place.

Staff Spotlight: Ashley Toia, Director of Strategic Projects

How long have you worked at Town Hall?

2.5 years

What attracted you to working at Town Hall? 

The diversity of programming and the building. It was magnetic – we had just moved to Seattle and were walking by Town Hall, and felt this pull that we needed to be here, that this space was special.  Once we learned what all Town Hall offered, we were hooked!

What book could you read over and over again?

I have a 2 year old, so I literally read the same books over and over again nightly.  Current favorites include Pout Pout Fish, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Press Here, Green Eggs and Ham.  My personal choices would include  Samuel Beckett, Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Vonnegut, and Margaret Atwood.

Who would you most like to see presented at Town Hall?

Lin Manuel Miranda, Jeff Tweedy, Rachel Maddow

When you are not working, what are you doing?

Spending time with my family, snowboarding, traveling when we can, and knitting – so much knitting!

What is one thing people may not know about you?

I love live music, but have spent so many years working in entertainment and doing events that I sometimes struggle with being an audience member – I always find myself standing behind the sound engineer!

What aspect of your job do you never get tired of?

Getting to meet new people and feeling connected to my community.

Staff Spotlight: Sarah Szabo, Senior Manager, Individual Giving

Sarah Szabo

How long have you worked at Town Hall?

2 years and 3 months.

What attracted you to working at Town Hall?

I love the diversity of Town Hall’s programming. As someone who has a wide variety of interests Town Hall provides engaging talks and performances for all of me and not just one of my interests.

What book could you read over and over again?

I love Greek mythology and The Iliad was the poem that started me down that path. I read it once a year along with Edith Hamilton’s Mythology.

Who would you most like to see presented at Town Hall?

I am a huge history buff and I believe that it is through, not only the acknowledgement of the events that make up our history (good or bad), but the critical analysis of the culture at the time that led to decisions being made that will lead us to make more educated decisions in the future. So I would love to see even more authors/educators take our stage to engage in discussion of our history and how it relates to our present.

When you are not working, what are you doing?

When I am in town you will find me at the movies more often than not, but I have also started scuba diving in the last year and a half, so am typically somewhere in the Sound once a month. I also take every opportunity to travel, so at least 3 weeks a year I am out of the country on an adventure—my first trip to Japan is coming up in February.

What is one thing people may not know about you?

I always like to keep my hands busy, which is why I have a constant hands-on art project I am working on, whether it is a sculpting class or using my new colored pencils, I can sit for hours, but my hands will be moving. I am in the middle of cross-stitching a Christmas stocking for my father right now and I am loving every second of it!

What aspect of your job do you never get tired of?

Meeting our members, Town Hall has such a large group of dedicated members that we see week after week and it has been a joy to get to know so many of them over the past two years.

Staff Spotlight: Ashly Moore Sheldon, Communications Manager

Ashly Moore Sheldon
Ashly Moore Sheldon

How long have you worked at Town Hall?

I started last April, so 5 months now.

What attracted you to working at Town Hall?

I immediately felt comfortable at Town Hall. Great people work here! As communications manager, I get to write about new and different topics every day in promoting our numerous fascinating events.

What book could you read over and over again?

That’s a tough one because there are several books I could read again and again (and do), but I’ll go with Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams, a recent Town Hall speaker.

Who would you most like to see presented at Town Hall?

Well, I just missed seeing Brandi Carlile perform here for last year’s Talk of the Town and she’s one of my all time favorites. So I’m hoping she’ll come back. And I’d love to see more local independent music on our stage.

When you are not working, what are you doing?

Some of my favorite activities include reading, gardening, soccer, long walks, and hanging out with my family and friends.

What is one thing people may not know about you?

I love movies and for many years of my adult life, I saw a movie in the theater each Monday and then I would write a review of the movie and send it out to a group of friends who had asked to be on the list. It’s a tradition I hope to renew – maybe next year when my younger kid leaves for college.

What aspect of your job do you never get tired of?

Researching and writing about the many fascinating people who perform and speak here never gets boring.

Staff Spotlight: Katy Sewall, Program Director

Katy Sewall
Program Director Katy Sewall

How long have you worked at Town Hall?

KS: Since mid-November 2015

What attracted you to working at Town Hall?

KS: I have always been interested in exploration, on-going education, sharing ideas, and performance. In everything I do—whether it be radio reporting, writing or production—this is at the center. I also have an unceasing curiosity about the world and a deep desire to understand the experiences of others. I was attracted to Town Hall because it is a place of learning where our worldview can be tweaked in new directions.

While I was the Lead Producer of KUOW’s Weekday with Steve Scher, I had the privilege of producing two live stage versions of the radio show at Town Hall. It was an unforgettable experience. The staff at Town Hall were so competent and professional. The audience was incredibly engaged. “What a special place,” I remember thinking. Who doesn’t want to work at a special place?

What book could you read over and over again?

KS: Third Wish by Robert Fulghum. It rekindled my sense of play and made me dream of creating a remarkable life for myself.

Who would you most like to see presented at Town Hall?

KS: This is an impossible question for me to answer. There are too many. I find so many people worth listening to. That said, it sure would be fun to have President Obama and his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng on stage together.

When you’re not working, what are you doing?

KS: The radio producer in me can’t shut down the desire to keep radio listeners company. As a result, I spend a lot of time interviewing guests, editing audio and co-hosting a weekly podcast for expats, former expats, travel-lovers and dreamers called The Bittersweet Life . I also write for myself and for Crosscut, fill-in host for KUOW, and read a ton of novels.

What is one thing people may not know about you?

KS: What I look like. After years of being a voice on the radio, a lot of people know my name, but when they meet me they always say: “Wow. You look so different than I thought!” One of the things I love about radio is that listeners create a mental picture of what you look like. That says a lot about our imaginations.

What aspects of your job do you never get tired of?

KS: Meeting amazing, intelligent people and having the opportunity to sit beside them and ask whatever questions I can think of.

Member Spotlight: Maryanne Tagney and David Jones

memberspotlight
Maryanne Tagney and David Jones

Town Hall runs on the foundation of over 3,500 member households that renew their support each year and we’d like to introduce you to one of these households.

You have been Town Hall donors since 2011. What initially attracted you to Town Hall and what keeps you engaged year after year?

As happens with many organizations, David and I initially made contact with Town Hall through a friend who was already involved—I think it was Stephanie Solien. I had no idea the organization existed when we lived outside the city but after moving to Seattle in 2010, Town Hall became one of our favorite discoveries.

You are patrons of our Town Music Series. What keeps you coming back? Is there anything that Town Music offers that you can’t find elsewhere in Seattle?

The Town Music Series was offered to us as one of the programs we could choose to support. David and I are both interested in music, so it seemed like a good fit. Since that time we have both learned a lot about new music and found we appreciate it much more than we used to. I don’t know of other venues that offer this eclectic mix in such an intimate setting, with often real interaction between the performer and the audience.

You have supported our yearly Town Hall Commission for the past 5 years. Why do you think it is so important to support the creation of new music?

Supporting the commissioning of new music is very exciting for us. It is an opportunity we never expected to have and we appreciate it—I have our signed copies of the scores on display in my office! Some members of my family are professional musicians and I know how hard they work and how little many of them get paid. So when they branch out into the world of composing it is great to be able to support them. Music is a very dynamic art—it is constantly evolving—so we get to enjoy not just the music handed down from centuries past but also the artistic expressions of today and maybe tomorrow. Music, like smell, is very evocative—it engages the senses and the memory. A certain piece of music can instantly transport us back to a certain time in our lives. By supporting new music we are expanding that reach forward to future listeners who will find meaning and connection in it.

You are not only very generous donors to Town Hall, but you have also supported our annual Talk of the Town gala as dinner hosts—twice now. What is a highlight from this experience and what made you decide to host a second time?

We hosted a second time because Wier asked us! We said yes because we really enjoyed hosting Talk of the Town the first time—luckily we had just as good a time last month on our second go-round. Hosting Talk of the Town is a great way to combine supporting a cause we care about with meeting new people, reacquainting ourselves with others and having fun! The chefs are always so interesting and produce amazing food—and the Town Hall staff is great to work with, too.

Staff Spotlight: Zac Eckstein, Patron Services Manager

Zac Spotlight Picture
Zac Eckstein, Patron Services Manager

How long have you worked at Town Hall?

ZE: Since November 11, 2015. About five months

What attracted you to working at Town Hall?

ZE: I’ve worked in a nonprofit environment for most of my career, even running a nonprofit for a few years after graduating college. I also have a lot of experience in (and enjoy) the work of running a box office and taking care of patrons. Town Hall is unique in that it produces so many events at such a fast pace that there’s never an opportunity to get bored.

What book could you read over and over again?

ZE: I’m a fiction novel and news junky and don’t read much non-fiction (although I should!). Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon is a book I’ve read multiple times and enjoyed more each time.

What would you most like to see presented at Town Hall?

ZE: I’d love to see someone like Elizabeth Warren or former Mayor Mike McGinn. In general, I’m interested in presentations by people who get things done and aren’t afraid to ruffle feathers in the process.

What do you do when you aren’t working?

ZE: Outside of Town Hall I am a freelance WordPress developer/designer. I also have an in-home shop where I build furniture (both for people and animals) as well as build other home decor pieces.

What is one thing people may not know about you?

ZE: From 2003 to 2008 I worked as a projectionist at a regular movie theatre and at an IMAX theatre and got to watch most movies that came out the day before they were released.

What aspect of your job do you never get tired of?

ZE: At Town Hall almost everything is $5 or free and it’s always a pleasure to help facilitate access to so many different types of events for such a wide variety of people.

Staff Spotlight: Brie Ripley, Digital Media Associate

Brie Photo 3How long have you worked at Town Hall?

I’ve been part of Town Hall’s mötley crüe since early September!

What attracted you to working at Town Hall: Wow, who wouldn’t want to work within a cultural emporium of interconnection?

I’ve long enjoyed producing for Seattle’s local NPR affiliates; I love people – leaning in, listening, and hearing their stories. Now I get to experience stories and ensembles of all kinds, all the time. As the audio and video producer for Town Hall’s online Media Library, my hands get to grace a little part of the magic.

What book could you read over and over again?

That’s easy – I’m reading it again right now: “Still Life With Woodpecker” by Tom Robbins.

Who would you most like to see presented at Town Hall?

I had a dream once that I hung out in the Town Hall green room with Pattie Smith, Carrie Brownstein, Kathleen Hanna and Kim Gordon. We were all eating pizza and reading the “I Saw U” section of The Stranger. But if I had to pick one person I’d most like to see presented, it would have to be my mentor, Arwen Nicks. She taught me everything I know about audio production and the art of being generous and kind. Her life story inspires me to get through any rough stuff by staying true to my gifts, my vision, and myself.

When you are not working, what are you doing?

I’m practicing a lot of things. Making podcasts. Fumbling around with guitar. Texting Arwen for advice. Reading. Stirring a pot of soup.

What is one thing people may not know about you? 

I’m writing a book!

What aspect of your job do you never get tired of?

I never get tired of editing audio. I’m a die-hard public media patron and producer. I’m endlessly blown away by the richness and conviction resonating from the voices of our speakers. They’ve poured countless hours into the preparation and presentation of their stories; we are so lucky that they have decided to come share their findings with our audience. It takes a lot guts to stand up and speak out. But I believe our voices are one of the only things we truly own. So I consider myself very lucky to be a part of Town Hall. Every tuning fork inside me hums when I come into work. Town Hall is home. It’s where my heart is.

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