Gabrielle Gould’s next overture as the executive director of Nantucket Music Center.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more driven person on Nantucket than Gabrielle Gould. Since moving to Nantucket full-time nearly twenty years ago, Gould has strung together a resume of accomplishments that defies rhyme or reason. Just in the span of the last decade, she helped revitalize the Theatre Workshop as executive director, helmed the Nantucket Bank as vice president and opened a successful restaurant with her husband Brandt—all while raising two young boys. This spring, Gould has reinvented herself once again by taking over the role of executive director of Nantucket Music Center (NMC). N Magazine recently caught up with this Renaissance woman to see what inspired her to change her tune.
GOULD: I do not see these as so many separate hats; they are each and every one a part of my greater whole. I think we, as human beings, are so multifaceted, with so many different aspects and skills. As we grow and age, we nurture parts of us that have been waiting patiently. Hopefully, we continue to learn, experience and, sure – reinvent. I am not a fan of stagnation. Some say never go back to an old beau, and I say once your job is done and the challenges are no longer coming, it is time to move on. Also some “hats” do not fit right, no matter how hard you and the people who tossed the hat your way try. You come to a point where the hat is better suited for someone else, and you know it is for the best.
N MAGAZINE: What was appealing about the NMC position?
GOULD: When a friend pulled me aside and asked if I was interested, my immediate response was: “No, I have a good thing going right now.” Then I came home and mentioned it to my husband, Brandt. I just got this feeling—this feeling that I wanted to do more. I seriously missed the arts, the running of “the show,” so to speak, and being the multi-faceted renaissance person one must be to run a nonprofit on Nantucket. As for returning to the arts, sometimes you just know where you belong, where you give back and where you are fueled.
N MAGAZINE: Do you have a background in music?
GOULD: I do. I briefly studied opera at Juilliard, but I realized my heart and talents were far more for theater. I took what was supposed to be a semester off, but it became a different school and life all together. I do not sing anymore, mainly due to time, but I have a huge love for music and all that it brings and gives. I feel this is a great opportunity for me on so many levels, none of them performing. My skills these days are far more suited to working with the faculty, staff, students and board to make sure NMC is its greatest self.
N MAGAZINE: Aside from your on-the-job experience, do you have an educational background in running nonprofits?
GOULD: Harvard Executive Business School. My studies were solely based on not-for-profit management. We worked on case studies spanning the globe. It was amazing studying successful medical nonprofits in India, major US nonprofits, small nonprofits that defied all the odds. The brain food was staggering.
N MAGAZINE: What are your plans for the NMC’s future?
GOULD: I see a more streamlined organization. One of our first missions is to return Nantucket Music Center to Nantucket Community Music Center. There seemed to be a trend of negativity toward the word “community,” and as a member of this community, I think it was the wrong trend. This Community Music Center has been part of the remarkable careers of highly talented and successful musicians. We are proud of that. From what I have seen in terms of talent on faculty, I have a feeling there will be many more successful professional musicians who started their training with us as a part of our community.
N MAGAZINE: What are the inherent challenges facing NMC, and how do you plan on addressing them?
GOULD: Nonprofits are a constant challenge. They are businesses like any other with bills, rising costs, the need to remain relevant. Then add to that most of your budget is balanced not by the goods you provide, but by the foundations, businesses and individuals who believe in what you do. Therein lies the challenge. We have a stunning facility, great faculty, a dedicated board. Now we just have to balance the budget, stay in the black, and make it look effortless! But seriously, my plan is to see what is working and what is not, and take it step-by-step. With anything new, there may be some shake-ups, and I am sure there will be some “who-does-she think-she-is?” moments, but at days end, we need to offer the best to our community, keep our faculty and staff fed and passionate, as well as keep the books balanced.
N MAGAZINE: Can you talk a little bit about the potential in the NMC’s facility and how you plan on maximizing it?
GOULD: One of the most exciting things I have seen is the recording studio. There’s so much potential. In the same way that Nantucket Community Television is teaching editing and filmmaking, we have the ability to turn kids into music producers, mixers and sound technicians. It is so cool! Then there is, from what I understand, a very under-utilized and gorgeous parlor for small gatherings and concerts. Then, well, there are all these beyond-talented musicians…the possibilities are endless. Today I say what can’t we do to maximize this building and this organization?
N MAGAZINE: The arts are an important component of our island’s fabric. Can you speak a little as to why you think that is and how you see the arts growing and changing on Nantucket in the next decade?
GOULD: We read regularly that funding is being taken away from our public schools for arts. This is where we come in. Every child deserves the opportunity to paint, act, sing, dance, play an instrument and so on. So many adults find passions they never knew they had later in life, and these community arts organizations are the place they can come. The arts must be there to feed our souls, to make us laugh, weep, feel. We all have a soundtrack to our lives. Those songs and the players who play them started somewhere in some community, on some stage or in some small room or church. I think Nantucket’s community knows this.
N MAGAZINE: NMC is a ReMain project. Can you talk a little bit about the mission of ReMain and how it’s enriching the island?
GOULD: ReMain has really changed the face of the arts on Nantucket. If memory serves me, Dreamland was a boarded up box. NMC was upstairs in a drafty building. The Theatre Workshop was struggling, as were many other nonprofits, to find stable grants on-island. ReMain, along with other foundations and grant givers, gave several organizations a little breathing room. So much of what our community has to offer today was made possible by ReMain. We have an actual cultural district now where our arts and culture is equal to our world-class restaurants, beaches, accommodations and sunsets. I do not think that is anything short of fantastic!
N MAGAZINE: Although you’ve just started this new position, are there any dream jobs left on your bucket list?
GOULD: I still hold fast to the dream that when and if we leave Nantucket I will attend law school and start or join a family law practice. Separately, if I had it my way, I would be working in a third world country bringing lights, books, supplies. But with kids, I choose to stay safe and close to home. What dreams may come…