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The Grand promotes Manocchio to top job

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WILMINGTON – Following the retirement of longtime Executive Director Mark Fields, The Grand Opera House is looking within for its next leader, promoting Managing Director Pamelyn Manocchio.

Pamelyn Manocchio | PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GRAND

After Fields announced his retirement last month, the board of directors and its executive committee met several times to develop a transition plan. They quickly reached a consensus that Manocchio, who served for 12 years as the arts center’s director of community engagement prior to becoming its No. 2 last year, was the right person. She will assume the top role in September after Fields officially steps down after eight years at the helm.

“The board felt there was no reason to conduct a search regionally or nationally when it has the talent it needs on staff already,” said Brian DiSabatino, chair of the board, in a statement announcing the selection. “We are delighted that Pam is taking the helm at the beginning of a new, post-COVID era in the life of The Grand and the arts in Wilmington. As a longtime senior staff leader, she will provide a measure of continuity and institutional familiarity. Pam has already demonstrated creativity and innovation in her current role with The Grand. We are looking forward to new ideas and new energy from her and the organization as she takes charge.”

Manocchio told Delaware Business Times that she was humbled by the endorsement of the board and would strive to live up to their expectations.

She first began working at The Grand Opera House 16 years ago, when she was initially just looking to work closer to home. The Long Island, N.Y., native spent a number of years in and around the Big Apple but moved to Delaware in 2000 to take a job at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Manocchio moved to The Grand six years later in order to be closer to home, not knowing that she’d be putting down roots that have blossomed into the biggest role of her career, steering a more than 150-year-old cultural institution for the city and state.

“It’s just been a wonderful ride so far,” she said, noting that her husband Steve also worked with her at The Grand for many years. “I’ve really had the opportunity to learn more about our community, the other organizations, the other people who are working to develop Downtown Wilmington to support it, especially through the growth of the arts and culture. There’s such a wealth of talent. The local artists in our region are just amazingly inspiring.”

In her longest running position, Manocchio oversaw all of The Grand’s outreach and education programs with the community, including Stages of Discovery (school matinees), Summer Explorers, and The Grand Galleries (rotating visual art exhibitions) – programs that serve more than 30,000 youth and adults annually.  She also launched several impactful new programs, including Summer in the Parks in Wilmington and sensory-friendly performances specifically designed to serve children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. The latter program twice received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a visit from then-NEA Director Mary Anne Carter in 2019 to learn more about the innovative program.

Much of her work has centered around bringing the arts outside of the walls of the historic opera house and into the community and making its programming more inclusive.

“I think part of it is just being a good listener, having conversations and inviting people to the table to hear what they want to do with the space and what they’d like to come through our doors,” she said.

Through the biggest challenge of her career, the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down in-person performances for nearly a year, Manocchio helped The Grand develop alternative ideas to continue its mission of hosting the arts, holding concerts by car and building a Christmas lights display at the Riverfront.

“It was very stressful, but in working with the team that we have here and coming up with some creative ideas, we realized that ‘Yeah, we can do this,’” she said.

While she doesn’t have any immediate goals – other than finding a replacement for her current role – Manocchio said she aims to listen to stakeholders about what they want from one of Delaware’s most venerated arts venues.

“I just want people to constantly be looking, be curious and be wondering about what’s going on at The Grand,” she said, noting that they have a slate of Broadway shows and big-name music and comedy artists lined up for the summer and fall. “We’re really excited about some of the artists that are coming in. There will be some familiar faces along with some new names that we think audiences should be excited about. We can’t wait to get those announcements out.”

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