Newark Symphony Hall creates investment committee of Black-led, millennial-age professionals

7-member group will help with efforts to raise money, adjust venue’s focus

Newark Symphony Hall has announced the creation of a Black-led, volunteer-based Investment Committee comprised largely of millennial-age professionals that it is tasking with shaping oversight policy and providing fund-management guidance.

Taneshia Nash Laird. (File photo)

The seven members of the committee, who hail from notable companies including Goldman Sachs, Facebook and AllianceBernstein, among others, will be asked to help the venue achieve fundraising milestones — including the first phase of a $40 million renovation slated for 2021.

Newark Symphony Hall is one of the largest arts and entertainment venues in the state.

CEO Taneshia Nash Laird said the formation of the committee comes as the venue shifts to a framework that centers around the creation of opportunities for local performing artists and creators of color.

“Our committee members epitomize the concept of ‘Black Excellence,’ and will signal an important step toward ensuring the longevity and sustainability of our organization in New Jersey’s largest city,” she said.

The committee members are:

  • Ka’Neda Bullock, president, Master Plan Investment Group;
  • Kevin Clark, senior director of investment banking, Navatar;
  • Chidi Erike, client partner, Facebook;
  • Jerald Gooden, investment associate, AllianceBernstein;
  • Darren Harris, senior vice president, Goldman Sachs;
  • Kwame Marfo, board chair, Accompany Capital;
  • Crystal J. Mullins, vice president – public finance, FHN Financial.
The seven committee members. (Newark Symphony Hall)

“As a Black-led institution, it was paramount for us to create a volunteer-based body that understands and supports our goals and mission,” Nash Laird said. “This team — comprised largely of millennials — will help our 95-year-old venue continue its unique programming and outreach initiatives.”

Newark Symphony Hall Board Treasurer Travis Reid, an ex-officio member of the committee, said the committee’s thoughts are welcome.

“The supplemental guidance provided by this committee will assure donors that their funds will be invested wisely,” he said. “Our members have also expressed a willingness to support our many fundraising efforts.”

Harris, a committee member who also serves on the venue’s board of directors, said he excited by the possibilities for this group.

“I cannot express enough just how important Newark Symphony Hall is for the city of Newark,” he said. “It has hosted legendary acts, served as a landmark for ‘Brick City’ and now aims to strengthen community economic development initiatives.

“I’m honored to be a part of the committee and to be in such good company.”

The venue is now also shifting from a first-come, first-served, multipurpose rental model to a more intentional framework that centers around the creation of opportunities for local performing artists and a home for creators of color, according to Nash Laird.

“The people of the Greater Newark region are from the African diaspora, of Portuguese descent, Hispanic/Latinx, and Asian and Pacific Islanders,” she said. “Our new programming will give these groups a place to see their culture celebrated.”

Newark Symphony Hall has developed four new community-based initiatives: the New Jersey Youth Poet Laureate, a program designed to maximize participation from young writers of color, “The Lab,” which will cultivate artistic career pathways for local residents, an Artist-in-Residence program, which will support individual artists of color from around the world, and the Greater Newark Performing Artist Registry, a virtual resource and platform for local, self-identifying performing artists.

The venue is owned by the city of Newark and operated by the nonprofit Newark Performing Arts Corp.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka recently appointed four new board members, including Harris, Danielle Smith (the city’s chief financial officer), Fayemi Shakur (arts and cultural affairs director) and Keith Hamilton (of Newark’s Housing & Economic Development Department).