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How Music and Honest Conversations Can Build a Better Community

By Lisa Wagner, Executive Director of Friends of Levitt Pavilion Dayton and PRSA’s 2019 Newsmaker of the Year

As the PRSA Newsmaker of the Year, I am truly humbled by this honor. This is an award to be shared by so many; those that had the visionary leadership to bring the Levitt Pavilion to Dayton, our board of trustees that worked tirelessly to raise the funds for the capital campaign, our construction team that conquered a difficult timeline, our staff and production team that provided a high-caliber experience, and this amazing community that made Levitt Dayton so special. They are all the newsmakers.

In my role at Friends of Levitt Pavilion Dayton, I strive to continue to create a safe, and family-friendly space for us to all come together and share the universal language of music.

I know for a fact there are people that think they can’t afford an arts experience. If we give you a free concert, we’ve taken away that obstacle. We believe that through that experience, where we can share a meal on the lawn, or to sing and dance together we can come to know each other as neighbors and a Levitt Dayton family. I can see a diverse socioeconomic generational people all sitting on the same lawn, experiencing a common experience and sharing conversation: “Hey, I forgot my mustard, would you pass me the mustard?” All of a sudden I don’t care where you live, I don’t care what you do, you’re my neighbor now.

Now, more than ever, it is important for us to see one another as brothers and sisters. Music, especially free music, has the ability to bring people together.

If there is one piece of advice I could give those who are looking to build something great in our community, it would be to push yourself. When you feel like you have become comfortable, push yourself outside of that comfort zone to learn more and to continue to learn, because it is in that space that you grow. Also, be willing to pivot, as you never know where your path will take you.

Moving forward, it is so important to be a great listener and engage in dialogue with the constituency that you are trying to serve and reach. Having that active dialogue will help to inform the path forward so that you are staying relevant to the needs of your community that you serve. The Friends of Levitt Pavilion Dayton are very much a grassroots organization, and we try to engage throughout the community. It is there that we have honest conversations.

Looking for something to do? The Levitt Pavilion Dayton is a nonprofit concert venue presenting 50 free concerts each summer. Learn more and see the schedule online.


Originally from Pennsylvania, Lisa Wagner moved to Dayton just before high school, when her father took a job at NCR. Her diverse background includes finance, culinary arts, events, and ticketing operations. Now, she leads the nonprofit overseeing downtown's Levitt Pavilion and successfully reached its ambitious fundraising goals. If you see her a concert, be sure to say hello!

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