Golan to Donors: ’Tis Better To Give for the Arts Than To Receive

When milling around outside his Wigglesworth Hall entryway one spring afternoon in 1975, first-year Jay E. Golan ’78 caught a glimpse of the activity that would become central to his career.

A group of people were gathering beside Wadsworth House to celebrate the naming of a small granite bench.

Golan, now senior director and one of the top fundraisers at New York’s renowned Carnegie Hall, describes this as his first exposure to “creating a little event to recognize a donor for a particular enhancement.” He says this, of course, with a slightly joking air, noting that neither he nor his roommates had much respect for the tactic at the time.

But the work of developing non-profit and cultural institutions—by soliciting donors or establishing workshops with famous musicians to educate schoolteachers—has now become one of his passions.

And working at Carnegie Hall, which draws many of the world’s top classical musicians, could not be a better fit. Born to a pianist mother and into a family which he estimates is approximately half professional musicians, Golan says he has been “knocking around with instruments since I can remember.”

“The minute that Carnegie [Hall] called me to see if I was interested in a position there, I remember a thrill that went through me,” says Golan. “It seemed like a wonderful circling back of my personal interests.”

That call came in 1989, asking Golan if he wanted to become director of development for the 57th Street concert hall. Golan, having worked in a similar capacity for the New York Public Library, New York Public Radio and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, knew that he enjoyed this line of work.

For the past two years, he has shared the title of senior director after serving as director of development and director of planning.

While thousands flock to performances inside Carnegie Hall every year, Golan handles the hall’s relationship to the community outside its doors.

“He is the right hand to the executive director, Robert Harth, in terms of government relations, fundraising and the interaction of the hall with every aspect of the outside world,” says S. Donald Sussman, a board member at Carnegie Hall as well as chair and CEO of Paloma Partners in Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands.

“I like being of service to an established institution,” says Golan.

Harvard may have played a part in shaping this sentiment, he says, adding that the University gave him an idea of “what a vision and collecting of great resources can produce on the other end—in terms of going out and improving the world.”

And he says that he has welcomed the chance to be near music.

“It simultaneously has so much to offer, both to the mind and to the spirit. It’s an emotional experience to go through a great concert; it’s also an intellectual experience to think about a great concert,” he says. “If anybody polled my house on how we spend our nights, I probably go to 80 to 100 classical music concerts a year and five of anything else, including movies and theater.”

Born in Nadick, Mass., and a self-proclaimed “Boston-boy” until after college, he says it was largely his family that instilled this love in him.

“I grew up in a family where we didn’t feel physically well if we went a few days without listening to music,” he says.