Interview – Welcome Chad Hilligus


By Chris Murphy
A new day on stage at the Gallo Center is opening. Over the last decade, the Gallo Center has been guided by Lynn Dickerson and her team, smartly making the Gallo Center profitable and a vital part of our regional culture. I have a special fondness for the Gallo as I have been on the board or committee since the center was a blueprint back in 2001. Since Lynn announced her retirement, a huge search began to find a new CEO that would take the center into a solid and exciting future. The Gallo Center is proud to announce Chad Hilligus as the new CEO starting in June. Chad is a veteran performer, having toured with the Ten Tenors and many stage roles, and managed high profile performing arts centers in Palm Springs and Santa Fe New Mexico. We warmly welcome Chad and his husband to Modesto and hope you get to meet him soon. Let’s meet Chad.

ModestoView: What was it that excited you about the Gallo Center opportunity?

Chad Hilligus:
The Gallo Center is one of the premier performing arts centers on the west coast, largely due to Lynn Dickerson’s extraordinary leadership. The opportunity to be part of a team and an organization that is consistently setting and raising the bar for our industry is incredibly exciting. But more importantly, I’m at a place in my career where the community I’m serving is just as important as the job itself. I’m looking forward to diving in and making Modesto home as quickly as possible.

MV: How do you balance the needs of diverse and eclectic programming vs the need for predictable box office success?

CH: Believe it or not, you can do both. My primary job is to listen to the audience and read the market. That takes time. What qualifies as a “predictable box office success” in one market, may not necessarily do well in another. This first season for me will be about two things: reopening and listening. It will be interesting to see how the audiences have evolved post-pandemic.

MV: How important to a community is live music and the performing arts?

CH: Carol Channing used to always say “Art is fertilizer for the brain.” I would go a step further and say that the arts are essential to the human experience. I think this became even more true during the pandemic. To quote the great Joni Mitchell, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.” Nothing can replace the visceral experience of collectively participating in a live performance and the Gallo Center is such an important part of that story.

MV: Where and when was your most memorable performance in your career so far?

CH: As a performer, it was opening the UEFA Euro 2012 in Warsaw, Poland with The Ten Tenors for a crowd of 50,000 people alongside Brian Wilson and Taio Cruz. Never has an opera singer felt more like a rock star. As a producer/presenter, while there have been many, getting to produce and direct Carol Channing’s 95th Birthday Celebration at the McCallum Theatre in 2016 will forever be one of my crowning moments. As a spectator, I would say the first time I saw Chris Botti. Yes, he’s an incredible performer, but more importantly, he taught me how to be a gentleman on stage and how to share the spotlight.

MV: Any message you would like send to Modesto?

CH: Be patient with us. This is going to be a season filled with challenges as we do our very best to reopen the Center safely. As Lynn and her phenomenal team have done throughout the pandemic, we will continue to follow CDC, state, and city guidance to welcome you back as soon as we can, but there may be some bumps along the way. Let’s remember that we’re still all in this together.

MV: Beatles or Stones?
CH: Beatles.
I can tell we are going to get along great – Chris Murphy

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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.