Behind the Scenes with Meghan Montaner, a $1 Million donation and Winter/Spring Classes

A glass sign that reads "The Hanover Theatre Conservatory for the Performing Arts" hanging on a blue wall, a studio can be seen in the background, chairs line the wall on the right side of the room

Ashleigh Prince spoke with President of Conservatory and Education division Meghan Montaner about The Hanover Theatre’s recent $1 Million donation and The Hanover Theatre Conservatory’s upcoming Winter/Spring classes. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Then tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.

Ashleigh: Hello everyone, and welcome back to Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. We have had a very eventful year and today, we are sitting down with Meghan Montaner, the president of the education division of The Hanover Theatre. We have a very exciting announcement, so Meghan, why don’t you take it away?

Meghan: We are so excited to announce that we have received a transformational gift of $1 Million that is dedicated to scholarships for our Conservatory. This is a big deal for us, it’s the largest single gift that we’ve had by an individual donor in history. It’s really going to increase Access to the Arts education, training and performance opportunities in our Conservatory. It’s incredible and it’s from an anonymous couple. The arts are very important to them and they understand how much arts can impact a child and not only recognizing their talents, but helping to promote those talents and train those talents. Also, just understanding the community that is formed when a child is participant in the arts, and how they make connections with others that are lifelong connections. It’s incredible news and we’re so excited to announce that.

A picture of the entrance to The Hanover Theatre Conservatory & Event Center.

Ashleigh: It is really exciting! As soon as we posted about it on social media, everyone was so excited for us. As a person whose life was changed by theatre and by being engaged in the arts, I think that a gift like this really does impact countless lives. I get really excited thinking about how many people will have access to performing arts training that might not have otherwise.

Meghan: That’s right. It’s $1 Million endowment, which means that this $1 Million will be there gaining interest, and it’s that interest off of this donation that is going to allow us to continue to give scholarships for generations to come. This isn’t just something that’s impacting us in this moment, but it’s a gift that is going to secure the future of access to our programming. It’s something that will be around, hopefully, indefinitely and impacting thousands of kids over the years.

Ashleigh: Right! We offer classes to a wide range of students from infancy to age 103. If someone is within that age range, does everyone have access to scholarship opportunities?

A group of students in Acting class laugh and smile. The students are standing in a line in a white room, and some are in-motion, as if they are dancing.

Meghan: Yes! The donors have asked for the funds to be available specifically for those in the Greater Worcester County area, but we do offer scholarships for both children and adults as well. There is an application process and you can find that online at You have to put some information in so we can understand what your needs are and what it is that you’re looking to get involved with here. It’s a fairly simple process, and it’s open to anyone! Our scholarships in general are open to everyone, but this specific fund and this very large gift are intended for those in the Greater Worcester County area.  

Ashleigh: Let’s talk a little bit about this gift itself. I know that our donors wish to remain anonymous, but we’re extremely, extremely grateful. The quote that I saw called us the “Shining jewel of Worcester.” I’m curious if you know what their vision for the arts is and what they imagine their gift will do.

Meghan: It’s so exciting! We do know the donors; they very much want to remain anonymous and are very humble about this gift that they are giving and don’t want any sort of recognition. That is something really special and really rare for a gift of this magnitude. They’re a family that values the arts and has watched the impact very closely, whether in their own home or in their community, of what kind of impact the arts can make. Oftentimes in the arts and in our Conservatory, we’ll have parents sign their kids up because they think they’ll have an interest, they have a lot of energy or they haven’t found the thing they’re passionate about yet. I think, for these donors, that’s what is really important to them — that this is a place where kids can find their place in the world.

This is a place where a student can come in and make friends that they never thought they were going to have, find value in themselves that they never realized was there and really have a better understanding of the world.

Meghan Montaner

Meghan: The arts and culture help us understand the world on a grander scale and how to navigate through this crazy world that we’re in. I think their intention is to be a creative outlet and support system for kids in the area who many not know that this is here or never thought they’d be able to come here because of financial barriers. That is no longer the case, and that is an incredible thing to be able to say – that no child will be turned away because of financial need. That is not something that everyone can say. What an incredible gift for our community.

Ashleigh: Since you came to us with that announcement, I’ve been totally gobsmacked and so excited. As a student who really would’ve loved the opportunity to come to the Conservatory and someone who grew up in a school system where a lot of kids would have benefited from this and will probably benefit from this now, it is such a transformative and exciting time to be receiving this gift. I think that our world is about to change.

Meghan: I hope that if parents are hearing about this, they will be encouraged to look at and fill out an application for their child. If there’s an adult out there that is looking to get back involved in the arts or make connection with others and could really use this as something positive and supportive in their life. If it’s a teacher out there that recognizes a talent in their student or an opportunity for them and shares it with that child’s family, whatever the situation may be. One of the things we’re trying to do is get the word out so folks do take advantage of this gift that will be in place for a very long time and will allow us to expand what we’re already doing in terms of scholarships in a major way.

upcoming conservatory classes

Ashleigh: That brings us to our next topic of the Winter/Spring Conservatory classes!

Meghan: Those are going to start up on January 17. Our dance program is a full-year program, 32 weeks and starts in September, but you can actually add throughout the year. If you’re looking to add into a full-year dance class, this is a great time to do it. We also have new semesters of our theatre, drama and technical theatre classes that are going to be starting on January 17. Registration is open now! One of the things I always share with adults who are like, “I don’t know, I’m thinking about taking something,” I always encourage them to try out our Adult Improv class. Everyone thinks, “But I’m not funny,” but it’s not about that. One of the best things about being in our Adults Improv class is that improv requires you to be thinking on your feet and present in the moment.

One of the best things about being in our Adults Improv class is that improv requires you to be thinking on your feet and be present in the moment. In a world where we’re constantly worried about what is going to happen next and what just happened and we have all these pressures on us, you have to be listening to the other person, paying attention, be in the moment and not think about anything else but what is in front of you.

Meghan Montaner

Meghan: It’s a pretty great stress relief for an hour and a half a week. If you dabbled in theatre in high school and you want to get back into it, all of the adults that take classes, like our Acting I Adult class, are so generous and wonderful and sweet. They’re all doing something for themselves and we all need a little bit of that, especially in the New Year. Check out our classes on our new website, it’s easier than ever to find a class that’s right for you! We’ve got all of these great search filters that you can use if there’s a day of the week or type of class that you’re looking for. Classes start January 17, so don’t delay!

Ashleigh: We have a couple of staff members that have been taking Adult Improv and I’ve heard really great things. This is a kind of place where you can find your thing, and your thing doesn’t always have to be on the stage or directly in the spotlight. There are a lot of people that really find their passion in doing technical theatre, lighting and sound. We also have excellent opportunities for private vocal lessons that we’ve talked about before on this show. I think that’s a great opportunity just for personal growth.

A group of adults participate in Adult Acting class. They are huddled together in a circle and are laughing and smiling.

Meghan: Meghan: That’s something that I’ve been considering for a while. I keep trying to put it on my calendar for me to get back into voice lessons and to spend 30 minutes a week singing.

You become an adult, you get busy, you have kids and you forget about those things that really feed your soul. That’s the work we’re doing here, the stuff that feeds your soul.

Meghan Montaner

Meghan: Take that time for yourself, for sure. We are really the only place in the area that you can get technical theatre training, and that is in stage management, lighting design and sound engineering. That’s pretty special and really unique. We have a technical theatre lab that’s almost like a mini black box that has a whole lighting and sound system, so it’s very approachable for students to learn and be hands-on. Those classes are taught by the house lighting designer and sound engineer for The Hanover Theatre, the folks that are working on A Christmas Carol, are assisting the Broadway shows when they come in and helping to produce anything that we’re doing in-house.

A technical theatre student wearing yellow gloves helps move a lighting fixture. The student is holding the light with two hands and smiling.

Meghan: It’s such a great opportunity and oftentimes, students who take those classes build relationships with those instructors and sometimes they’re coming back and interning on a production or being a production assistant and getting real hands-on experience. I think, almost more than anything else we do, that the technical theatre program is this hidden gem that folks don’t know about. If you have a kid that likes working behind the scene or maybe hasn’t quite found their place on stage but loves the arts and theatre, then they should definitely check one of those out and see if it’s something of interest. We have a class specifically called Intro to Technical Theatre where can dabble and see which area might be of interest to them. We’re always happy to help people navigate what’s the best class for you. Give us a call at 877.571.SHOW (7469) and tell us what your interests are! We’ll walk through some of the options with you.

Ashleigh: Be sure to check out our website, as always, or because we have stuff going on all the time!

Meghan: We talked about this incredible gift and I know that one of the things these anonymous donors were hoping to encourage was to inspire others to give to this organization and support the programming that is going on here. They’ve made this very big commitment to have a long-lasting impact on this organization. We survive off of those small donations as well, the $25 and $50 donations make all the difference in the world. Those smaller donations allow for a kid to come and witness theatre for the first time at a student matinee by subsidizing their ticket and help pay for public school teachers to get a professional development workshop on how to integrate arts into the curriculum. This $1 Million gift is only the beginning and I hope will inspire others to support the arts and the organization for years to come.