Farmington Hills residents Leland and Tina Bassett first got involved with Detroit’s Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in 1972, when the historic building stood within a hairsbreadth of the wrecking ball.
After the COVID-19 pandemic closed its doors last March, the Bassetts helped Music Hall through another challenging year. And as it rebounds, the organization honored the couple last month by unveiling a lounge that bears their name.
“They built it out during the pandemic,” Leland said. “We had not been in the building for a year and a half.”
Having grown up in a political family–his father worked as an elected official in Jackson–Leland developed an early interest in communications. Henry Ford II recruited him to work in Detroit, where he and Tina opened their own marketing and public relations firm in 1986.
Leland said he first got involved with saving Music Hall because he saw the building’s potential.
“I had no idea I would be with it for so long,” he added.
The Bassetts are founding members of the Producers club, which includes Music Hall’s top fundraisers. Before the 2008 recession, Leland said, the organization, like many other nonprofits, relied on grants and donations for most of their revenues.
When large companies cut back on philanthropy, Music Hall pivoted. About 70 percent of the nonprofit’s bottom line now rests on “earned revenue”–patrons in seats.
When COVID-19 hit, that disappeared.
Director Vince Paul, a Farmington Hills native, said the Bassetts are now the longest-serving trustees on the Music Hall board. Their combined years of service match the building’s 93-year-old history.
Founded by Matilda Dodge Wilson, Music Hall is the only theater that’s never closed, Paul said.
“The Bassetts, if you think about it, have been supporters longer than half the life of the Music Hall,” he said. “And it’s not just about lots and lots of money. It’s more about the steadfast belief in Detroit, because Music Hall is synonymous with Detroit. It’s a reflection of what Detroit has gone through for 93 years.”
Leland said he and Tina believe in “generational responsibility” to create and maintain the space where people can come together, break down barriers, and “build an increasingly pluralistic society.”
“We have a responsibility to maintain and preserve the performing arts,” he said. “Much of the performing arts can only be passed on through oral tradition and experience, so we need to keep the performing arts alive.”
Despite pandemic losses, Music Hall seems well down the path of another comeback. The full 2021-2022 season will showcase music, dance, theater, and educational experiences, from comedian Marlon Wayans to the Moth Radio Hour. Already, Paul said, shows are selling out.
Leland said he and his wife will continue indefinitely on the Music Hall board because they see “more work to do to make people’s lives better and the community’s life better. We’re just starting to scratch the surface.”
He encourages everyone to expand their horizons by getting involved with Music Hall, whether as a patron or volunteer. With nearly three dozen shows and concerts, plus children’s classes and programs, there’s literally something for everyone.
And for Farmington area folks, he adds, “You’re 25 minutes from adventure and fun.”