David’s love for the arts began in his childhood as he watched his mom sing on stage. Growing up admiring, and participating in, the arts made a lifelong impression on him, ultimately leading him to serve on the board of the historic Orpheum Theatre. Through capital campaigns, strategic planning, and even partnering on the new Pickler Companies Broadway Club, David and the Pickler family have served the Orpheum for decades and will continue doing so for years to come.
ORPHEUM THEATRE AND THE PICKLER COMPANIES BROADWAY CLUB
David’s love for the arts began in his youth as he watched his mother sing and play the piano. She was an extremely gifted performer and was the lead in a musical performance of Mame. Inspired by his mother’s talent and love for the stage, David was encouraged to try out at his local theatre, eventually being cast in Annie Get Your Gun. As he transitioned into high school, David continued his love of the arts and performed in his school’s choir and added a couple more plays to his resume, including Guys and Dolls.
While David would pursue another career path after high school, his love of theatre would always remain. In 1986, after finishing law school, David and Beth became subscribers to the Orpheum Theatre. For over 35 years, they have been active subscribers and strong philanthropic supporters of the Orpheum.
Once David and Beth had their two children, Chris and Katie, it was a priority to expose them to the magic of the Orpheum. Starting at a young age, Chris and Katie witnessed Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Miss Saigon, Wicked, Les Misérables, Hamilton, and many other notable works. They experienced history by seeing the likes of Yul Brynner, Chaim Topol, Cary Grant and Carol Channing grace the stage. Through the Orpheum, they also met bigger-than-life individuals such as Robin Williams, Alice Cooper, and Gregory Peck. The Pickler family didn’t just attend live performances – they thrived off of the magic of the Orpheum Theatre.
David became invested in the Orpheum when the theatre was looking to expand their stage to accommodate mammoth shows like Miss Saigon and Les Misérables. In 2008, David was asked to join the board because the theatre was looking to expand their footprint in the area of education. With David’s background in education advocacy, he gladly joined and helped the Orpheum achieve their dream of an education wing. It was a massive financial undertaking. One that David proudly rallied behind. Leading a $12 million capital campaign, David and the theatre raised ample funds and broke ground on the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education.
This new facility sits adjacent to the theatre and boasts state-of-the-art theatre accommodations, a reception hall, and, most importantly, the ability to provide arts education to the children of Shelby County and beyond.
One of David’s first initiatives as a board member of the Orpheum was the creation of the High School Musical Theatre Awards. This initiative supports, promotes, and celebrates high school musical theatre throughout the Mid-South. It also aims to provide access to arts education, create opportunities for self-expression, develop relationships between schools and the Orpheum, encourage collaboration, enhance excellence, build community, and instill a lifelong passion for the arts.
After his time on the board, David and Pickler Companies proudly hosted client events at the historic venue to celebrate the barrage of Broadway shows coming to town. For Wicked’s inaugural showing in Memphis, David brought his clients to the Orpheum to experience the magic of this musical. With themed, green cocktails and a meet-and-greet with the cast, the night was met with joy and triumph.
In 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, the Theatre was unable to host shows due to local and state safety protocols. As a way to bring in much-needed revenue to offset the loss of Broadway performances, the theatre installed an 18-hole mini golf course on the historic stage! Because of our love for the arts, Pickler Companies partnered with the Orpheum Theatre and sponsored the Hamilton hole. That summer, we brought our staff downtown for a private game of mini golf, celebrating the Orpheum and showing our support during their time of need.
In August of 2019, David’s daughter Katie, who was raised in the theatre and even worked there part time in high school, was married on the Orpheum’s stage. This fairytale wedding was one for the ages and was a celebration with hundreds of guests. The reception was held in the Halloran Centre and boasted unique food, video booths, cocktails on the patio, and even a second line parade. For the Picklers, it was the culmination of decades of passion for the arts. And while it was a storybook wedding, the story of David’s advocacy for the Orpheum is far from over.
Planning for the Future of the Orpheum
In 2018, David was asked to rejoin the board after a brief hiatus. This time, in a different capacity. When he accepted the offer to reengage with the board, he immediately helmed the Strategic Plan Campaign. In this important campaign, David and the board carefully crafted a five-year plan, mapping out the future of the Orpheum. A portion of the plan included much-needed repairs and maintenance. In what can only be chalked up to great planning with a dash of luck, as part of the plan, the theatre underwent a complete renovation of the HVAC system. This project was completed right before the pandemic struck. Because of the newly installed, state-of-the-art ventilation system, the Orpheum was more prepared than ever to face a pandemic of this nature.
But the more imminent issue on everyone’s mind when it came to the theatre’s Strategic Plan was to acquire ownership and independence from the City of Memphis. After months of negotiations, In December of 2021, the City of Memphis sold the theatre back to the Orpheum Theatre Group, a non-profit, for a grand total of $1. In March of 2022, the Orpheum Theatre Group officially signed the deed, hailing its private ownership once again.
A Legacy of Giving
Also, as part of David’s renewed engagement with the theatre’s board of directors, David was asked to become the Planned Giving Director. In this capacity, David researches, identifies, and helps secure planned gifts for the theatre. It is his duty to ensure that the Orpheum’s staff and leadership team are equipped to solicit and accept these beneficial gifts.
In short, Planned Giving is a donor’s intention to contribute a major gift to an organization, beyond their lifetime. Wealth Engine summed it up nicely when they said, “Unlike an annual gift (an outright gift made for current use), a planned gift is for the future. Essentially, donors make arrangements for planned gifts in the present but they are actually doled out at a later date. Additionally, the major gifts contributed by a donor can be made as a part of their financial or estate plans.”
Ultimately, Planned Giving is not limited by a donor’s current wealth. The gifts, which are often made after the death of the individual, end up being larger and aren’t dependent on regular income.
This program has rejuvenated the organizations various giving campaigns and sets up a future of success for the Orpheum Theatre.
A Reimagining of the Broadway Club
For years, the theatre had a private room, including a bar, connecting to the Lobby. Known as the Broadway Club, this room was in need of a complete gutting and renovation in order to carry the Orpheum forward for future generations. Intrigued by the idea of rebranding this once-posh facility, David began discussions with the board and leadership on a partnership with Pickler Companies.
After negotiations including naming rights and signage approval from the City of Memphis, plans were set in place for the new Pickler Companies Broadway Club – a complete reimagining of this private donor lounge on the historic corner of Main and Beale.
In what was a celebration of the most impactful partnership to date for Pickler Companies, David cut the ribbon for the art-deco-inspired Pickler Companies Broadway Club in December of 2021, ushering in a new era for this iconic venue. At the event, David was surrounded by friends, colleagues, and fellow Memphians who value all that the Orpheum stands for.
As we approach 100 years of historic performances, storytelling, and joy that the Orpheum has provided, we proudly look to the future of what this institution can and will offer for generations to come.