“Behind the Scenes” of Goldman Gala with Amanda Modelevsky, GSDM Director of Meetings & Events

Amanda Modelevsky’s, GSDM director of meetings & events, main goal for Goldman Gala is simple: Make the guests happy. Yet achieving that goal is a herculean task to which she devotes months of planning and hard work. (Photo credit: Dan Bomba, GSDM.)

Once a year, the GSDM community swaps out their scrubs for ball gowns and tuxedos for one of the school’s most popular events: Goldman Gala. For the second installment of our ongoing “Behind the Scenes” series, we spoke with Amanda Modelevsky, GSDM director of meetings & events, about how she prepared for this year’s Goldman Gala in a brand-new location, the SoWa Power Station.  

Modelevsky’s main goal for Goldman Gala is simple: Make the guests happy. Yet achieving that goal is a herculean task to which she devotes months of planning and hard work.    

“I am involved with everything for Gala, including the very last speck of dust on the floor that needs to get picked up before you walk in the door,” Modelevsky said.

The first Goldman Gala was held 2010, featuring a cocktail hour, complete with raw bar and a tooth-shaped ice sculpture, followed by a formal sit-down dinner. The night was a success, and Gala quickly became a popular and beloved school event. 

When Modelevsky started working at GSDM in 2017 as assistant director of meetings & events (she was promoted to director of meetings & events in 2019), Gala was still in its original format. Departments would buy out whole tables, quickly filling the event’s maximum capacity of approximately 400 people.  

Modelevsky used this format to organize the 2018 and 2019 Galas at the Fairmont Copley—and was on track for a third in 2020, when she was forced to cancel the event due to COVID-19. The 2021 Gala was also canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. 

The Gala finally returned in 2022—but with a new format, as an evening-long cocktail party with more passed appetizers and food stations, instead of a sit-down dinner. This reimagined Gala ended up being a remarkable triumph, Modelevsky said.  

Modelevsky worked closely with Jenna McMahon, event coordinator. (Photo credit: Dan Bomba, GSDM.)

“Our guest count skyrocketed,” Modelevsky said. “We got up to 700 [people] and it was just awesome, and we got great feedback.”  

However, as the guest count grew again in 2023, GSDM had officially outgrown the Fairmont Copley—so Modelevsky kicked off planning for the 2024 Gala by searching for a new venue.   

“As much as we love the Fairmont, we love the people that work there, we were treated so well, but we’ve simply outgrown the space,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to build this event up from scratch and just throw everything at it.” 

Modelevsky started to explore other venues, including music concert halls with established furniture, stages, and bars. Before she committed, she wanted input from DMD and DMD AS class representatives to make sure she was on the right track.  

She was surprised to hear that students did not want Gala in a music concert hall. Instead, students said they wanted a “big, fancy night out” in a venue space they wouldn’t regularly have an opportunity to attend. She pivoted to look for venues that felt as high-end as the Fairmont but had more space–and found a perfect option in GSDM’s own backyard, the newly renovated SoWa Power Station.  

After touring the space twice, Modelevsky said she knew SoWa Power Station would suit her needs for Goldman Gala. The venue is essentially one big room, which offered Modelevsky unlimited possibilities for transforming the space.  

 

 

GSDM booked SoWa Power Station in the summer of 2023 for the 2024 Goldman Gala. However, booking the event space was just step one; planning had just begun.  

Next, Modelevsky needed to identify and book the vendors with whom she wanted to collaborate with including, but not limited to, design/decor, lighting, and entertainment. 

SoWa Power Station is a giant blank slate, giving Modelevsky the challenging task of creating a lavish event from scratch. She started this task by meeting in the fall with J Barry Designs, an event design and production company, to discuss the 2024 Gala aesthetic and design elements. Together, they came up with an overarching golden color scheme and mood board, which is a collection of inspirational images and text intended to evoke the desired style for the event.)  

Modelevsky then shared this plan with the other vendors so they could see where the event’s design was heading and how they fit in. As each vendor develops their plans for the Gala, they incorporate both the mood board and Modelevsky’s notes from previous Galas. 

“It’s basically a giant puzzle that you’re putting together, and everyone has a piece of the puzzle that creates this event as a whole,” Modelevsky said. “Every vendor has a big role in tying it all together.” 

At the same time Modelevsky was working with her external vendors, she was also working closely with Taline Kalo, GSDM Communications’ web & graphic designer, to design the Gala invitation, which is emailed to the GSDM community. She said an invitation is the first time a potential guest is thinking about the event. It’s the one chance to entice patrons to attend.  

“It’s your first touch point with your guests [and] that’s your first impression on them,” Modelevsky said. “That’s why I take a long time with that process. I am very meticulous and Type A about everything.”  

Modelevsky started the invitation design process by sharing the mood board with Kalo. Together, they collaborated on a design that had event information, like date, time, location, and other relevant details, and captured the style of the event. The save-the-date design was created before Intersession and sent to the GSDM community in early January.  

“It doesn’t make sense to send just a black and white invitation for this event that has so much more to it,” Modelevsky said. “Go that extra mile and put in that extra work into your invitations and use your event aesthetic as your overarching design idea.”  

Before the save-the-date went out, Modelevsky worked with Jenna McMahon, event coordinator, to select a new ticketing system, Eventbrite, in order to make event registration and waitlist management easier for both Gala attendees and event staff. An updated invite was sent on February 1, announcing tickets were officially on sale. After ticket sales went live, Gala tickets sold out in less than two weeks.  

“We’ll still have the check-in process, and everyone will have a QR code on their tickets, but I’m hoping that registration will be clean and seamless, and I’m really excited for that part,” Modelevsky said.  

On January 31, Modelevsky, McMahon, and all the vendors working the 2024 Gala met at SoWa Power Station for a space walkthrough, or as Modelevsky called it, a meeting of the minds. Everyone congregated in the mammoth empty space and started to visualize their designs and what items they would need to supply. Over the two weeks following that meeting, the design for the big day was finalized and approved. 

Modelevsky, McMahon, and all the vendors working the 2024 Gala met at SoWa Power Station for a space walkthrough. (Photo credit: Rachel Philipson, GSDM.)

“We could all hop on a Zoom and get done what we did during the walkthrough, but going into the space just elevates the way you’re thinking,” Modelevsky said. “You come up with all these different types of questions.”  

From February to March, Modelevsky finalized all the logistics with her vendors and developed a “run of show” for everyone involved with Gala. The “run of show” (also known as a run sheet or cue sheet) is a master document with everyone’s name, contact information, and an hour-by-hour breakdown of everyone’s duties from 8 a.m. on March 22 to early morning on March 23.  

The “run of show” is critical for having a smooth set-up and break-down during the event, Modelevsky said.  

“I’m going to make sure that their load-in process is going smoothly, that everything is being set according to the floor plan that we’ve all agreed on, making sure that we’re all on time,” Modelevsky said. “Usually, there’s last-minute adjustments that need to be made. This one thing just isn’t working the way that we wanted it to, so we’re either going to nix it or we’re going to adjust it.”  

Modelevsky’s planning went into effect the morning of Gala; she joked that once they get started, it’s too late to turn back. Modelevsky and her team spent the hours before Gala meticulously following her “run of show” and solving any issues that arise in the moment.  

After the vendors put their last-minute touches on everything, Modelevsky circled the space, ensuring the band, registration, catering, and bar were all ready to go. Once everyone was ready, she declared it time to open the door. Before she did so, she took the opportunity to look around and to see what she accomplished. 

Modelevsky said preparing for Gala is organized chaos, but it is always worth undergoing for her favorite moment: The moment of calm before it starts.  

“There is this very small window [of time] where I get to just stand there and look at everything just before the guests come in the room and look at what has come to life,” she said. “There’s this feeling that I get, there’s this small rush that I get right before we open the doors. Everything is perfectly set and ready, and the guests are moments away from seeing everything. It’s my favorite part of being an event planner.” 

 

By Rachel Grace Philipson