Businessmen support Gallo center

David Halvorson, left, and Carl Boyett, in the lobby of the Gallo center: Both have donated substantial amounts of money.
David Halvorson, left, and Carl Boyett, in the lobby of the Gallo center: Both have donated substantial amounts of money. ADRIAN MENDOZA/THE BEE

One man was a star performing arts student in high school. The other was forced to take piano lessons as a child and hated every minute it.

But David Halvorson and Carl Boyett grew up to become key backers of the Gallo Center for the Arts. They are members of the board of trustees, donors and co-chairmen of the major gifts committee.

Halvorson, president of American Chevrolet in Modesto, said he would loved to have been able to perform in such a venue when he was playing trumpet and baritone (a type of valved brass instrument) and starring in musicals at St. Mary's High School in Stockton.

"Every time I come in here, I'm amazed we're in Modesto," he said last week after touring the new arts center. "I feel like we're in San Francisco."

Halvorson was inspired to support the center after he saw three of the area's leading corporate citizens make the biggest donations: the Gallo winemaking families, Foster Poultry Farms and the Mary Stuart Rogers Foundation. Moreover, Halvorson thinks it's important for businesses to contribute to community causes.

"What kind of person are you if you derive money from a community and never give anything back?"

Neither Halvorson nor Boyett would say how much money they have brought in to the arts center. Halvorson and his company are listed as contributing more than $50,000 in the arts center's donor logs. Boyett's family and company are listed as contributing more than $250,000.

Boyett, chief executive officer of Boyett Petroleum in Modesto, gives 10 percent of his company's income to charity and believes it's especially important to support the arts because government won't do it.

Though Boyett never became a concert pianist, he retained an interest in classical music and served on the Modesto Symphony Orchestra board for 12 years.

He became convinced the arts center was a necessity when he learned 86-year-old community activist Bette Belle Smith went door to door to raise money for a performing arts center when she was a child.

It bothers Boyett when people complain that the arts center is elitist and that ticket prices are too high. The orchestra has been charging comparable ticket prices of about $40 for years.

Halvorson thinks many skeptics will come around once they visit the new venue and see what a wide variety of entertainment it offers. The inaugural season includes Broadway musicals, acrobatic and magic shows, world music and pop singers.

He hopes that everyone with children will attend a show at least once.

"This can be a real special family thing," he said.

The Gallo Center for the Arts, on 10th and I streets in Modesto, holds its grand opening gala Sept. 27. The center has two theaters, the 1,252-seat Mary Stuart Rogers Theater and the 444-seat Foster Family Theater. www.galloarts.org, 338-2100.