Donna Montgomery: Defying the odds and making history

Donna Montgomery

Donna Montgomery: Defying the odds and making history
March 14
01:00 2019

In celebration of Women’s History Month, throughout the month of March The Chronicle will be highlighting women in our community who are blazing trails and making history every day. This week we highlight promoter and event planner Donna Montgomery.

Since the late 90s, Montgomery has been known for booking some of the best artists and performers right here in the Triad. After a few years under her belt as a promoter here in the Triad area, in 2003 Montgomery was faced with her biggest challenge yet, booking Tyler Perry at the Lawrence Joel Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. Montgomery said when she first started planning the event, she had a lot of people tell her that it couldn’t be done.

At the time Perry’s stage play, “Madea’s Class Reunion,” was very popular across the country. The production made stops in a lot of big name cities including Atlanta, Charlotte and several others in the south. Because the play was so popular, Montgomery said naysayers who doubted her said she would never even be able to contact Perry.

And the doubts from skeptics didn’t stop there. When she reached out to the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, she was told she wouldn’t be able to meet the $5,000 deposit, meet the requirements for the advertising campaign, or fill the venue, which holds about 5,000.

“The people in place started asking questions like, who is Tyler Perry? Then they said I would be doing good if I sell 1,000 tickets and they asked me if I realized that they never had an African-American show to sell that many tickets,” said Montgomery. “History has shown that African-American shows typically do better in Greensboro; they did not expect for it to sell in Winston-Salem at all.

“I’m the type of person that believes you can’t tell me what I can and cannot do.”

On the day of the event, Montgomery proved the naysayers wrong when she became the first African-American woman promoter to book and sell out the LJVM Coliseum two consecutive nights. Montgomery said people traveled from across the state and from South Carolina to see the on-stage production.

In 2004 Montgomery and her team started the North Carolina Battle of the Bands. Montgomery said the idea came after she talked to a parent who said their child was interested in joining the band, but couldn’t because they couldn’t afford to buy the instrument.

“Any time a child is expressing that they want to develop a talent, they should be given that opportunity, so I started thinking about how I could raise money to help other kids who may be sitting in silence saying, ‘I wish I could’,” said Montgomery. “… Music has a way of bringing people together and I thought we can do this and we did.”

Since the first event in 2004, the N.C. Battle of the Bands has grown tremendously in attendance and participation. Montgomery said what sets the event apart from others like it is every school that attends receives at least one scholarship.

When discussing her success over the years, Montgomery said she never imagined that her business, Total Entertainment Inc., would be as successful as it is today. Montgomery said she started planning events in 1999 while she was working at Winston-Salem State University as an on-air personality for the radio station.

From humble beginnings assisting with events on the campus of Winston-Salem State University, today Total Entertainment Inc. employs four people and works throughout North Carolina.

“I got hooked on doing it. It was a thrill to see the ticket sales and to see people satisfied and talking about the events that I had assisted in putting together,” said Montgomery. “When we sit down and look at the things that we have accomplished when there were so many naysayers, it’s truly mind-blowing.”

Before wrapping up her interview with The Chronicle, Montgomery left a few words of advice to young women who may face obstacles or naysayers on their journey to greatness. She said, “If you can think it, you can believe it, you can see it, you can achieve it.

“Use the naysayers as leverage to push you to the next level. Use them as building blocks. Don’t allow someone telling you no to be a stopping point for you.  Explore other ideas. Re-position yourself and try it again.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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