Albert Leffler knew he wanted to work in Popejoy Hall before the place was even built. What he didn’t know was how important Popejoy would be to him for the rest of his life.
He and his friend Robert King graduated from Valley High in 1965. Albert entered UNM in the fall on a pre-med track. Across campus, construction was underway for the new University Concert Hall. Leffler and King had been in Valley's drama club and were itching to work backstage in the new hall. They asked UNM vice president Sherman Smith if he would hire them. Smith said they would have to wait until a director was appointed.
Meanwhile, the boys snuck inside the construction gate to watch the progress up close. They got bounced out more than once.
In the fall of 1966, Bill Martin, the concert hall’s new director, hired Leffler and King as the first two student employees. They spent their first weeks unpacking and setting up equipment in preparation for the grand opening on October 1. Once the hall opened, King was assigned to lighting. Albert worked on the fly rail.
During the summers, Leffler also worked at the Santa Fe Opera, living on the ranch and working in lighting. In the open air theater, the lighting crew had to wait until dark to start work, so he was among the last to bed and the last to rise. When he got up, he helped in the box office. During performances, he donned a tux and worked as an usher or ticket taker. Back at UNM in the fall, he did the same thing at the newly-renamed Popejoy Hall.
After a stint in the army, Leffler came back home to UNM, this time as a music major, and to Popejoy as an intern, selling tickets and reading contracts.
As he finished his student career here, he saw an ad in an arts publication in Bill Martin’s office for a paid internship at Gammage Auditorium in Phoenix. He applied and was hired, working front of house for them. From there, he took a leap of faith, joining another Gammage intern, Peter Gadwa, and an Albuquerque businessman, Gordon Gunn, to form a company Leffler suggested they name Ticketmaster.
Once their software worked, linking computers to one another so the entire inventory of tickets was available at any outlet, Leffler approached Bill Martin about using Ticketmaster to sell Popejoy tickets. Martin trusted him and signed on as Ticketmaster’s first client. Their second client was the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. Their first office was at 142 Truman NE. They could run no more than 16 computers at a time on the system, the entire capacity being 16 kilobytes, one kb for each computer.
Leffler acknowledges Popejoy had a strong influence on his contributions to Ticketmaster. For example, the way reservations and payments were handled when he interned here went into their software so transactions could be managed in the same way.
Albert Leffler comes back to town next weekend, in part to attend Popejoy’s annual gala. We’re more than happy to welcome him back home.
Terry S. Davis
Photo: Aerial view of Popejoy Hall under construction