JoAnne Mead is no stranger to music — in fact, she grew up in Keene with a family bursting at the seams with musical talent. Growing up, Mead’s older sister was a professional singer. Pair a talented older sister, a violinist of a father, and the
awesome rock music of the ‘60s, it’s no wonder JoAnne has culminated so much musical talent over the years. It certainly helps that she absolutely enjoys every minute of it.
“We have music in our blood,” Mead laughed. “It’s always come so easy to me. It still blows my mind that I can open my mouth and sing with a group of people and actually have an impact!”
Music wasn’t always a lifelong goal for Mead. For most of her young life, she had always wanted to be a hairdresser. Although she sang throughout her elementary and high school career, it wasn’t until she was almost graduated before her wonderful Keene High School music teachers urged her to give music a shot as an actual career.
“It wasn’t until high school until I started realizing that I could sing well,” Mead explained. “What would come out in my choir class was different than my peers. There was certainly something there,” she recalled.
Knowing she always wanted to be a teacher, Mead decided to double down on her eventual musical education degrees, giving her the opportunity to ultimately give back to the musical community that raised her. Shortly after getting her degrees, Mead began getting involved with the local opera outreach and teaching private music lessons in her very own hometown of Keene.
When Mead first helped organize the Keene Big Brothers and Big Sisters Variety Shows several years ago, she knew this kind of volunteer work was something she wanted to keep doing. The variety shows were full of local, well-known musicians and artists doing what they loved and giving money back to the community. Mead was able to meet new people, have lots of fun, and give proceeds back to the town she called home. What could be better?
Eventually, this community work led her to a position over at the Keene Lions Club, which has also had a significant impact on her career.
“Before the Lion’s Club, I had never really directed a show before; two weeks after filling in as a vocal coach for The Fiddler on the Roof and I was the music director,” Mead laughed.
Since then, Mead has been involved in several other volunteer programs, including the Four on the Floor Benefit Concert last year, given time at MoCo Arts, her involvement over at Keene State College, and helped organize Opera Outreach, giving kids the opportunity to witness opera in a way they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.
This kind of volunteer work helped hone the skills that allowed Mead to become a professional in the field. She thinks of it as a sort of “on-sight’ training to her eventual job with the Raylynmor Opera.
Mead eagerly pointed out that winning an Ewing Award is especially rewarding because of the fact that it is a Community Outreach award.
“This award is particularly special because it’s not about me - it’s about helping out communities,” Mead explained. “I never have anyone [I call] say ‘I’m busy’ – it’s always, ‘How can I help? When do you need me there?’ I can’t do what I do without all my wonderful friends and colleagues who have helped me help the community.”
Perhaps what Mead enjoys the most about her journey in the Monadnock musical community is seeing her old students coming back home and continuing the legacy, so to speak.
“Seeing my old students coming back and taking the bulk of the work around here is really fun to be a part of,” Mead said. “They’re always asking for my input and keeping me on board, whether they’re filling in the music teaching jobs in the schools, or becoming play directors, they’re doing what should be done. It’s so rewarding to see!”
“This award in particular to me highlights what we all can do – there’s so much that can be done. It’s about having wonderful friends and colleagues very well regarded in the world of music, and what we can all do together to help the community thrive.”