You don’t need to travel to a big city to enjoy good music. It’s actually in the Monadnock region’s backyard, and has been for more than 50 years.
“We love being part of this community,” said Laina Barakat, general manager of Monadnock Music. The Peterborough-based organization makes “exceptional music accessible” in the region’s communities — music they may not otherwise experience. “These concerts and programs we offer are a way to bridge high-quality music in a local setting.”
A free village concert series is offered every summer, hosted by a different town in the region each week. This and many other Monadnock Music programs are free, Barakat said, adding that sometimes people forego larger venues because of ticket prices. For any of the local programs and events that require tickets, the organization makes sure they’re affordable.
Monadnock Music also serves to educate people about music and its origins. According to Barakat, a simple lack of knowledge about the music can also hinder people’s desire to attend — this can be particularly evident when it comes to larger venues. That’s where the local organization comes in.
“With [Monadnock Music], people can learn about all types of music and enjoy the experience,” Barakat said. “Our programs are the lifeblood.”
Monadnock Music has presented numerous musicians and groups — both large and small — primarily those that focus in the classical realm. Among them is the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. The Grammy-winning group has entertained the Monadnock region several times, according to Barakat, playing eight of Beethoven’s nine symphonies. Another favorite is the Time Warp Duo, which has a classical music focus but also dabbles in world music and jazz.
“We’re proud of the caliber of musicians we offer,” Barakat said.
She noted that the smaller sizes of the local towns make it possible for concertgoers to enjoy more than just the music. Many times, before or after performances, people can meet and talk with the musicians.
“You can’t typically get that at big venues,” Barakat said. “We’re proud of our programs and the level of intimacy we provide.”
In addition to musical performances, Monadnock Music provides music education throughout the area in various ways. Most notably are programs in the local elementary schools. Students don’t learn instruments but instead what classical and orchestra music is and its history. Barakat said it’s a way to open young minds up to new things. Such education programs — Monadnock Music in the Schools — started in 1985 as Lend an Ear, bringing “small ensembles of brass, string and woodwind players to children in as many schools in the region as possible on a regular basis.” According to Monadnock Music, “these programs are aimed at developing the audiences of tomorrow.”
Since the program’s inception, it has served more than 25,000 local children. And it has always been special for the students, as evidenced in the many “thank you” notes Monadnock Music receives when the lessons have ended.
“It’s so wonderful to hear how much they enjoy the programs,” Barakat said. “We’re making a positive impact.”
Monadnock Music’s offerings have taken on a new look in the past several months amid the pandemic. But while “these are uncharted waters for such an old organization,” Barakat noted digital, virtual and online events and programs are filling the in-person void.
Music in the Time of Quarantine helps people stay connected to the local music scene via online performances. Concerts and other such events are live streamed (recordings are also offered) on Monadnock Music’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. According to Barakat, they will be available to audiences for the duration of pandemic-related social restrictions.
A new in-person program allows people to enjoy performances outside, while adhering to social distancing regulations. The Listen and Lunch concert series is held every Thursday at Depot Park in Peterborough. A different musician performs from 12 to 1 p.m. Attendees are required to sit at least six feet apart. All ages are welcome and encouraged to bring their own picnic lunch.
“We’ve seen that you can be socially distant and still enjoy some great music,” Barakat said, noting that other new programs are in the pipeline. “We hope to bring back as much normalcy as we can with offering new, innovative programs.”
Through it all, the local communities and their residents continue to stand by Monadnock Music.
“We have a long history of exceptional people who are involved and believe in our mission,” Barakat said. “It’s wonderful.”