The Hippo


Nov 17, 2019








Tom Lewry. Courtesy photo.

11th Annual Share the Music Gala

Where: Southern New Hampshire University Banquet Hall
When: Thursday, March 31
What: Dancing and music featuring the New Hampshire Youth Jazz Ensemble, and an awards ceremony honoring Tom Lewry with the Leadership Award and Deborah and Elliott Markow with the Impact Award
Admission: $100 for VIP reserved seating at 5:30 p.m., $75 for general seating at 6 p.m.
Deborah and Elliott Markow
MCMS is also awarding the inaugural MCMS Impact Award to husband-wife team Elliott and Debbie Markow, who’ve been teaching violin at the school for 20 years. The school’s only 32 years old.
Deborah Markow is a Suzuki teacher who works with young children, while Elliott Markow instructs more advanced players who might be preparing to audition for conservatory, Teehan said.
 But the pair, in addition to teaching, have acted as mentors to aspiring musicians and advocates for music education and financial assistance, sometimes plucking students from the community they see a “special spark in.”
Teehan said that, through their work, they’ve impacted hundreds, maybe even thousands of families in the community.

Music steward
MCMS honors Tom Lewry

By Kelly Sennott

 Tom Lewry was flattered but a little embarrassed when announced as the first recipient of Manchester Community Music School’s Leadership Award, which he’ll receive at its 11th annual Share the Music Gala Thursday, March 31.

But after MCMS Executive Director Judy Teehan delivered the news via phone over a month ago, Lewry decided there was a bright side — he could use this opportunity to better get the word out about MCMS’s growth and the good it does for the community and its 1,200 students. 
“It’s an organization that’s kind of sleeping in the North End. People often don’t know of it because it used to be on Hanover Street, right downtown,” said Lewry, whose office at Curbstone Financial Management Corporation is a few blocks from the school. 
Lewry became heavily involved with MCMS 10 years ago when, at age 60, he walked into its front doors to take piano lessons. He comes from a musical family; his sister was a professional viola player who performed with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra in Pennsylvania until age 75. His mom sang and his aunt sang, but Lewry hadn’t had the patience to sit and practice music as a kid. He took maybe six months of piano back then before switching to sports.
But he always loved music and had each of his four kids take mandatory piano lessons until ninth grade. 
“I think if there were one sense I couldn’t do without, it would be my sense of hearing. It’s not only music. It’s sound. I find I’m very hypersensitive to sound. And relationships of sound, and the creation of music,” Lewry said. “I wanted my kids to appreciate the kind of work that goes into the scholarship of music.”
Lewry had a feeling that, as president of a local finance company, he might get roped into something besides lessons at the community music school, so he set his intentions straight early on.
“I told Suzanne [Barr], the CEO at the time, ‘I don’t want anything to do with your board or committees, or any of that. In the years I have left, I want to learn something about how music is put together,’” he said. “At any rate, what happens when you go into the school — or what I found, if you wander the halls in the afternoon — you walk into these rooms where you see 8-year-olds playing Chopin on the piano from memory. Or you see senior citizens taking voice lessons. It’s a very inspiring place. … Within six months, I was asked to join the board and I agreed.”
He could see the school was in need of leadership and more board members. MCMS had recently purchased the Notre Dame College building, a huge step, and the nonprofit was dealing with mortgages and capital expenses. Within six months more, he agreed to chair the board.
Lewry helped reorganize the nonprofit’s financial structure by advising the school to consolidate lines of credit and mortgage accounts. Teehan said he also offered guidance and leadership in terms of setting up good business practices and enforcing accountability and communication with constituents.
The board is made up of about 20 people with various backgrounds — legal, accounting, marketing, financial, fundraising, musical — and Lewry was part of it for eight years. Its existence is crucial for the school’s survival, Teehan said, with its meager budget and barebones staff.
“It’s important for us to have mentors in the community,” Teehan said. “Without them we’d be nowhere.”
Even though Lewry’s only official involvement with the school today is through weekly piano lessons with Craig Vahey, he still talks about it with a fatherly pride.
“In terms of musical development, we have the largest music therapy program in the state,” he said. “And some of the success stories of the music therapy program are great. We’re not only [here] for students who come to the school, but [we’re] out in various healthcare facilities and performing music therapy services.”
He said he’s especially proud of its scholarship program, particularly as arts programs get cut in school budgets.
“We’ve done over $1.2 million in scholarships over a period of about 10 years. Those are need-based, and have allowed many families to have their kids pursue high-quality music education while being underwritten by the scholarship program,” he said. (This year alone, the school has awarded more than $100,000 to more than 255 students.)
The morning of his interview, Lewry had stopped into the music school for his lessons and to say hi. He commented on Teehan’s posture, the hunched way she sat at her computer, and sent a computer monitor stand the next day.
“He comes in for his lessons weekly, but he stops in the office and always has a watchful eye out for the school, and what the word is in the community. He’s just a guiding force. Even though he’s no longer on the board, he still carries our banner, and we thought it was time to honor Tom,” Teehan said.  

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