Somerville violinist Marji Gere knows firsthand that seeing live music can get expensive.
“I just want it to be as accessible as possible for anyone to come,” she says. “It’s expensive to go out for concerts. We went out to one this weekend, a friend casually invited us, and we ended up paying $25. Maybe that’s not very much, but for us it was. I’m sure they put enough work into it that it was worth that, but that kind of thing is prohibitive for people living in this city. Fellow musicians, especially, we can’t afford to go to each other’s shows.”
As part of a mission to get more involved in her home city, Gere was determined to provide free concerts for the community. What formed was Around Hear, a free chamber music series that is based in the Somerville Housing Authority Mystic River Development but open to all.
Gere has put on three classical music concerts at the community’s activity center so far, recruiting friends and local musicians she’s long admired to play the shows. The staff at the Mystic Learning Center have been supportive and helpful, she says.
She’s come up with ways to make the engaging for young children or those who aren’t used to sitting through full concerts, incorporating visual art components, activities like postcard writing, and yoga mats for anyone who wants to move while listening to the music.
She’s made adaptations along the way, including an “audience buddies” system that she’ll introduce at the next concert where her friends will pair up with unchaperoned kids in the audience to provide any support they need during the show.
The concerts have all centered around string instruments and classical music so far, but Gere has new plans on the horizon. She recently managed, with the help of the center, to get a piano into the space, which her husband Dan Sedgwick will play as part of the next show. In future concerts Gere hopes to explore jazz music, spoken word, “newly invented instruments,” and maybe even puppetry.
Each of the three shows has had around 35 or 40 people attend, according to Gere, who says the audience has been a good mix of people living in the Mystic community and people coming from other parts of the city.
“It’s another goal of this project, to welcome people from outside the housing authority to come in and see this wonderful space, meet these wonderful people who are running these organizations, like the Welcome Project and the Mystic Learning Center, to learn more about those,” she says. “It’s been expressed to me by the resident services director some sense of isolation there, and it’s really cool to have these events where new energy is coming in.”
Around Hear also has a mentorship component that is just getting off the ground. Gere and Sedgwick are both offering one-on-one music lessons as the center weekly.
Gere has three Around Hear concerts scheduled for this spring. A concert on March 26 at 5:30 p.m. will feature musicians playing the flute, violin, and piano, and a 2 p.m. concert on April 28 will will offer up music by Dvorák, Brahms, and Schubert.
Around Hear will have a gala fundraiser at Connexion Church on May 18. A concert and cookout the following day will include a variety of instruments including the French horn, clarinet, and bassoon.
For more information, visit aroundhear.org.