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Rindge

Do-it-yourself musician

Local guitar teacher’s rock band, Speedy Ortiz, to tour East Coast, Midwest and United Kingdom

  • Matt Robidoux, guitarist for the band Speedy Ortiz, spends time with Well School students in an afternoon band session last Tuesday.
  • Matt Robidoux, guitarist for the band Speedy Ortiz, spends time with Well School students in an afternoon band session last Tuesday.
  • Matt Robidoux, guitarist for the band Speedy Ortiz, spends time with Well School students in an afternoon band session last Tuesday.
  • Matt Robidoux, guitarist for the band Speedy Ortiz, spends time with Well School students in an afternoon band session last Tuesday.
  • Matt Robidoux, guitarist for the band Speedy Ortiz, spends time with Well School students in an afternoon band session last Tuesday.
  • Matt Robidoux, guitarist for the band Speedy Ortiz, spends time with Well School students in an afternoon band session last Tuesday.
  • Matt Robidoux, guitarist for the band Speedy Ortiz, spends time with Well School students in an afternoon band session last Tuesday.
  • Matt Robidoux, guitarist for the band Speedy Ortiz, spends time with Well School students in an afternoon band session last Tuesday.
  • Matt Robidoux, guitarist for the band Speedy Ortiz, spends time with Well School students in an afternoon band session last Tuesday.

When you think of meeting a rock star, what do you picture?

Probably not a quiet, understated young gentleman preparing his classroom for an after-school band made up of seventh and eighth graders. For 28-year-old Matt Robidoux, who grew up in Rindge and is now a part-time music teacher and lead guitarist for Northampton-based indie rock band Speedy Ortiz, music is not about who’s at the top or which band bumps everyone down a notch. It’s about sharing with and inspiring others.

“I wanted to play the songs I was hearing,” Robidoux said in an interview two weeks ago, explaining why he began playing guitar at 13.

In addition to playing on his own, Robidoux studied music at both Franklin Pierce University, where he played in jazz band, and Keene State College, where he started the band Graph. Robidoux graduated from Keene State in 2009 with a bachelor’s in music education, and then moved to Northampton, Mass., to continue playing with Graph. Robidoux said of the town, “It has a great music scene.”

Robidoux soon became involved with other musicians, including bandmates Mike Falcone, Sadie Dupuis, Darl Ferm of Speedy Ortiz. According to Robidoux, the transition between his old and new band was “a natural progression.” In what he called an overlap period, Robidoux played shows with Graph while simultaneously beginning his work with Speedy Ortiz. Eventually, Graph dissolved.

Two years after the band formed, Speedy Ortiz has broken into the indie rock scene, said Robidoux. He and his bandmates recently garnered the “Best New Music” watermark from Pitchfork for their newest album, Major Arcana, which was released in July. According to Robidoux, Speedy Ortiz has many sources of inspiration for the music it creates, including bands from the 1990s.

“We’re just as influenced by bands on the current scene,” Robidoux added, calling Speedy Ortiz and other similar groups “DIY rock.” “Everyone is trying to do something original and new.”

What comes with the desire for innovative music is a good work ethic, for Speedy Ortiz and others like them. Speedy Ortiz just recorded a four-song EP, or extended play, last week.

“It’s just a continuation of other things,” Robidoux said, explaining how the band works hard even with the positive attention for its music. “That’s a recurring theme with bands that influence us.”

A more personal and overarching influence for Robidoux as a musician has been Eric Gagne, an employee at the Peterborough branch of the Toadstool Bookshop and a local music event organizer who Robidoux says is “great at cultivating a scene.”

“Eric showed me anyone can do it,” Robidoux said, adding that the shows Gagne organized were “integral” in pushing Robidoux to play in his own.

Robidoux performs between two and four times a week. In addition to playing with the band in Boston and western Massachusetts, Robidoux occasionally performs solo in local venues, including in his living room and at Flywheel Arts Collective in Easthampton, Mass. Robidoux also runs a tape label called Hidden Temple Tapes out of Northampton. When Robidoux is not busy making music with Speedy Ortiz, he is teaching music to local students, both at the Well School in Peterborough and at Rousseau’s Music Store and Lesson Studios in Jaffrey.

In much the same way Gagne allowed Robidoux to understand his own possibilities in the music world, Robidoux shows students how they can be musicians. In addition to teaching close to 20 private guitar lessons each week at Rousseau’s, Robidoux is the instrumental instructor for fifth through eighth graders at the Well School. Robidoux teaches four classes per week, and he also helps run two after school bands.

Throughout the music program’s folk and rock curriculum, Robidoux gives students a chance to pick out their own songs, and for the after-school bands everything is up to the students.

“I’m just the coach,” Robidoux said, pointing out that the students choose their own band names — 3 Monkeys Under and Butter Combo, respectively — and their own songs.

Robidoux will be leaving his two teaching jobs later this year, as Speedy Ortiz has several tours coming up. “Both places are really supportive,” Robidoux said of the Well School and Rousseau’s. Robidoux has been with the latter for seven years. “They’re like my family at this point.”

At some point, though, one has to depart from one’s family, and Robidoux has quite a trip coming up. Speedy Ortiz tours along the East Coast in January, in the United Kingdom in February, in the Midwest and Austin, Texas, in March, and back in Europe in April. “It’s going to be constant,” Robidoux said.

At the end of it all, Robidoux plans on returning to live in Northampton, to working hard on his music and, eventually, teaching again. For Robidoux, it seems he’s in a place where he has everything he needs. As he said, “I think New England is a really cool place.”

Elodie can be reached by phone at 924-7172 ext. 228, or by email at ereed@ledgertranscript.com. Elodie is also on Twitter @elodie_reed.

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