Passion for music taking them far

We couldn’t be happier or more proud of Eric Gagne, 34, and Mary Goldthwaite-Gagne, 30, who have won the Stay Work Play New Hampshire’s Civic Leader of the Year award for the work they do each year to put on the Thing in the Spring weekend of concerts and broke: The Affordable Arts Fair. Stay Work Play is a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging young people to work and live in New Hampshire.

Each spring for the past six years, the Thing in the Spring has brought musicians and bands from near and far together over the course of a long weekend, turning downtown Peterborough into a smorgasbord of recreation and entertainment for residents and visitors. The same weekend, the arts fair is held, giving local artists and others a chance to sell their work.

Eric and Mary, who have a 10-month-old, don’t do it for the money. It was a $20,000 event this year, and the couple’s goal is to break even each year. They do it, it seems, for the love of music and art. “We’d love to bring more artists to town,” Eric told us in an interview last week.

But they’re working to make the events more sustainable. For example, there’s a concert following the fall broke arts fair on Nov. 23 at the Peterborough Town House. Bob McQuillen, Wooden Dinosaur, JT Lawrence, Will Kindler, Paper Castles and Passerine will be performing, with proceeds to benefit the 2014 Thing in the Spring.

Eric, a musician himself, has been organizing concerts for 20 years. He’s been inspiring others, too, and like a ripple effect his approach to music and community is reaching much further than any of us can imagine.

In an article in today’s issue, 28-year-old Matt Robidoux — who grew up in Rindge and now teaches music at The Well School in Peterborough and in private lessons — says Eric has been major influence for him, inspiring him to see new possibilities for his music. That’s something Robidoux has been passing on to his students as well.

Robidoux and his band, Speedy Ortiz, will be setting out on a tour later this year that will take them to points along the East Coast, the United Kingdom and then to the Midwest and Texas, before returning to Europe. Then Robidoux plans to settle in Northampton, where his band is based.

Fortunately, we’re not losing Eric, who runs the music store at the Peterborough Toadstool Bookshop, and Mary, an art teacher at ConVal High School. We’re lucky to have them.

When they started the Thing in The Spring in 2008, it was on a shoestring budget, but their dream and vision for what the event could be have carried them far. Their success should serve as inspiration for all that young, emerging leaders can do to promote our communities. Mary and Eric are among those who are shaping our region according to their own passions. And in doing so, they’re doing their part to usher in new voices and new possibilities.

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