This is a printer-friendly version of an article from

09/28/2023 07:59 AM

Margaret Very: An Anniversary to Celebrate

Margaret Very is preparing to help celebrate the Community Music School’s 40th anniversary. Photo courtesy of Margaret Very

Margaret Very was there at the beginning 40 years ago, on the board of trustees, when the Community Music School (CMS) in Centerbrook started. Now, she is on the board again, this time as president, in time to celebrate the CMS’s 40th anniversary.

CMS will mark its four decades with a gala celebration, A Broadway Evening with Todd Ellison and Friends, at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook on Saturday, Oct. 14.

CMS gives instrumental and voice lessons to students from toddlers in Music Together to adults, covering instruments as varied as guitar and drums to low brass like trombone to piano. It also sponsors musical groups among the flute and classic rock ensembles, as well as the New Horizon Band designed for older musicians eager to continue playing and the string ensemble conducted by Martha Herrle, open to players of all ages and skill.

Ellison, an Essex native, has a long resume as a music director of hit Broadway shows in the United States and abroad. He recently returned from Prague, where he conducted the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra in a recording of Marvin Hamlisch and Jerry Lewis’ musical, The Nutty Professor, which he produced at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine last summer.

The upcoming anniversary celebration will feature four of Ellison’s theatrical friends with impressive resumes of their own: Marissa McGowan, who has appeared in A Little Night Music and Les Miserables; Klea Blackhurst, best known for her tribute to Broadway legend Ethel Merman; Norm Lewis whose stage credits include Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, and Chicago; and Christopher Sieber who has been featured in Shrek the Musical, Spamalot and Matilda the Musical.

Tickets for the gala are on sale at The Kate and through the CMS website.

“I know it is going to be hugely entertaining,” says Margaret, herself a musician.

Now, she is playing her flute with the New London Community Orchestra.

“I’m holding my own there,” she says.

Margaret returned to the CMS board 10 years ago at the suggestion of Patricia Hurley, who founded CMS four decades ago with lessons originally given at Essex Town Hall. In between her service on the board, Margaret and her husband Bill raised two now-adult children, and she established a career as a realtor. “Life happens” is the way she describes her professional trajectory.

Margaret, who now lives in Essex after 20 years in Deep River, grew up in Norwich and graduated from Norwich Free Academy. She is the third generation of her family to have graduated from the high school. She went on to the Hartt School, the conservatory that is part of the University of Hartford, planning to be a music teacher.

Then, to paraphrase her own credo, life happened. She met a fellow music student, Bill Very. They married while in school. It took Margaret 5 ½ years to graduate, and by then, she had not only her degree but also two children. Her daughter Christine is now a real estate professional, and her son Mark is a surgeon.

With two young children, Margaret did not follow her original plan to teach school music. She found a job as a waitress working while her children were at school.

“It was three hours at lunch, a perfect fit,” she recalls.

Several real estate agents were restaurant regulars and suggested that she would do well in their profession. She followed their advice. Now, with years of experience, she is a realtor selling homes to the children of original clients.

She thinks of her real estate career as matchmaking. “It’s like love, creating a marriage,” she says.

And for that reason, she has some advice for potential buyers: Don’t settle for something less than you want.

“There are clients who can’t believe I have talked them out of buying a house,” she adds.

Margaret has served in leadership positions in professional organizations, including as president of the Greater New Haven Middlesex Board of Realtors, now New Haven Middlesex Realtors.

At her own home, Margaret is an enthusiastic cook. When the couple married, Bill was a picky eater, but she had some advice for him. She told him that since she liked to cook, it was his job to learn to eat. She always follows a recipe exactly the first time but then makes notes for revisions of her own.

Right now, she is experimenting with an air fryer lid for her instant pot, an appliance she is enthusiastic about. She likes making her own version of hot wings, using drumsticks instead.

“Meatier,” she says.

For the last seven years, she has been a facilitator of a mother’s group, Mastering Motherhood, through her church, Christ Chapel in Madison. Initially, when a friend suggested she participate, Margaret thought with grown children, it was not a good fit for her.

But the group, she explains, is for women of all ages.

“Older women can teach younger; been there done that,” she says. She wants the young women in the group to enjoy the very special times they share with their children, not to be overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood. “Days are long, but years are short,” she says.

Margaret is proud that CMS was able to continue lessons online during the pandemic lockdown.

“That was really something to celebrate, a small nonprofit keeping going through that time,” she says.

Now, she wants to ensure that the school goes forward with the same vigor that animated it during the pandemic. “We have a lot to celebrate in 40 years,” she says. “We need to begin a legacy for the next generation.”

Todd Ellison and Friends

October 14, 7:30 pm at The Kate, Old Saybrook. Tickets at the CMS website or at The Kate’s website