The Hippo


Jul 23, 2019








Rob Dionne. Kelly Sennott photo.

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Ted Herbert Music School, 922 Elm St., Suite 201, Manchester,, 669-9191
Majestic Theatre, 922 Elm St., Suite 315, Manchester,, 669-7469

Continuing the tradition
Majestic Theatre purchases Ted Herbert Music School

By Kelly Sennott

 A couple months ago, twins Mark and Marlene Herbert went to Rob Dionne with a proposition: They wanted the Ted Herbert Music School to become part of the Majestic Theatre.

The siblings had been approached multiple times over the past several years with requests to purchase the school, but they declined them all. Their dad, Manchester resident Ted Herbert, had started the Ted Herbert Music Mart in 1958 and music lessons in 1959. The pair had been working there since their teens and took over as their father grew older. They wanted to move on, but it felt wrong to give the school up to just anyone. 
“My father was very big in education,” Mark Herbert said via phone. “He had a great legacy in the town, and we wanted it to continue, and for [the school] to be in the proper hands.”
They found Dionne in their own building at 922 Elm St. in Manchester. The Majestic Theatre founder had been renting top-floor office and studio space since 2011, when the community theater was forced out of its previous Ste. Marie School home.
Dionne had a long history with Ted Herbert’s. His mother and sister had taken clarinet lessons at the school, and late instructor Peter Marino taught him how to play the flute and how to love music. Dionne eventually inherited Marino’s piano, which now sits inside his office, and he went on to teach there from 1995 to 2007. Many of the Majestic’s policies, in fact, are based on Ted Herbert’s.
“We knew [Dionne] when he was a little kid, taking lessons. He had always been coming in there, buying stuff, chatting,” Mark Herbert said. “And he’s pretty familiar with our operation. … He knew our history, and we thought he could keep it going and bring it to a different level. He’s a go-getter. Things happen with him. … We thought he was a better fit than any of these other people who approached us. We made a deal almost on a handshake.”
A handshake, and also several months of heavy negotiation. Dionne had some important questions. The Majestic, after all, is a nonprofit, not a money-maker, and he didn’t have thousands to spend. The last thing he wanted was to jump into something without thinking it through. 
“But the more we talked about it, we realized it was actually quite attainable to create a business model that not only sustains the music school and gives the Herberts their due, but also sustains the Majestic,” Dionne said. “The board was very careful of exploring each option open to us, because the last thing we wanted was to take over and either, one, bury the Majestic or, two, not be able to do the Ted Herbert’s name its justice. … But the philosophy of the music school really fits with our mission, which is to support the arts in the community.”
Finally, they came to an agreement, and as of Jan. 1, it’s official. But not much will change. The name will remain, and prices will stay low.
“The Ted Herbert name is really rich,” Dionne said. “They’ve been giving lessons 50-plus years. We’re smart to keep that. It’s just that Ted Herbert’s will be one of our divisions. … But we’re not going to go up in price. We want to keep it affordable for families, as we do at the Majestic Theatre.”
Dionne went into the agreement only after talking with each of the 15 Ted Herbert instructors individually. Of those, 12 decided to stay, two decided to retire, and only one is moving on to something else.
One of those instructors staying is Jeff Samataro, who’s played drums at Majestic shows and took music lessons at Ted Herbert’s. He came back to teach after studying at the Berklee College of Music.
“Ted’s has had a reputation in southern New Hampshire now for decades. For a while it was really the place to go for music lessons and for instrument sales,” Samataro said. “It’s nice to know there’s new life going into it. … Everyone who’s been there cares so much about the school. A lot of the teachers have been there such a long time.”
Jim Snarski, for example, has been a Ted Herbert’s instructor for 42 years. John Chouinard, who teaches “anything with strings on it,” has been there on and off since 1973. Chouinard was happy for the partnership because, after all, what goes better with music than theater?
“There’s a synergy, I think, that exists between theater and music, and dancing for that matter, and I’m excited for the opportunity I think theater can bring to the school, and vice versa. But there’s always been a symbiotic relationship between the two. I have at least one student at the theater right now,” Chouinard said. 
Dionne was excited about the possibilities, too. For the Majestic’s production of Guys and Dolls this spring, for instance, maybe pit musicians could be Ted Herbert students. Or maybe, during weekends the company rents the Derry Opera House, instructors could use the space to hold daytime recitals.
Mark Herbert said the building is in the process of being sold separately, and when that happens, the Majestic may have to re-negotiate rent rates with the new landlord. 
Dionne said he wanted to show the community the Ted Herbert Music School is going strong — it’s a common misconception that it’s not, he said. Music & Arts had bought the store about 12 years ago, and last year it moved to South Willow Street. The school, however, always remained in place.
“I happened to come into the building late Saturday night, and as I was coming into the building, somebody walked by and said, ‘Oh, it’s so sad that Ted Herbert’s is gone,’” Dionne said. “I know she meant the store. But a lot of people don’t realize that, though the Ted Herbert’s music store is gone, the lessons have continued on these past 12 years. This is our opportunity to say, hey, Ted Herbert’s never went anywhere. They’re still here, 50-plus years later.” 

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