Remembering Martha and Andy
By Jim Lowe
As the Middlesex bandstand celebrates its 10th year, it may be easy for some to forget its formal title, the Martha Pellerin and Andy Shapiro Memorial Bandstand. And that would be a mistake.
Although it has been more than 15 years since their deaths, Martha and Andy were not only beloved Middlesex residents, they were among the most respected of Vermont musicians.
More importantly, they were friends to most they came in contact with — including me.
It is fitting that the series is opening with Tammy Fletcher and the Disciples, for Andy was the founder of the Disciples. One of the state’s best jazz pianists, he instituted its professionalism with not only excellent technique, but with musical depth and understanding. Coupled with the effervescent young Tammy, they were not only a big hit with audiences, but their music making was also of the highest level.
But Andy wasn’t only interested in professionals. In 1994, he founded the Montpelier Community Gospel Choir and remained its director until his death. This splendid group reflected Andy’s enthusiasm for both the music and the members — his friends.
Perhaps dearest to Andy, besides his loving family, were his students at Johnson State College. He taught them professionalism not seen in the school before, and in return they gave him total loyalty. They loved Andy.
Perhaps my fondest memory of Andy was from a concert shortly before his death. It was in Burlington with Steve Goldberg on flugelhorn. The music was avant-garde jazz; sophisticated, difficult and exciting. This was music making of the highest order.
Martha Pellerin Drury — who was married to fine Vermont instrumentalist John Drury, still a proud member of the Ground Hog Opry — contributed to her beloved Vermont, but in a very different way. Born in Barre, the first-generation American of a French-Canadian family, she turned her heritage into a lifelong project. But with her passion and charisma, Martha made it all Vermonters’ ancestry.
Martha’s Franco-American music festivals at the Barre Opera House were her gift to the community. She was most visible to the public as founder and member of Jeter le Pont (Bridging the Gap). With Dana Whittle and Claude Methé, Jeter championed traditional French–Canadian folk music, bringing Martha’s heritage to Vermonters, many of whom shared it, and others who loved it.
Not so visibly, Martha was the program developer for ActFANE (Action for Franco-Americans in the Northeast) and the proprietor of Franglais Enterprises, which sought to promote understanding of Franco-American and French-Canadian culture through traditional arts. She was a dynamo.
Martha and Andy could be heard at concerts and in recordings throughout their lives, but it is their personal warmth that I remember most. Both were felled by cancer in 1998 — and they are still missed.