What could be more festive than the Big Apple at Christmas time? That’s right – I’m standing in front of Radio City Music Hall in New York City because my next guest has a little something to do with the music scene!!
I told her I’d be the one in festive attire…Geez, it’s freezing out here…
Little Boy pointing at Kristi: Look Mommy there’s one of the Rockettes!
Mommy: Don’t be silly, sweetheart. She’s way too old to be a Rockette.
Kristi: (looks to see who their talking about, as she tightens the belt of her Santa’s Little Helper outfit.)
Kristi: Here she is now. Yoo-hooo, Peggy Monastra– Welcome to How Did You Get There!
Peggy Monastra: Thanks, Kristi. Wow– don’t you look… festive… Aren’t you cold in that?
Kristi: (teeth chattering) Not at all, the warmth of the holiday season is all I neeeeeeeeed. But let’s step into the lobby.
Peggy Monastra: OK.
(fight crowd to enter Radio City Music Hall lobby)
Kristi: Please tell our readers what you do for a liv— Hey watch it lady! (Kristi elbows elderly lady)
Elderly Lady’s Husband: Hey!
(Inside, Peggy smiles apologetically to now angry elderly couple)
Kristi: Some people! Sorry, Peggy. Please tell us what you do.
Peggy Monastra: I’m the Director of Promotions for a major international music publisher. I oversee Promotions in North America, collaborate with colleagues overseas and manage a roster of active, top level composers—
Kristi: Like Barry Manilow or Burt Bacharach?
Peggy Monastra: (starts to giggle) Not exactly. I represent classical composers.
Kristi: Haven’t worked your way up to the biggies yet, huh?
Peggy Monastra: (realizes Kristi isn’t kidding) Oh, they are Oscar winners, Grammy winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, Grawemeyers winners, MacArthur Grant geniuses…. you name it – they’ve won it.
Kristi: I see, like Andrew Lloyd Webber, “Phantom of the Opera”?
Peggy Monastra: No– he writes musical theatre– we represent composers who write contemporary music for opera houses, dance companies, orchestras…
Kristi: OMG– You represent Mozart and Beethoven?
Peggy Monastra: They’re dead. (bites lip, hates laughing in someone’s face this close to Christmas)
Kristi: (makes mental note to read the obituaries more often)
Peggy Monastra: But Tan Dun’s alive! He won the Oscar for Best Original Musical Score for the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. One of his operas, “The First Emperor”, premiered at the MET at Christmas, 2006.
Kristi: How long have you represented Oscar and Grammy winning composers who are NOT pop stars, but ARE alive?
Peggy Monastra: 16 years, though my position has evolved over the years. I’ve been Director of Promotion since 2003-04.
Kristi: What do you like most about it?
Peggy Monastra: The connections with all the artists – composers, performers, choreographers, programmers. It’s exciting to meet the absolute top level in the industry. I love living in the history of music making– while it is happening…
Kristi: Totally–history is so much better when it’s happening. Why people read about the past I’ll never understand.
Peggy Monastra: It is exciting conferring with living composers and the wonderful artists, administrators, commissioners/funders, etc. who make it happen. Also eavesdropping on audiences while they experience new music for the first time.
Kristi: Oh- I love eavesdropping!
Peggy Monastra: I often remind myself that I’m one of the lucky ones, hearing it for the first time.
Kristi: I wonder what it was like for the first audience to hear Chopin’s preludes. He is dead, right?
Peggy: (thrilled Kristi gets it) Yes!
Kristi: (thrilled Peggy sees she gets it) Or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
Peggy: (amazed at how quickly Kristi lost it)
Kristi: What attracted you to music promotions?
Peggy Monastra: I’m an outgoing person. I’m passionate about the Art of our time. I’m also a Gemini, and try to see both sides of each situation.
Kristi: It’s easy to promote the classics–like ‘Grandma Got Run-over By A Reindeer’–but what about the stuff no one’s heard yet?
Peggy Monastra: Part of my job is to describe pieces for people in search of repertoire ideas. I try to find ways to be a salesperson without ‘selling’, acting as a collaborator or a repertoire advisor to heads of orchestras, opera companies etc.
Kristi: Say—I have a repertoire question! My Christmas Carolling group has had a nasty falling out. I want more upbeat songs like Here Comes Santa Clause, something we can snap to, while Marjorie insists on keeping it morbidly slow with her We Three Kings—
Peggy Monastra: (looks at watch, smiles)
Kristi: Think you can talk to her?
Peggy Monastra: Um… I’d hate to impose.
Kristi: There’s no need to be shy around Marjorie.
Peggy Monastra: I have no problem meeting strangers. I love meeting creative people who are passionate about what they do… not just musicians and composers.
Kristi: That sounds like Marjorie, I don’t know about creative but she’s passionate about more than Christmas Carolling—always wants to sing a few extra songs at Mr. Peterson’s—if you get my drift…
Peggy Monastra: (at a loss to respond to this) I thought I was here to discuss my job?
Kristi: Oh. Right. Let’s see…Have you developed these skills on the job or were they innate?
Peggy Monastra: Both. I’ve learned a lot from my colleagues within the company and without, as well as from the composers themselves – what to say and absolutely what NOT to say….
Kristi: So you think you could help Marjorie with what NOT to say—?
Peggy Monastra: …a lot of it is in the timing, sensing when and where it’s appropriate to put something forward….
Kristi: —you know, to keep her big mouth shut?
Peggy Monastra: (eyebrows raised) …and simply being able to say “I’ll get back to you” with full confidence…
Kristi: Glad we got that settled. I’ll set up a meeting between you and Marjorie. Can’t wait to see her reaction!!
Peggy Monastra: (wonders exactly which conversation Kristi was having)
Kristi: Where did you work immediately before this?
Peggy Monastra: The Library of Congress – Music Division.
Kristi: The Library of Congress!? Did your political background lead to your current position?
Peggy Monastra: I’ve never been in politics, but working with the very recent musical past –the Aaron Copland Collection in particular–convinced me that I wanted to help make history happen instead of researching it after the fact.
Kristi: What other jobs have you had?
Peggy Monastra: I taught piano and music history in a private girls’ school – the same one I’d attended, as a matter of fact. Teaching piano was fun because you get to know people while they’re doing something they enjoy. My favourite students were always the youngest and the oldest.
Kristi: What ages were they?
Peggy: One year I had a student who was only 6 (maybe 5 1/2) and another who was 85.
Kristi: In summary, you went from being a piano teacher to being the Promotions Director of a major music publishing company.
Peggy: Yes–I taught high school music history, which led me to study musicology – which led me to pursue the Library of Congress and my current work today.
Kristi: Any life experiences you’d like to share?
Peggy Monastra: As much as I love my job, being a mom is my favourite work now. I learned so much from all my students, about relating to kids of all ages.
Kristi: We’ve learned a great deal from you, Peggy Monastra. Thanks so much for sharing your fascinating career with us, and as always Thank you for Playing!