May 10, 2022 By Monica Tesler
As an author, I’m a sucker for alliteration. Alyson Anderson and the Arts simply sounds amazing, doesn’t it? I also love the sound of Alyson Anderson and the Arts because I love the arts. If you follow me on Facebook and haven’t been holed up in your basement with no WiFi for the past several months, you know I love the arts because I’ve been posting about how much our town needs an Arts Director. Good news! It looks like we’re getting one! In fact, the job posting is already up. So if you happen to know anyone who would be a great Arts Director for our town, definitely encourage them to apply. But what I’m really here to convey is that a vote for Alyson Anderson is a vote for the arts, because Aly has already been working behind the scenes to increase investment in the arts in the Hingham schools for a long time.
I probably should get a few things out of the way up front. First, I have known Aly for many years, and we are quite close, even legally close. We met in 1996 when she visited her brother at the University of Michigan Law School. At that time I was the “girlfriend.” I married Jamey Tesler, and we eventually ended up back in his Hingham hometown to raise our children. Jamey has worked in state government for close to two decades and is now the Secretary of Transportation. As his spouse for the duration of his government career, I have learned a lot and developed strong views about the political process. Or at least about politics. Or at least about local politics. And here is one of those views: Alyson Anderson is an excellent choice for our school committee.
Here’s another thing I should get out of the way: I’m on the boards of the Hingham Music Parents Association and the new Hingham Arts Alliance (again, no surprise if you’ve seen my Facebook feed). I am very passionate about these organizations because I’m very passionate about the arts, and in particular the arts in our schools. But I want to make sure you know that the ideas expressed here are all mine and shouldn’t be attributed to either of those organizations, even though I mention them a few times. Let me take this chance to tell you, though, that the HMPA and HAA should be recognized for all their work on behalf of the arts. Many tenacious people in both organizations work tirelessly behind the scenes to show our town how much we need an arts director and increased investment in the arts.
One of those people is Alyson Anderson. When I first entered the family, my personal involvement with the arts was somewhat of a novelty, so I like to think of myself as part of the origin story of Aly’s connection to the arts (though she has made sure to remind me that in addition to a brief stint with the violin, she dabbled in drama at Hingham High School). In truth, more credit probably goes to my son, Nathan, who launched a multi-year campaign to convince his younger Anderson cousins to pursue music, and it worked. In fact, Aly’s oldest son Connor now plays clarinet in the high school Wind Ensemble with Nathan, both Connor and her middle son Gavin play with Nathan in the audition-ensemble Chamber Winds, and her youngest son Cameron takes drum lessons. Enough said, except to add that they also play sports—what well-rounded kids if I do say so myself!
So for years, Aly has heard me talk about how the Hingham schools need more investment in the arts and, through her children, she has witnessed it first-hand. The HMPA pushed for an arts director in early 2020 during the budget cycle, and the position was included in the schools’ wish list. Of course, not long after that push, Covid reared its head, and the music halls fell silent.
Right now Don McLean’s American Pie is running in a loop in my head which is a very long loop considering that up until recently it was the longest song to reach the Billboard Hot 100. Taylor Swift just unseated him with her ten minute version of All Too Well. Still, “something touched me deep inside the day the music died.” I digress.
I could talk for a long time about music and performers and the pandemic, but suffice it to say that when the curtain finally rose again, something inside of artists unclenched. The return to music was joyous, our children were thrilled to be playing alongside their friends, and we jumped back into our arts advocacy with renewed commitment.
Around that time, the HMPA board needed to fill positions, and one of the open slots was Membership. The position involves managing dues data for all of the district’s music families. The job requires extreme organization skills, attention to detail, and a familiarity with budgets, in other words, a job no one would ask me to take. As luck would have it, I knew the perfect person! Alyson Anderson.
Aly is the most prepared person I have ever met, and one of the best problem-solvers. And that doesn’t just mean she was the mom who always had everything you could possibly need in her bag, which she did. Your kid scraped their knee? No problem. Aly didn’t just have bandaids. The woman carried a spray bottle of Neosporin! Her natural skills were further honed through twenty plus years of work experience and education at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago. Aly’s organization skills and business acumen are so off the charts that local entrepreneurs hire her to help them level up their companies.
Soon after Aly joined the HMPA board, I started hearing back from other board members who I’d served with for a long time. They told me how blown away they were by Aly, how Aly was taking the membership tracking to the next level (still not exactly sure what that means), how she was one of the smartest people they’ve ever worked with. Part of me was gloating. Of course she is! That’s why I recommended her for the job! Another part of me, I hate to admit, was just the tiniest bit jealous. Had my HMPA appointee surpassed me in the minds of my fellow board members? My green eyes kept their heightened hue of envy only for a moment. It was all good. A better board meant better representation for music and the arts in our schools.
Here’s where I stop and hammer home a point. It’s sometimes hard to convey how much of a difference Aly makes behind the scenes. Someone identifies a need in our schools. Someone else suggests that Aly would be the perfect person to tackle it. Aly accepts the request to help, rolls up her sleeves, and does the work, surpassing all expectations of whomever identified the need in the first place. There is no fanfare. There are no sideline fans. Most of the time, most people have no idea Aly was the person to be credited. And Aly wouldn’t have it any other way. She does the work because she was asked, because she can, and because she knows our schools need it. It’s just that simple.
As the 2022 budget cycle approached, I joined with others in the arts community, including Aly and some of the parents behind the Hingham Arts Alliance, to renew our efforts to fund the arts director role. This involved researching comparator districts and gathering arts enrollment data. It meant networking with stakeholders behind the scenes to make sure the need was known and the support was secured. It meant highlighting our talented students across social media channels and making clear to the community that our town was ready to soak up the increased investment in the arts our town sorely needs.
In classic local government fashion, the arts director position was not expressly part of the level services budget that gained approval through town processes. However, a thread that stretched across the many committee meetings and was articulated by town officials time and again was that residents want an arts director. Our outreach had worked. Our message had been heard loud and clear.
Many deserve credit for that message and mobilization, including our talented arts faculty, our current school committee and administration, and many arts-minded citizens, including Aly.
Immediately after town meeting, our schools posted the arts director job. They are currently working to fill the position, hopefully before the start of the next school year.
Over the past few years, I’ve had the chance to visit all the Hingham elementary schools and talk with students about my Bounders series and how I became an author. I always talk about how important it is to flex our creative muscles, and how that can mean so many things: writing, drawing, singing, playing an instrument, drama. Now, when I deliver that message, I can do so with a bit more optimism that our town is increasing its investment in the arts. The Hingham Arts Alliance is growing, and the support has been immediate. Our schools will soon have an arts director. We have the momentum needed to make our arts center stage, and to create more opportunities in the arts for our students as they advance through middle and high school. This should be a source of pride and optimism for all, as a robust arts community is a sign of a healthy and vibrant town.
Much of that was made possible, in part, by a determined group of Hingham residents, including Aly, who want to see our town increase investment in the arts for the betterment of our children. Alyson Anderson and the Arts. It sounds amazing doesn’t it? It’s perfect alliteration, ripe for a campaign slogan. The thing is, Aly is so much more than a slogan. Her words are backed up by substance, for years, behind the scenes, making sure that the show goes off without a hitch.
A vote for Aly is a vote for the arts and so much more. I hope you will join me on May 14 and cast your ballot for Alyson Anderson for Hingham School Committee.
Monica Tesler is an attorney and the author of the Bounders series, a middle grade science fiction adventure series from Simon and Schuster. She lives in Hingham with her spouse, Jamey Tesler, and their two children who attend the Hingham public schools.