MacDowell Artists Colony Celebrates 100th Birthday

August 24, 2007 at 1:08 PM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: The sounds of samba in the woods and mountains of the Monadnock region of southern New Hampshire. Billy Newman, a jazz and Brazilian music performer and composer, grew up and still lives in Brooklyn. These days, he’s taking advantage of a month of solitude at the MacDowell Colony to work on new compositions.

BILLY NEWMAN, Musician: I’m working a lot when I’m back in New York. I’m teaching; I’m playing; I’m jamming; I’m rehearsing. And the time for writing, it’s just hard to clear the time to actually write. It’s a lot of things. And here, you know, basically the focus is on composing.

JEFFREY BROWN: Newman is one of 29 people currently in residence at MacDowell, the nation’s oldest haven for writers, composers, visual and other artists, now celebrating its 100th anniversary. Spread around 450 acres in the town of Peterborough, 32 studios house the so-called “colonists” for residencies from two weeks to two months.

Applicants are chosen by a panel of their peers. And once selected, they live in the cabins without TVs, Internet access or phones, though cell phones have put a dent in that old tradition.

Is this pretty much like the way you work at home? I mean, you’ve got this kind of set-up?


JEFFREY BROWN: So what’s the difference here? What’s the difference being here?

BILLY NEWMAN: The difference here is I can work all day and night. I can wake up in the middle of the night; I can wake up early in the morning. It’s about working.