Congratulations to all our students who participated in the 32nd HuiMin Wang Youth Concerto Competition last Friday night. We applaud their hard work and courage, and we thank their teachers for their dedication in preparing them for this special day. Just look at these smiling faces! They are all winners in our book.
By Su D’Ambrosio
Last fall I decided to do something nice for myself, so I enrolled in a tap dancing class. When my girls, now in their 20s, were young, I jealously watched them learn tap, wishing their tap shoes fit me so that I could secretly try a few clickety-clack dance moves before they arrived home from school. Over time, they both gave up tap, and I gave up my dream, until we started to offer tap class for adults at South Shore Conservatory. As I called prospective students to invite them to try a class, one woman, noticing my enthusiasm, suggested I join them, and I thought, why not? I laced up some tap shoes and gave it a try. Best. Decision. Ever.
As I donned my first pair of tap shoes and entered the dance studio that first day, I was nervous, as many of the students knew each other and had some tap experience. There was a mix of younger and older students, and I was definitely one of the oldest dancers. The teacher, Donna, quickly put me at ease as we started with some simple warm-ups that guaranteed immediate success for everyone. The other adult students were extremely accepting and supportive, and I soon felt part of the group. There was laughter and encouragement as simple warm-ups turned into more complex combinations, and then we took our new steps into the beginning of a routine. At the end of the class we clapped and talked about looking forward to the next week. Week after week we built on skills learned the previous class, improving our dance routine until we achieved a final product. We’re not perfect, but that is not the point. We are working toward a common goal, challenging our skills, reaching for a higher bar, growing, laughing and getting some great exercise, all through the medium of tap dancing.
When I started, I didn’t realize the extent to which this would feed my body, mind and soul. I had devoted all my energy and resources to my children for 22 years, which fed me in a different way, but also took a bit of a toll. As I stretched myself literally and figuratively, working up a sweat and using muscles I didn’t realize I had, I felt an awesome sense of satisfaction and accomplishment specific to myself. This time in class also allowed me to let go of everything weighing on my mind, leave it at the door and enjoy the moment. That experience of lightness and freedom allowed me to return to my difficult baggage with a new sense of clarity and strength, and has helped me find new and creative ways to manage stress and tackle challenges.
This is the magic of the arts. No other activity can bring people of all ages and walks of life together to learn, grow and create as a community. The arts allow for connection with others as well as opportunities for personal growth. The benefits are wide ranging, from physical to psychological to spiritual. In that first class I experienced a range of emotions that culminated in joy. Throughout the semester I have built up strength and coordination, made some new friends and have something to look forward to each week – something I do just for me. On weeks when I am not able to attend class, I miss it. As the fall semester winds down, I am eager to sign up for the spring session to continue my progress and dedicate one hour each week to something that brings me joy. We all need something like that to look forward to in our lives. What is your “tap class?”
Learn more about SSC’s classes for adults and students of all ages at sscmusic.org, call 781-749-7565, x10, or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.
Su D’Ambrosio is Director of Education for South Shore Conservatory. She lives in Plymouth with her daughters Maria and Rosa, and her dog Bernie, who looks forward to the music of the neighborhood birds on his daily walks.
By Rennan Bayturk
My journey with South Shore Conservatory (SSC) started almost 20 years ago. Both of my kids went to this fantastic music school for many years. Even after their graduations, my journey still continues. SSC is like my second home, and I have served as an SSC overseer for years. I love volunteering for Duxbury Music Festival, which takes place in the summer, and Chase Away the Winter Blues gala, which takes place in late January. I feel privileged to be part of this amazing community.
The individuals I volunteer with are very dedicated and strong, and care about our surrounding communities. We always increase our event goals so we can help even more people. Funds raised through these efforts help talented students, young and old, access music education through tuition assistance and scholarships; help individuals with disabilities access creative arts therapies programs; help those dealing with memory loss, and their care partners, access therapeutic activities designed to promote cognitive awareness and connection; and assist our community partnership programs, which include ImagineARTS, SSC’s kindergarten arts and literacy program, offered for free to the Brockton school system. Proceeds from our fundraisers support these programs and more. We work hard for this great nonprofit organization. I become a better volunteer each year as I work with amazing, loving, caring and giving people. I volunteer with great enthusiasm and look forward to many more years of volunteering.
This year I am co-chair of the Blues gala with Linda Jones. It’s my second time as co-chair. The last time was many years ago when Blues took place at SSC’s Hingham campus. The gala has grown so big we had to move it to a bigger location, Boston Marriot Quincy, to accommodate more guests. Last year we had 330 guests. We hope to have 350 guests this year, to help kick off SSC’s 50th anniversary year. It’s SSC’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
We have amazing live auction items, including a luxurious curated seven-day trip to Portugal, compliments of Travel Sommelier; a week skiing or hiking in Winter Park, Colorado; a getaway weekend via private jet to Martha’s Vineyard Island; a fantastic week on Key West, in the Old Town-Truman Annex; a Nantucket getaway weekend with dinner at Island Kitchen; and Sunday Jazz Brunch or dinner with chef Paul Wahlberg, hosted by Motoko and Gordon Deane.
Our Raffle Committee is preparing exciting raffle baskets, including jewelry from King’s Jewelers, Nichole VonDette children’s portrait session, entertainment basket with tickets to Boston Lyric Opera’s Norma, a fabulous wine basket, a beauty basket which includes a Spa Day at Mirabeau, a golf basket which includes a Granite Links Foursome, a fun sports basket with Bruins and Boston College Football tickets, a tennis basket which includes courtside ticket to the Tennis Hall of Fame, a private photobooth/Red Carpet in your home by AnOriginal Photography, and an exciting Hingham Police cruisier ride to take the winner’s kids to school! Who wouldn’t love that?
South Shore Conservatory’s Chase Away the Winter Blues gala is Saturday, January 25, from 6 pm to midnight at Boston Marriot Quincy, 1000 Marriot Drive in Quincy. For those who cannot make the whole night, there’s a fantastic After Party that starts at 9 pm, with dance band East Coast Soul, a piano bar, and dessert bar. I hope to see you there! Learn more at https://sscmusic.org/blues/ or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.
South Shore Conservatory named Rennan Bayturk 2018 Volunteer of the Year for always cheerfully giving over and above.
By Reagan George
As I waited backstage at Plymouth Memorial Hall to perform at The Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra’s annual Sunday Family Concert last March, I was feeling a mix of emotions. I was excited but also very nervous. Even though I was twelve years old, I had worked towards this moment for a very long time. The chance to play with The Plymouth Philharmonic with conductor Maestro Steven Karidoyanes. As I walked out to the stage and bowed, I looked out into the crowd of 1000 people. Taking my seat, I turned towards the Maestro and waited for his nod. After playing the first notes of my Mozart Concerto No. 19, my nervousness vanished and the excitement of playing with an orchestra took over.
I prepared for this moment for over four months at South Shore Conservatory, with my teacher HuiMin Wang. Preparing for a concerto is different than preparing for a piece you would play by yourself. This concerto was 37 pages long, and took twelve minutes to play. This was much longer than any other piece I had learned before. To get through the piece successfully, I needed to maintain stamina and learn to pace myself. I had to not only memorize all of the notes, but the smallest details as well. I also had to learn to play with other musicians. It was important to be both aware of the details of the piece, and aware of my surroundings. I had to pay particular attention to the teacher’s cues, in preparation for my work with the Maestro. Above all, I had to maintain perfect tempo in order to keep up with the orchestra.
In some ways, I had prepared for this experience my whole childhood. We had a piano in our house that had been left by previous owners. I would always tell my parents, with no musical background, “I want to play that piano!” Not knowing where to take me for lessons, my mother tried to steer me towards other hobbies, such as gymnastics or karate. But I insisted on piano. And when I was seven, I was lucky that my mother found South Shore Conservatory.
Playing with the Philharmonic was the result of my five years of training with my teacher HuiMin. When I played with the orchestra, I learned a lot about myself. It helped me realize that playing in front of large crowds isn’t so scary after all – it can actually be fun! And the audience’s response to my playing definitely helped reinforce my realization. Through collaborating with the orchestra, I’m now more comfortable playing pieces with other musicians. This will be important if I make a career out of playing piano.
It was wonderful to meet all of the musicians. Everyone was so encouraging, especially the Maestro. After playing, I was given a standing ovation, and took a bow by the Maestro’s side. The whole experience convinced me of what I already knew deep down. That if I continued to work hard, one day I could achieve my goal of becoming a professional musician.
South Shore Conservatory’s next annual HuiMin Wang Youth Concerto Competition, supported by the Herzfelder Family, takes place on January 18 at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham. The overall winner of the competition, in addition to receiving an SSC scholarship, will perform with the Plymouth Philharmonic at their annual Family Concert on Sunday, March 8. Learn more about SSC’s student competitions at https://sscmusic.org/student-competitions/ or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.
South Shore Conservatory student pianist Reagan George, 13, lives in Easton. In addition to piano, Reagan likes playing flute in marching band, jazz band and concert band and she enjoys spending time with friends.
If you’ve ever dreamed of performing spectacular music with a ballet troupe, you’re in luck! Our collaboration with the SSC Dance Department makes this 2020 winter season truly unique. Auditions are open for this next session, which starts Wednesday, January 8 at Marshfield High School.
Here’s what our alums are saying about their orchestra experience:
Being a part of the program made me a stronger player, expanded my knowledge about music, and allowed me to apply that knowledge beyond the program. – Ava Schipper
SSCYO gave me experience that put me ahead when it came to college auditions. As a current music major in college, I can say participating in BaYS was a large part of my audition success. – Quinn Woodworth
Contact Elijah Langille at email@example.com for more details.
By Cameron Igo
I first started taking private percussion lessons at South Shore Conservatory (SSC) when I was six years old, under the tutelage and guidance of Ed Sorrentino. I immediately knew I wanted to be a drummer, and wanted to learn as much as I could. For the first few years I was at SSC, I participated in recitals as a solo artist. But it wasn’t until I reached middle school that Ed invited me to participate in my first Monster Jam.
Middle School Monster Jam is a fun music event that invites any student in grades six to eight, on any instrument or voice, to learn how to play a current pop song (chosen by the faculty) in two hours. I remember that the first Monster Jam I attended was at SSC’s Duxbury campus. The vibe in the room was incredible! So many musicians gathered together to learn Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off, and then play it together. If you know Jimmy Craven (faculty member, who led this particular jam), you understand how that energy level increases as the night goes on!
Faculty members handed out our sheet music, based on the instrument we’d be playing. We then broke out into miniature sessions with an instructor and learned our parts. Just before we played it for an audience, we all got together as a group and practiced the song a few times. Then we were ready.
Now, Shake it Off is a song I probably would never have learned on my own, but it was so much fun to do! If you can imagine this song performed with horns and even an oboe, you can imagine how amazing it sounded! The evening only lasts about two hours, ending with the performance, (and most always an encore!) for our friends and family, who would always be grinning from ear-to-ear with huge smiles on their faces. I can tell you, the time flew by! I enjoyed the jam so much, I attended several more monster jams while I was in middle school, including jams at the Hingham campus, where once I was able to play American Author’s Best Day of My Life, on a drum kit and then just bass drum.
I highly recommend monster jam to any middle school student who knows how to play an instrument or sing. I feel the whole experience taught me how to be in an ensemble. It is so important in music to be able to play in a group and listen to other musicians as you play. The collaboration helps shape you for your future in music, especially if you plan on being in a band someday, or even just a school concert performance or district festivals.
The “bug” I got after participating in Monster Jam, inspired me to join a percussion ensemble at SSC (playing different parts with three other students), and eventually join a rock band. I found it is also a great way to meet other kids your age who have the same passion and desire you have.
South Shore Conservatory’s next all-instrument Middle School Monster Jam is Friday, January 10, 7 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham. The featured song is Sucker by the Jonas Brothers. Performers should bring their own instruments. (Drum kits and sound system provided.) To make sure SSC has music for all participants, advanced registration is required by January 8. Admission is $10. To register, call 781-749-7565 x10 or visit https://sscmusic.org/monster-jam/
Percussionist, Cameron Igo is a sophomore at Marshfield High School. He has been with SSC since he was six years old, when he started private percussion lessons with Edward Sorrentino. He plays drums for SSC’s rock band Not Today.
By Olivia Monarch
I have been a student at South Shore Conservatory (SSC) since I was two years old. My family and I participated in Music Together® classes year-round until I was five years old. Music has always been a natural part of my everyday life. Each day at my house included singing, dancing, and plenty of instruments. After Music Together, I went on to study drums, guitar, piano, and voice at SSC. I also participated in Saturday Stage Club, and choral groups, including Summer Vocal Institute.
Summer of 2016 at the Conservatory changed my life forever. I enrolled in Erik Caldarone’s summer Rock Band Camp. There, I met my current best friends and most members of my band, Not Today, an alternative band, comprised of six teenagers from five Boston South Shore towns. My band is often described as 90s-influenced, and indie alternative rock. With Erik’s guidance, Not Today built a unique sound, became prolific songwriters, and started landing gigs at local venues and basements.
It wasn’t long before paid gig offers started coming to us. All the while, our band was recording songs in professional recording studios. We released our first full length album called Out of Phase in August of 2018, followed by an EP Point B, and a live EP Live on the Underbelly. Our most recent album, Now in Full Color, came out in July of 2019. In all, Not Today’s music has been streamed nearly 60,000 times on Spotify alone!
Last summer, Not Today was invited to perform at the Levitate Music and Arts Festival. We were the youngest group ever on their lineup! Levitate runs the largest festival in the area, selling 50,000 tickets in 2019. We played alongside Sublime with Rome, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Damien Marley, Nathaniel Ratliff, and more.
The band enjoys performing at South Shore and Boston venues such as the Middle East in Cambridge, the New World Tavern in Plymouth, and the C Note in Hull. We have appeared on radio stations, such as 88.9 WERS, 95.9 the River, WATD, and WEMF. Local music bloggers have written about and reviewed the band’s music. For example, Sound of Boston reviewed Not Today’s song ‘My Dearest Friends,’ and then the song was featured on WGBH’s Mass Mix.
My solo recording career was made possible with the help of SSC alum, Sean Merlin. Sean and I met at an SSC voice performance, where he was selected by my voice teacher to accompany me on the piano. A few months later, he invited me to record vocals for his first released single. Since then, Sean and I have co-produced two of my solo EPs, Subject and Overrated, which can be found on Spotify, iTunes and all other streaming platforms, just like Not Today’s music.
My joyous musical journey truly started at SSC when I was a toddler, singing and dancing with my parents in Music Together. Every step of the way at SSC has been full of learning, and so much fun. I am grateful that my parents prioritized my musical education and involvement over other activities. In addition to loving the experiences and the musical education, I have met most of my favorite people in the world at SSC, and that includes both students and teachers. Next stop for me is to either go on tour again next year, or study music further in college. Maybe both. No matter what, it is guaranteed to be a wild ride.
Hear vocalist Olivia Monarch and her band Not Today as they perform a few tunes at South Shore Conservatory’s Chase Away the Winter Blues gala on Saturday, January 25, from 6 pm -12 midnight, at the Boston Marriott Quincy. Blues kicks off SSC’s year-long 50th anniversary. Learn more about the event at https://sscmusic.org/blues/ or follow South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.
Olivia Monarch is a senior at Hingham High School.
By Rachel White
It’s no secret that, while the holidays are a lot of fun to celebrate, they can also be very stressful. Between late night holiday parties, diets consisting of candy canes, cookies, and hot chocolate, threats of an elf who is watching your every move, and competing with peers for the latest, coolest presents, it is often our young children who feel the brunt of this holiday strain.
Here at South Shore Conservatory (SSC), our teachers make it a priority to teach holiday traditions to our Preschool, PreK, and Kindergarten students in a constructive manner. The holidays we celebrate with our family are a big part of who we are and our individual identity within a larger community. While navigating the holiday topic gently and respectfully, our students are encouraged to share their own family traditions in the classroom. Believe me, once we start this discussion, everyone wants to share! There is something very special when a student is comfortable sharing about their home life in the classroom.
As a group, we discuss many different holidays and how they are celebrated all over the world. We have parents of all different demographics come in and discuss how they celebrate winter holidays such as Thanksgiving, Chinese New Year, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas, in their own homes. In doing this, we celebrate the differences among us, and use that as a valuable tool for understanding diversity and building community.
Celebrating holidays at school connects a student’s home life to their school life, something we, as teachers and parents always strive for, as it makes learning more meaningful. Students learn about various cultures and diversity, while learning acceptance and respect for differences. In order to be “politically correct” or sensitive to their students, some schools steer away from any holiday celebrations at all. We feel this is detrimental to a young child, as the excitement of the holidays and celebrating with their family is what is on their minds during the months of November and December, and a huge part of their culture and their own identity.
During the holidays, our teachers avoid activities such as having students write letters to Santa asking for presents. We also stay away from focusing on religious aspects or preach any topics. Instead, we focus on the wonderment and common themes among all of the holidays – love, family, creating meaningful traditions and memories, and being thankful. Of course, being an arts-integrated program, we also have our children play sleigh bells as they listen to “Sleigh Ride,” and present class “informances” (no-stress versions of performances) and family seasonal sing-alongs. The theme of giving is reinforced through our Community Giving Tree, which invites parents and children to pick out a gift for less fortunate friends at the Old Colony YMCA.
By focusing on simple joy, compassion, and the love of family and friends, we turn the craze of the holidays into something calm and beautiful. Here at SSC’s Preschool/PreK/Kindergarten, we aim to create a cultured generation of empathetic, kind, and loving young people.
Learn more about South Shore Conservatory’s art-integrated Preschool/PreK/Kindergarten at https://sscmusic.org/philosophy-and-mission/ or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.
Rachel White is South Shore Conservatory’s Preschool/PreK/Kindergarten Director. She lives in Weymouth with her husband Chris, her infant son Michael, who is celebrating his first holiday, and her dog Nala.
By Sarah Troxler
Committed. Compassionate. Open-minded. Inclusive. Thinking outside the box. Collaborative. Communicative. Gracious. All these are among the leadership qualities our South Shore Conservatory (SSC) Student Leadership Team (SLT) members seek to emulate. Each year, students on the team commit (or re-commit) for an entire school year, by signing that they will strive to embody the qualities of a leader in the SSC community and on the South Shore. Three years ago, the fourteen original members of the team created that list, and today’s team of twenty-one are continuing to follow the tradition.
Students on the leadership team come highly recommended by their SSC teachers, and attend high schools all across the South Shore, from Milton to Plymouth. They represent many different disciplines at SSC: piano, strings, woodwinds, voice, dance, rock bands, chamber groups, and SSC Youth Orchestra. Many have been at SSC since they were little, but some have only been here for a couple years. Either way, they see SSC as a place where they thrive and have learned to grow as artists and as people.
So, this group of dedicated student leaders have decided to give back. They want to reach into every corner of the SSC community, meet new people, and help them to have the same positive and life-changing experience that they are having with the arts. This year, they desperately wanted to connect with SSC’s Preschool/PreK/Kindergarten program, which some of the student leaders themselves attended as youngsters.
When I met with SLT members, and we imagined a holiday caroling event we could share with the preschool program, the buzz and excitement in the room were palpable! It was a no-brainer! Ideas were flying, and students immediately started working on planning an event to share with the preschoolers. Split into mini teams to get the work done, the student leaders covered logistics such as timing, invitations, and snack donations, crafts, and story time. One group even formed a band and practiced all the carols so they were prepared to accompany the singing!
Hayley Cardillo, a junior, and one of two student interns leading the team says, “I’m super excited for this activity with the preschool, because the team has been working really hard to make it fun. I think it’s such a good start to bring different communities together!”
Three years ago, if you had asked me what I was doing to celebrate the holidays, this would not have been on my list. I simply would not have thought of it. Yet since then, a group of high-schoolers have opened up my eyes to see those around me in a new way. I am proud of their collective initiative, and have learned to ask, “how can I connect with that person,” and “how can I include them,” and “how can we work together?”
On Friday, December 13, the Student Leadership Team will get their opportunity to spread their joy of music and the holidays with some of the youngest students at SSC. I cannot wait for what this inspires them to do next!
Learn more about South Shore Conservatory programs, including SSC’s art-integrated Preschool/PreK/Kindergarten programs, at sscmusic.org, find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook, or call 781-749-7565.
Sarah Troxler is South Shore Conservatory’s Student Engagement Coordinator and SSC’s Piano Department Chair.
By Elaine Sorrentino
How fitting is it that South Shore Conservatory’s Board of Trustees chose November, the month of giving thanks, to pay tribute to Michael Puzo, and thank him as he steps down from SSC’s Board, taking on a new role of Trustee Emeritus, after 30 years of dedication and unwavering commitment to the Conservatory’s work in making music, changing lives, and building community through the arts?
In the resolution the Board presented at SSC’s Annual Meeting on November 12, they stated “There simply are not enough resolutions the Board could adopt to begin to capture all that Mike and his family have given to SSC, with their hearts, their time, their wallets and their professional and musical talents. Let it suffice then to say this: SSC would not be where it is today without his expertise in almost every field of this organization’s endeavor.”
It was very telling that during his tenure with SSC, Mike served twice as Board Chair, and was asked both times to serve extended terms, due to his deep involvement in and his critical importance to matters at hand at the time. One such matter was the building of SSC’s Ellison Center for the Arts in Duxbury, a project he led tirelessly for over four years. With his expert guidance, the Board and the community overcame many obstacles laid before them, and raised funds needed to build the Ellison Center, which opened its doors in 1996, providing a permanent and beautiful home for SSC in Duxbury.
South Shore Conservatory has benefited financially, legally and musically, from Mike’s close involvement, counsel, and support of each fundraising initiative we have launched over the years, including the Encore Society, from his hospitality and generous spirit in co-hosting Chase Away the Winter Blues galas, hosting dinners, to engaging his law firm to sponsor Evening Under the Stars (EUS) receptions. We know we are not alone; many non-profits, as well as the town of Hingham, have benefited from his legal expertise and wise counsel.
Our gratitude even extends to his deep sonorous voice, which will always be remembered when we recall his dazzling performance as a narrator at the EUS performance of Carmen in 2007, as well as his serenades at the Chase Away the Winter Blues piano bar.
In addition, the Board thanked Mike for the incredible amount of time he has given to SSC, his wise advice, and his attention to detail and the fiduciary duties of the Board; his willingness to take on any project, large or small; his thoughtful and probing questions. They will miss his history lessons and the laughter he regularly brought into the board room with his sports analogies and idioms.
We are all very grateful to Michael Puzo for his vision and wisdom, the many relationships and communities he nurtured, and his deep loyalty and unwavering commitment to achieving excellence. Without his counsel, South Shore Conservatory might look very different than it does today. We thank him for all he has given our beloved community school for the arts, and wish him the best going forward.
Elaine Sorrentino is South Shore Conservatory’s Communications Director.