Take a musical coffee break with us this Tuesday!

Who doesn’t love listening music from the movies?  Many of us can identify the tune after only hearing the first couple of notes, and as the song plays on we remember exactly what was going on  in the movie as the song was played.  Can’t you just see those Von Trapp children making their way up the grand staircase as they sing So Long, Farewell, or see Kevin Bacon dancing when you hear Footloose?  This music transports us to another place.

If you’d like to take a break from your ordinary day and be transported to a happy place for an hour or so, please take a musical coffee break with us this Tuesday, September 27, 11 am at our Duxbury campus, as we present Music From the Movies, the first of six Coffee Break Concert Series performances.  The concert is FREE and features SSC faculty performers violinist Amanda Roberts, pianist Sarah Troxler and vocalist Holly Marshall. We guarantee you’ll leave humming a happy tune!

Come enjoy great music while you sip your coffee/tea and breakfast treats. Call 781-934-2731, ext. 21 to reserve your spot.

Let the arts give you goosebumps!


By Anne Smith
You know that feeling when you experience something powerful – something beautiful – and the hairs on your arms stand up?  When your heart races a little and your throat closes and suddenly there are tears rolling down your cheeks?  Scientists call it “frisson.”  It happens to me all the time with music.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, google Barber’s Adagio for Strings.  Within 30 seconds, you will have goosebumps.  I promise.

Back in February, I was standing on risers, performing the Berlioz Te Deum with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.  I was new to the chorus and new to the experience of standing behind the Boston Symphony Orchestra (I’m an alto – and an amateur).  The horns and tympani and all those voices joined together in the common pursuit of beauty left me breathless and tearful and, somewhat inconveniently, momentarily unable to sing.  I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder how many people in the world are connected to something that brings them pure joy like this?  I am so lucky.”

When I was in college, dreaming about my adult self, it never occurred to me that my future would be so deeply tied to the arts.  Music was something my parents had encouraged, and something I did willingly.  It was part of me, but it certainly wasn’t going to be my career.  After graduation, there was a ten-year hiatus during which I got married, went to grad school and had three children. There didn’t seem to be much time left over for artistic pursuits.

It wasn’t until we moved to Duxbury and my oldest child started piano lessons at South Shore Conservatory (SSC) that music came back into my life.  Suddenly, there was a welcoming, inspiring community just down the street, where I could reengage with the music that made me so happy as a child.  I threw myself into it.  I sang with SSC’s Opera by the Bay.  I took weekly piano and voice lessons.  I joined a community chorus.  Those things fed me.  When my husband and I divorced in 2009, there were many weeks when the first clear thought and deep breath occurred while I was standing in the middle of a chorus.  The act of surrendering to the music and living fully in the moment allowed me to leave behind the sadness and fear, and experience peace and brief moments of joy.

Music and the arts connect us with history.  They envelop us in beauty. They offer respite from troubled times. I see this in my own life every day, but it’s not just me.  A growing wealth of data shows that participation in the arts is of great benefit to adults, especially those over 60.  The arts stimulate the brain, improve memory and hearing, reduce stress, and have a positive impact on mental and physical health as well as social relationships.

This fall, SSC launches it Arts for a Creative Life initiative, a full suite of arts experiences – concerts, group classes, private lessons, and performance opportunities – designed to challenge adult minds, stimulate creativity and build vibrant social connections.  Back in my 20’s, I wouldn’t have called myself a musician.  Now, in my 40’s, I work full time for a community school for the arts.  I get paid as a church soloist and section leader.  I perform with one of the most decorated choruses in the country. I often feel that singing puts me in touch with the best, truest version of myself.  All of us have access to this path through the arts, and SSC can lead the way.  Won’t you join us on the journey?

SSC’s Arts for a Creative Life kicks off its adult learning initiative with a week of free classes and performances from Tuesday, September 27 – Sunday, October 2. Please join us. For a full schedule of free offerings, visit http://sscmusic.org/acl-kickoff.html.

Anne Smith is South Shore Conservatory’s Director of Community Partnerships.

September 25: A great day to celebrate our jazz/rock/pop musicians

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For three years SSC’s jazz/rock/pop educator/musicians have wowed audiences when they perform their varied styles of music.  Jazz, rock, pop, blues, Latin music are not necessarily styles that come to mind immediately when you think of a Conservatory.  Perhaps that’s why Hingham Jazz Festival has a faithful following.

This year’s festival is a one-day event starting with a jazz brunch from 11 am – 1 pm on the stage of the Carr Amphitheater, followed by performances throughout the campus.  The day ends with a tribute to many of the ground-breaking musicians who passed within the past year, and whose music has stood the test of time.

Join us on Sunday, September 25 at One Conservatory Drive, Hingham.  It is recommended that you purchase your tickets to the brunch in advance to guarantee you a seat and a serving of great food and great jazz.

Tickets at http://sscmusic.org/hingham-jazz-festival.html.


Fall is the New Spring!


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Try out a new instrument at Sunday’s     Explore the Arts Open House

By Su D’Ambrosio
When you think of fall, I imagine some people think of trees bursting into brilliant flames of color before shedding their leaves at the end of the season, as vibrant summer gardens and beautiful green lawns wilt and die in order to regenerate.  Fall is an ending that leads us to a quiet winter and the anticipation of new beginnings in the spring.

When I think if fall, I think only of beginnings. The beginning of a new school year brings the promise of new possibilities, new ideas, and new opportunities to learn and grow in new directions.  Students start the year with new clothes, new books and school supplies, and many will decide to try new things and participate in activities that might plant seeds that grow with them throughout their lives.

I recently performed with an orchestra hired by a woman to play, as her husband conducted, as a birthday gift.  Her husband had studied trumpet when he was young, and played in the school band. This experience planted a seed that grew into a desire to one day lead an orchestra as its conductor.  It took a lifetime, but through this gift her husband was able to realize his lifetime dream.  He took some conducting lessons and prepared for the moment he could stand in front of his orchestra and, with a wave of his arms, elicit beautiful sounds and eloquent music for his family and friends.  Watching this unfold from the clarinet section was like watching a beautiful flower blossom from bud to full bloom.

Hearing the story of how his passion for music started when he first learned trumpet as a child helped me realize the true power of the seeds we plant as arts educators.  It also reminded me that the arts transcend age and ability.  This man was not a “professional” musician yet he was able to conduct a movement of a Beethoven symphony with grace and passion.  What a powerful reminder that the arts live in all of us and all we need to do to find them is look.

At South Shore Conservatory (SSC) we are dedicated to providing access to quality education in the arts for all ages and abilities. At our Explore the Arts open house, on September 11 from 2-4 pm, you can visit either of our campuses to see all the wonderful ways that you can plant the seed of music, dance or drama that will grow with you or your child into the future.  We truly see this as an opportunity to explore and discover something new to try this year.

Su D’Ambrosio is Director of Programs and Curriculum for South Shore Conservatory.  She lives in Plymouth with her daughters Maria and Rosa and her dog Bernie who hopes to realize his puppyhood dream of starring as Sandy in the musical Annie.

Explore the arts with your family on September 11


This coming Sunday (September 11), grab your kids and check out a few breeds of rare instruments, take a hip hop class or play a little percussion, enjoy listening to a student rock band or try out a Suzuki violin, Piano FUNdamental class or Music Together – all for free at South Shore Conservatory.

We’re throwing open the doors to our Hingham and Duxbury campuses from 2 – 4 pm and inviting the public to come and explore the arts at their leisure.  Our incredible teaching artists are excited to meet the South Shore families to discover what type of creative outlet matches their personalities.   Are you a rock band family?  An orchestra family?  Do you like the tuba, oboe or harp?  Or are you more of a dance or drama family?  You can always check out our preschool/pre-k/kindergarten programs.  It’s all here for the exploring.

South Shore Conservatory’s Explore the Arts Open House for families with children from 0-18, is Sunday, September 11, from 2-4 pm  at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham and 64 St. George Street in Duxbury.  We look forward to seeing you there!

For more information, visit sscmusic.org.



Sharing their passion for music and teaching


by Jana Kahn
I love teaching Music Together® because it incorporates all I have to offer as a human being – my music ability, my love of children and service to the community.  I’ve worn many hats, but Music Together has been the most gratifying experience of my professional career.  Moving into my tenth year of teaching, I am thrilled that making music with families continues to be fresh as well as feed my passion for connecting with others through music.  It is delightful to hear from parents how their children are calmed by the music CDs/downloads we provide, are singing and dancing more at home, and are even pretending to teach Music Together to their families of stuffed animals, trucks and dolls.  I also hear how participating in the program has helped with speech and gross motor development, confidence building and socialization.

I found Music Together as a mom with two young children.  I love music and dancing, and was delighted to find the program was fun, meaningful and something we could do together.  My teacher Jennie Mulqueen invited me attend a three-day training to get certified.  Starting out teaching just a few classes, I was very nervous.  Now I confidently teach 14 classes a week and am a full-time staff person at South Shore Conservatory (SSC), overseeing all early childhood programs.  I’ve been told story upon story confirming how our approach to music and movement has enriched and changed lives.  Singing together with families gives me such joy.

The Music Together approach develops every child’s birthright of basic music competence by encouraging the actual experience of music rather than the learning of concepts or information about music.   It began almost 30 years and is now offered in thousands of communities across the country and outside the United States.  In class, children have many opportunities to create and play – some sit absorbing the rich musical experience while others sing, play and dance freely.  My interest is in having music become a family value.  I encourage families to sing and dance together at home, pick up an instrument they used to play or have wanted to learn to play, or play their own favorite tunes from younger days.  Simply enjoying music in the home has a great impact on family experiences and creating a disposition towards music for your child.

Music Together teacher Cynthia Toffoloni has just completed her training and will be teaching at our Duxbury campus this fall.  She signed on to Music Together so she could share her love of music and provide a positive music experience to young children and their families.  Cynthia has worked extensively with children with disabilities, and finds music to be most effective in teaching and communicating with students with special needs.  Music is indeed a universal language.

Our Music Together teachers are special people.  They love children and care deeply about their well-being, and of course enjoy music.  Every teacher brings their own style and personality to class.  The most important thing for any teacher however is passion.  They’ve got to love it, teach with enthusiasm, and be willing to put their heart and soul into what they are doing.  At the SSC we are blessed with talented teachers who bring this amazing program to hundreds of children and families who participate each semester.

Our fall session begins September 12.  For more information visit www.sscmusic.org.

Early Childhood Program Coordinator Jana Kahn has been with South Shore Conservatory since 2005.

Hip Hop 2016

FREE Explore the Arts open house – September 11!

Join us as we host a free Explore the Arts open house on Sunday, September 11 from 2 to 4 pm at our Hingham campus at One Conservatory Drive, and their Duxbury campus at 64 St. George Street, Duxbury  This is a great opportunity for families with creative explorers aged infant through 18 to check out our music, dance and drama classes, and enjoy a close-up look at student performances.

An instrument petting zoo welcomes explorers to touch rare and endangered instruments including oboe, bassoon, harp, trombone, euphonium, tuba, trumpet and French horn.  More familiar instruments, including piano, guitar, violin (Suzuki and traditional) and a variety of percussion instruments round out a complete experience.

More info at www.sscmusic.org

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September 25: Hingham Jazz Festival

By Deborah Edmundson
September is a bittersweet month.  I love the less-structured summer schedule, vacation time with family and friends, and certainly the warm weather, but I also love the “new year” feel that September brings – the refreshed air, and getting back into my school year routine, even though my kids are no longer living under my roof.  And this September I have something more to look forward to – the Hingham Jazz Fest at South Shore Conservatory (SSC).

On Sunday, September 25, SSC will be presenting the third annual Hingham Jazz Festival and it will be a blast.  Like the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, jazz here is loosely defined, and encompasses all sorts of music.  The day will start with a lively and delicious jazz brunch on the Jane Carr Amphitheater stage from 11 am to 1 pm, and continue with ESP Vocal Trio, which features close harmony a cappella jazz standards.  Elan Mehler, the pianist who wowed jazz brunch audience members last year, features some original new jazz, while Anthony Geraci, presents blues from his recent award nominated CD Fifty Shades of Blue. Finally,  SSC’s Jazz/Rock/Pop faculty members celebrating the music of Prince, BB King, David  Bowie, Merle Haggard and other artists no longer with us.  It’s going to be a great day of music, featuring the outstanding faculty of the SSC!

SSC’s Jazz/Rock/Pop (JRP) department is near and dear to my heart, and to the hearts of many in Hingham and beyond.  My daughters played piano and sang at SSC, after spending several years with me in Mom and Me music classes, and my son began playing percussion with Ed Sorrentino 14 years ago.  Will is now a student at Berklee College of Music, majoring in jazz percussion performance.  He was encouraged to pursue his music every step of the way.  In addition to student recitals, over the years we regularly attended JRP faculty performances, and from those performances came the idea of a jazz festival in Hingham to highlight those amazing players who masquerade as our children’s music teachers.

What’s your hidden talent?  During the day, these men and women look and act like the inspiring music teachers they are, but after a duck into the proverbial phone booth, they reemerge, caped, and we see hugely talented performers.  Who knew?  There’s so much talent hidden in the studios at SSC – in drums, keyboards, guitar, trumpet, bass, winds, and voice.  You’d be forgiven for thinking that SSC is only about lessons for your children – that’s what a conservatory is, right?  But when those teachers get a chance to play, really play, what an experience!  You don’t have to go to Boston, or the Newport Jazz Festival to hear great jazz (loosely defined).  If blues is your passion, or free jazz, or jazz standards, or Prince, you’ll find your place on September 25.

Jazz Fest will be the perfect way to end the summer, with a musical farewell party.  Come for brunch, or bring a picnic to enjoy on the lawn.  Join us!

South Shore Conservatory’s Hingham Jazz Festival, sponsored by Chateau Edmus, is Sunday, September 25, from 11 am – 5:30 pm.  Tickets may be purchased online at http://sscmusic.org/hingham-jazz-festival.html or by calling 781-749-7565, ext. 20.

Deborah Edmundson lives in Hingham.  She and her husband Phil own Chateau Edmus.

Image #: 7758884    Musician Pete Seeger sings Amazing Grace during a concert celebrating his 90th birthday in New York May 3, 2009. The concert at Madison Square Garden had an all-star roster of performers with proceeds to benefit Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a non-profit corporation founded by Seeger in 1966 to bring environmental attention to the Hudson River Valley. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson /Landov

Using Music to Make a Powerful Statement

In the past, folk singers such as Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, Woody Guthrie, and perhaps the most famous, Pete Seeger used their voices to promote social activism.  We can all relate to Where Have All the Flowers Gone and This Land is Your Land as anthems for freedom.  Songs such as Aretha Franklin’s Respect and Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On addressed the Civil Rights Movement.  Leslie Gore’s powerful You Don’t Own Me, written when she was only 17, gave young women permission to stand up for themselves during the Feminist Movement.

Using music to influence change is a concept that is still alive today, and here’s the proof.

Climate Disobedience Center founder Tim DeChristopher, acknowledging the power that comes from human beings simply singing together, recently hired a full time music director to follow him into spaces and places of activism, for community singing.  They will sing in town squares, courthouses, church meetings …anywhere people gather to organize for the Climate Movement. What DeChristopher realized over the near decade of his activism is that, more than anything, harmonic singing in community deeply binds people to the purpose and meaning of their cause.

Carrying on with the tradition of the Labor Movement and Civil Rights Movement, this Climate Movement might just provide that badly needed catalyst for a populist folk music revival. As more people use music to deal with highly emotionally charged issues, the more people will simply sing. As more people simply sing, they will have the opportunity to connect with their innate human gift of voice, sometimes discouraged by the competitive nature of our culture.  Bottom line is that everyone can sing!

As many voices lift in harmony, there is a chance for unrivaled human connection, there is a chance to make things better, and there is a chance for peace in this tumultuous time. Keep singing, one and all!

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Striving for international standards of performance

By Jonathan Roberts

In most developed nations, it is unusual for a music student to take lessons without being periodically assessed to ensure that progress is being made and to identify areas of improvement. This was not always so in the United States. Up until six years ago, there were no fixed standards for evaluating our music students.

Fortunately, in 2010 the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto introduced their national assessment system of 40 years to the United States, branding it the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program (RCMDP), giving American students the opportunity to participate in these kinds of examinations. South Shore Conservatory is proud to be a founding school and assessment center for the program, and it is my pleasure to be the coordinator of this program.

Many students and parents, already dealing with frequent testing in the school systems, are reluctant to try out a music examination at first. They soon realize, however, that the experience is very different from normal school examinations. There are ten levels in the program, from beginning music studies through college-preparatory work. In addition, after level 10, students are eligible to accomplish a “diploma” level, earning the ARCT diploma. This is a professionally-recognized degree in music from the Royal Conservatory.

Twice a year a professional RCMDP performer/teacher, certified in giving music examinations, comes to SSC to give one-on-one assessments to any music student in the area wishing to participate. Students don’t need to be studying at SSC. The student prepares a number of technical requirements, pieces, and musicianship skills to perform for the examiner, and afterwards receives a score/comment sheet detailing areas of strength and areas that could use improvement. In addition, they receive a certificate from the Royal Conservatory celebrating the accomplishment. Students may enter the program at any level, skip levels, or retake levels as many times as they like. The goal is purely to learn from the experience and use the feedback to improve.

As a member of the SSC piano faculty, I have nearly my entire studio participating in the program every year.  Many of my students have completed their third or even fourth assessment with RCMDP, and I am thrilled to see not only how much progress they have made on their individual journeys, but their excitement about working towards the next goal.  With every assessment taken, they are constantly learning and developing as musicians from the preparation experience and outside feedback.

This year we experienced record school-wide participation at SSC, with over 40 of our students taking assessments. We celebrated the accomplishments of these students with our first-ever honors recital on the evening of June 8.  They were invited to perform, receive a certificate from SSC, and enjoy a wonderful reception with friends and family. With a commitment to both excellence and community at SSC, these students know they are not on this journey on their own, but have support from an incredible group of people. This is one of many reasons I love teaching at SSC, and look forward to seeing this group of students, and more, progress year after year.

To learn more about South Shore Conservatory programs, visit www.sscmusic.org, find us on Facebook, or call 781-749-7565, ext. 10.

RCMDP coordinator and pianist Jonathan Roberts takes over as South Shore Conservatory piano department chair this fall.  He has been with SSC since 2013.