Sydney Alfano: aspiring to be a bold and enthusiastic educator

By Elaine Sorrentino
Each summer, South Shore Conservatory’s Summer Music Festival (SMF) awards the Malcolm W. Rowell, Jr. Scholarship to one outstanding musician who has participated in the wind ensemble program for at least two years, exhibits dedication, musical talent and leadership, and intends to pursue a music education degree. Applicants for the award must also write an essay about how music affected their lives, and this year’s recipient, trumpet player Sydney Alfano of Pembroke, wrote eloquently about resilience and the importance of being an inspiring educator.

“Since quarantine began, it has become very clear to me that every place is only as great as the people in it. Every band, classroom, political movement, hospital, country, etc. is defined by the people in it. My college experience was defined by my infectiously positive and motivated peers and teachers. My experiences during the pandemic have been defined by the adaptability of my teachers, colleagues and family. While the world is full of uncertainty and tragedy, there is an unexpected element of excitement as we explore and master new technology and create unique experiences for each other. This excitement has reminded me that people create the environment, not the other way around,” wrote Sydney, a second-year music major and dean’s list student at Ithaca College in New York.

SMF Music Director Eric Laprade explained that Sydney was chosen as this year’s recipient because she embodies the true spirit of the Malcolm W. Rowell, Jr. Scholarship. “She is an immensely talented musician, a dedicated and thoughtful educator, and empathetic, articulate, and reflective human being. It has been wonderful to witness her growth and development during her five years as a student at Summer Music Festival. The future of music education is bright with people like Sydney entering our profession.”

In speaking of career aspirations, Sydney has extremely high expectation of herself. “I aspire to be a bold and enthusiastic educator. I will be comfortable taking risks. I will be open and honest in all of our discussions. I will listen to my students and never be afraid to apologize. I will always seek out opportunities to learn from books, teachers, colleagues, and my students.  I will be respectful and compassionate at all times. I aspire to be all these things and more. How can I expect this from my students if I do not display it myself? Since my classroom will be defined by the people in it, I must personally embody everything I want it to be. This tenet will lead me through the rest of my time at Ithaca College. As I learn to be a music educator, I will strive to be a music educator from whom I’d love to learn.”

Sydney said that participating in Summer Music Festival over the past five years has always the best part of her summer. She feels it’s incredible how much growth can happen in just a couple of weeks, and noted that the amazing faculty always inspired her as a student, and continue to inspire her as she looks toward becoming an educator herself. 

The Malcolm W. Rowell Scholarship recognizes past-SMF Music Director Malcolm W. Rowell’s 23 year tenure at SSC and his tremendous contributions to music and education.  

Learn more at

SSC Memory Café: The fun continues online!

South Shore Conservatory is thrilled to offer SSC Memory Café, Online, beginning Thursday, September 24.  This social based gathering is offered for individuals living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and their care-partners, in the safety and comfort of their own homes.  All you need is access to the internet, a computer with internal or external sound, and a ZOOM link.

Come join us for some social time, music and movement, and of course, fun.  There is no cost to participate and we are grateful to the Grafton Foundation for their generous support.

Registration is required to obtain the ZOOM link. 

Other upcoming fall SSC Memory Cafe dates are: October 1, 15, 29; November 12, 19; and December 3, 10.

Please contact Eve Montague, Director, Creative Arts Therapies, at or 781-934-2731, x20. 

We cannot wait to make music with you!

Falling into place at SSC

By Alden Doak
My name is Alden Doak, and I recently joined the registration team at South Shore Conservatory (SSC). As a recent graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, I know firsthand how challenging online learning can be.

When the Covid-19 pandemic reared its ugly head, SSC was in the midst of celebrating its 50th anniversary and gearing up for a leadership transition. While some institutions took a back seat during these challenging times, we at SSC knew we had a lot to accomplish under these extenuating circumstances. Since joining SSC, I have been impressed by the dedication and commitment of the people around me in making sure our communities continue to have access to music and the performing arts.

To ensure the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff, South Shore Conservatory has implemented a new “Hyflex” model, combining digital learning with in-person lessons at our Hingham and Duxbury campuses. We’re getting creative. For the first time ever, we’ll offer fall lessons in our Jane Carr Amphitheater, as well as on our front porch and under pop-up tents on the lawn. Faculty members participating in our new Hyflex class model are: Maral Annaovezova, Robert Bekkers, Nick Biagini, Peter Bianca, Gita Brown, Victoria Chang, Mary Cicconetti, Andrew Heath, George Little, Alexander Morollo, Kyung-Nam Oh, Eamonn O’Hara, Grant Randall, Ted Sajdyk, Ed Sorrentino, Benjamin Swartz, Sarah Troxler, John Vanderpool, HuiMin Wang, Cynthia Weller, Jeff Williams, Ida Zelman, and Donald Zook.

In addition to the new Hyflex program, South Shore Conservatory has expanded our online offerings through partnering, not only with our own gifted educator/performers, but with instructors from around the country. With online instruction being such a critical component to the immediate future of education, our faculty has been training extensively with hardware and software necessary to create a smooth transition to digital learning. I am excited to be working on SSC Music Sampler, a class that offers an array of instrumentally diverse four-week courses, geared to give adult students exposure to different facets of the music world.  Among more than 30 class titles are Songs of the Iron Rails, Intro to Improv, From Carousel to Hamilton – A Survey of Musical Theater, and Miles Davis – Kind of Blue.

Along with our invigorated online learning and Hyflex teaching, SSC continues to offer in-person learning opportunities for our kindergarten, preschool and pre-k students. To facilitate these onsite classes, we will be adhering to the guidelines set forth by the CDC, the Massachusetts Department of Education and Department of Early Childhood Education.

In my short time here, the team effort I have observed at SSC, in our pursuit to provide students with the best and most effective learning possible, is inspiring during a time of such uncertainty. Both faculty and staff are working diligently to prevent any student from being unable to access their normal lessons with their favorite instructors. With these efforts and adherence to the guidelines in place, we at SSC look forward to a safe and successful semester!

Learn more about South Shore Conservatory’s fall programs at

SSC Youth Orchestra starts a new season September 23!

Exciting news!
SSC Youth Orchestra is FREE this year for the first 65 SSC private lesson students who register!  The orchestra program starts virtually on Wednesday, September 23.

This year’s highlights include:

  1. Collaborating with local artist Katharine Libretto and Inky Hands Print Studio, presenting her series Nocturne in a musical gallery walk
  2. Working closely with Artistic Director Steven Karidoyanes, preparing for performing Sibelius’ Finlandia side-by-side with the Plymouth Philharmonic in the Spring.

SSCYO begins its fall season virtually, on Wednesdays from 6-8 pm.  Over this time students work with coaches and conducting staff for real-time sectionals in small breakout groups, meet with their entire ensemble to discuss musical techniques, as well as to hear from guest speakers, complete a video projects.
Students will also have assignments that will be submitted to their instructor for review

 After the new year, SSCYO implements a hybrid model, working toward the spring collaboration with the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra.  Physical rehearsals will be paired with online sessions, which will include teleconferencing rehearsals, google classroom projects, sectionals, and masterclasses. Students alternate which weeks they will be present for physical rehearsal based on their section.

As always, safety is SSC’s first priority.


Sharing the joy of playing at The Big Reveal

Juli and Jon Finn

Jon and Juli Finn perform at The Big Reveal

By Juli Finn
Although I started playing clarinet in seventh grade, it wasn’t until I picked up the guitar for the first time at 15 that I instantly knew music had stolen my heart. Where my father was an incredible singer and involved in musical theater and my mother sings, plays bass, tin whistle, and percussion and performed in numerous Celtic and bluegrass bands when I was growing up, music has always been a big part of my life. When I picked up the guitar, it just felt right and it didn’t take long before I realized I wanted to play professionally.

With music, I love being able to explore creativity, improvisation.  I’m an equal blend of songwriter, musician, and educator.  I’m not content with “good enough” so I’m always striving to get better, learn more.  But teaching is my true passion. Having had a music career for over 25 years, I have so much to share beyond theory and technique. I especially love showing people the joy of playing music with others.

Being able to contribute musically to people’s happiest times (weddings, anniversaries, parties) has been an honor.  In my years as a musician, I’ve played in many cover bands (disco, funk, R&B, wedding bands), had a career as a church music director, and released two solo recordings.   I started a metal instrumental trio in 1992 and we had the opportunity to play all along the West Coast and Pacific Northwest, and release a great CD that I’m really proud of.

But, in 2016, when I started playing with the Jon Finn Group, it was life-changing. Jon invited me to play with his duo Guitar Guys. So, basically the group became the Guitar Guys and Juli.  When our other member, Dave, took a hiatus to finish some courses, Jon and I started gigging as Jon and Juli. Our repertoire changed quite a bit when we became a duo. Jon is such an amazing musician. He always plays the right thing at the right time. And he plays in a way that lifts me up. It’s something I see him do for everyone he plays with. And then when it’s time for him to shine, he knocks your socks off!

From the moment I met Jon we had a connection. We had an instant rapport. We have similar musical interests, but since we’ve been playing together we have expanded each other’s repertoires.  We enjoy taking great tunes and arranging them in unique ways to sound like “us.”  I have so much respect for his musicianship and teaching ability, and he’s always so open to sharing. It wasn’t long before we knew we were falling for each other. Our wedding day, June 25, 2019, was one of the best days of my life, and playing music with him is the frosting on the cake for me.

Throughout COVID we’ve performed some livestream concerts and virtual open mics.  I just recently went back to playing live with my band, Fast Times. It’s kind of strange playing live music for people again. We perform outdoors for these socially distant gigs.

Jon and I are excited and grateful we were asked to play for South Shore Conservatory’s The Big Reveal on Labor Day weekend.  We’re super excited to hit the Jane Carr Amphitheater stage together (safely) again, to bring joy and a little humor.  It’s going to be a super, fantastic extravaganza!! We’re planning something to unite students, our faculty, partners, and friends. It’s an opportunity for people to see the whole picture of what we do and what we’re passionate about – something I believe the world needs right now.

South Shore Conservatory’s The Big Reveal is Sunday, September 6, 6 pm through Monday, September 7, 6 pm.  Learn more about this event at

Juli Finn teaches guitar and ukulele at South Shore Conservatory.

Olivia Monarch: Finding her inspiration

Olivia Monarch - lead singer Not Today

Olivia performs with SSC rock band Not Today

By Olivia Monarch
As a toddler, I took year-round Music Together® classes at South Shore Conservatory (SSC). I loved everything about them – the music, the movement, and the community of rambunctious kids and their happy caregivers. This joyous introduction to music inspired my lifelong love of music. At only two and a half years old, I started Suzuki piano, and have taken classes year-round at SSC ever since!

Supporting my music education was an easy decision for my parents, once they realized I was happy and motivated when participating in anything musical. When I was old enough to start private voice lessons, I chose the Conservatory because I felt at home there and wanted to try everything available to me.  Over the years I’ve tried just about every type of music – classical, jazz, rock, indie – and discovered I really love everything!

Perhaps my most fulfilling experience has been with the rock band Not Today where I am lead vocalist.  Our band has been together for nearly five years, and we have had the best time performing and recording together.  We have all become very close friends. Some of us met through Rock Band camp, and others were hand-picked by our coach Erik Caldarone, who saw them as great matches for the band.  In addition to me, our band is comprised of Cam Igo on drums, Larkin Tanner and Tasman Claridge on guitar, Darcy Milligan on bass, and Kristin McCarthy on keyboard.  Although I fell in love with guitar around the age of 13, and can play fairly well, I am no match for Not Today’s Larkin, who is incredible.

Singing with or in front of others came very naturally to me because I had participated in tons of choral groups, musical theatre programs (such as Saturday Stage Club at the Conservatory), and voice recitals through my private voice lessons at SSC.  My secret to successful performances is making myself believe the audience is here to see ME.  I pretend that they are all there just to see me succeed, and it works every time!

To any young vocalist who wants to sing in a rock band, I would advise them to find their inspiration and break down exactly who and what it is that motivates them. For example, I love Hayley Williams, lead vocalist and primary songwriter for the rock band Paramore. I admire her confidence, outspokenness, and creativity. I try to channel her energy whenever I’m onstage.

I am excited to be starting classes at Berklee College of Music this fall. I thought I would be packing my bags and heading off to meet my new suite mates by now, but unfortunately, due to COVID-19 the entire fall curriculum will be online. Nonetheless, I am excited to jump in and study music full time! I will be double-majoring in Music Recording & Engineering and Songwriting.  I hope to tour with a band someday, constantly writing and recording as well as performing. Eventually, I would love to own my own studio off my future house.  I would create an environment for artists to stay short-term to write, record, and get away from the craziness of tour life.

As I go off to college and leave SSC, I will miss the people. I am serious when I say that I have met my lifelong best friends through SSC. I did not expect to connect so much with my teachers and bandmates as I did, but they are the greatest, most welcoming, supportive, inclusive friends anyone could ask for.

Learn more about South Shore Conservatory programs at or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

Expectations for fall classes

JRP Spotlight Festival

Rock Band

By Elaine Sorrentino
South Shore Conservatory is very excited for the 2020/2021 school year to begin. We fancy ourselves creative types, so when presented with challenges associated with all 2020 activities, we started looking at our creative problem solving skills.  With no guarantee we can safely teach inside our buildings by September, we are thinking more outside the box than in previous years, when our greatest hurdle was accommodating student and teacher schedules during high school football season.

SSC has multiple teaching scenarios at the ready. In-person, online, hybrid.  In each scenario, our students will receive the same high quality private lessons and group classes that they have come to expect in any typical year. We are brainstorming how best to offer existing programs, and what new classes we can offer to take advantage of this unique time.

The health and safety of our community is our top priority. We will proceed with the utmost of caution, using a hybrid system – some in-person lessons, some online lessons – to limit contact until society can safely return to its pre-COVID activities.  Having listened to our families who took virtual private lessons with us in the spring, we have discounted our private lessons for this entire school year, knowing not all lessons can be delivered in person.

For the first time ever, we will teach regular classes and lessons outdoors in the Jane Carr Amphitheater, and we plan to make the most of it, offering sessions of Rock Band and adult ensembles in the open air.  Teaching will be scheduled with enough time between each group to allow staff ample time to disinfect any common-use equipment.

Group classes for our youngest students, including Music Together®, will continue to be offered virtually. Families will be able to sing and dance to their heart’s content in their living room.  One of our spring semester families told us, “The curriculum is engaging, beautiful, and well thought out. We enjoy the music and all of the extracurricular activities. The teachers are engaged and make it whimsical for us during these dark days at home. We LOVE music together!!”

SSC Youth Orchestra will also be available completely online. Even more exciting, it is now available for FREE for any school-aged student taking private lessons on orchestral instruments, including string instruments such as violin, viola, cello and double bass;  brass instruments such as the horn, trumpet, trombone and tuba; woodwind instruments such as flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon; and percussion instruments such as timpani, bass drum, triangle, snare drum, cymbals, and mallets. Under the guidance of Elijah Langille, the orchestra hopes to transition from virtual to in-person in the spring.  The highest level ensemble, Symphony, is scheduled to perform with Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra in March.  Fingers crossed!

With a few weeks to go before the fall semester kicks off, our faculty and staff continue to brainstorm about how best to safely connect with our families and provide fun, educational opportunities. We are staying up to date with national, state, and local health requirements and recommendations, and all staff are participating in COVID-related return to work training. Faculty and staff are encouraged to return to the campuses only when they feel safe, and to prioritize their health and the health of their students and families. We miss you, and we cannot wait to be together again. Until then, we look forward to Zooming with you and finding responsible creative outlets!

Learn more about South Shore Conservatory classes and lessons at or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.


Elaine Sorrentino is Communications Director at South Shore Conservatory.

The Argument for Music Education


The July-August 2020 issue of American Scientist published a fascinating article about how musical experience early in life imparts lifelong neuroplasticity, and sets children up for academic success.


The Argument for Music Education
by Nina Kraus and Travis White-Schwock

Musicians’ brains show striking benefits.

Margaret Martin needed help. It was early 2011 and had been 10 years since she’d founded Harmony Project, which provides free music lessons to children from underserved Los Angeles neighborhoods. Martin made a simple deal with each student who enrolled: If you maintained passing grades, and if you attended every practice and performance at Harmony Project, you would have a guaranteed spot for free until you graduated high school. Demand for her program quickly outstripped the number of available openings, and Martin grew desperate to shrink the waiting list.

Harmony Project kept growing in popularity partly because its students excelled in not only music but also many seemingly unrelated areas: They graduated at the top of their classes, earned college scholarships, and went on to successful careers. Martin had touted those success stories as she tirelessly grew her project, but now she needed school districts and large foundations to invest larger sums in Harmony Project. She knew from her training in public health how to develop experimental data to convince policy makers.

Martin saw that music was sparking something in her students’ brains that was setting them up for academic success, but she didn’t have the evidence to prove it. She realized she needed the help of a neuroscientist.

The notion that the brain is malleable—a trait that we now call neuroplasticity—dates back more than a century to the earliest days of neuroscience. Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal, who is remembered today chiefly for his drawings of brain cells, also discovered that cellular projections wax and wane throughout an organism’s life, a phenomenon he poetically termed neural gymnastics. He intuited that the nervous system is dynamic.

But rigorously documenting and studying these plastic changes in the brain remained out of reach for decades. In the 1970s and 1980s, when tracking the activity of a single neuron became possible, scientists finally could prove that learning was rooted in changes to a neuron’s physiology—basically, its proclivity to spark a jolt of electricity, sending signals to other neurons.

For more than 30 years, we have studied neuroplasticity in humans. Our work has focused on determining how to measure the integrity of sound processing in the brain using electrophysiology—measuring brain waves from the scalp. Although measuring the jolt of electricity from a single neuron is impossible in humans, we could measure the aggregate electrical activity emanating from the brain. Around the time that Martin started Harmony Project, we had embarked on a complementary line of research: studying musicians as a model for neuroplasticity to understand the neural mechanisms at work in the kinds of changes Martin saw in her students.

Read more



The Big Reveal

Juli Finn performingBy Karen Geer
Like any good idea, it started out as a small nugget, rolling around in my mind.  Over time, as I was introduced to the variety of talent in our community of South Shore Conservatory (SSC) performing educators, the idea blossomed into an exciting 24-hour Labor Day weekend extravaganza I call The Big Reveal.

The title may sound a little dramatic, but given what’s going on in this COVID climate, I know I appreciate a little embellishment to brighten up my life.  Others may welcome the same.  I envision The Big Reveal as a huge online celebration, honoring SSC’s 50thj anniversary, our role as a community school for the arts, and the many dedicated people who contributed artistically to our success.   We’ll reveal the wonderful music and the arts at SSC and on the South Shore, and new, innovative programming coming our way in the fall.   All of this will be done with the utmost of caution, because keeping our community safe is what’s most important to me.

Most of our featured performances and classes will be presented virtually.  Starting at 6 pm on Sunday, September 6, programming includes everything from children’s sing-alongs, to classical dinner music, an open mic hour, Latin dance hour, to an early morning yoga session.  We are thrilled at the variety of presentations.  The performance marathon concludes with three 45-minute livestreamed concerts in front of three safely-limited live audiences.  Staff and volunteers will take time between each concert to swap out chairs and disinfect everything on stage.  Again, presenting The Big Reveal safely is key.

If you’re a night owl like me, expect to be surprised with adventuresome programming in the early morning hours.  No test patterns for the nocturnal set in our audience.  They can enjoy what I like to refer to as being “outside-the-mainstream” music.   Think a pint in an Irish pub – just without the pub.   Think “Blow the Man Down.”  No one’s going to want to go to sleep through this.  They’ll want to sing along (which is encouraged)!

In case you’re wondering about my role in this exhilarating 24 hours, I’ll be the emcee, shepherding the audience from performance to performance.  Might you hear a couple of jokes?  My tuba solo?  My rendition of “Danny Boy?”  Who can say?  Tune in and find out.

Our final hour, starting at 6 pm on Labor Day, will be the actual “reveal.”  We’ll unwrap some new program offerings, new faculty members, and of course, the winner of our Kitchen Gadget Throwdown contest.

As we enter a new school year in September, we hope to make a splash and inspire our audience to include the arts in their 2020-2021 calendar.  This is a wonderful way to celebrate the arts in what can only be described as a rather bizarre time.   I want people to be reminded what an incredible artistic community we have on the South Shore. All of this talent is right in their backyard!

South Shore Conservatory’s The Big Reveal is Sunday, September 6 through Monday, September 7.  Learn more about this event at, and please join us, even if just for an hour or so.  There’s something for everyone, and we all need a little music these days.

Karen Geer has been President of South Shore Conservatory since June 1, 2020.


Keep moving for life

Moving for Life - Kaitlyn MazzilliBy Kaitlyn Mazzilli
Does anyone remember the organic shampoo commercial from the 80’s, where Heather Locklear is so excited about the hair product that she tells two friends, who tell two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on?  In the 90’s Mike Myers did a parody of this ad in the movie Wayne’s World, and in each frame you see the audience growing as the good news spreads.  This is what has been happening with South Shore Conservatory’s Moving for Life (MFL) class.

A creative dance/movement, wellness-based program for seniors of all abilities, MFL was first offered (as Let’s Get Moving!) at multiple Councils on Aging, and the John Curtis Library in Hanover. Word quickly got around about this program that promotes physical, social and emotional health, and is safely aligned with the South Shore Elder Service and South Shore Health Strategic Plan for Seniors. While I’ve been presenting this program, I’ve seen participating seniors gain muscle tone, increase flexibility, decrease stress and tension, while exercising their cardiovascular system. I’ve also seen improved coordination, balance, and strength and communication skills, all while they enjoy music they love to dance and sing along to.  It has provided a real connectedness.

Moving for Life is based on dance therapy protocols, and provides ongoing social interaction in a familiar setting (especially the virtual classes), as well as mindfulness practice and the promotion of self-care. Where I am a naturally positive and upbeat person, I create an environment that encourages cooperation and conversation. My sessions are fully integrated and inclusive, allowing all seniors, even those who may be balancing health and/or cognitive challenges, to engage with ease.  As a teacher and dance/movement therapist, I’m very happy to see all the smiling faces this 45-minute class produces.

A typical class might start out with a welcome movement ritual, a mindfulness minute, warm-up breathing exercises, progressive joint/muscle awareness, and stretching.  To expand arm movements and stimulate senses, participants may be encouraged to use a ribbon or a scarf and sway with the music. We “cool down” with easy stretching and breathing to reduce heart rate; and finally, we end our online session with thanks and farewells.

To individuals who may rule themselves out of such enjoyment, just because they move with the assistance of a walker, cane, or wheelchair, think again!  Adaptions can be made so that everyone can join in the fun. I encourage my participants to “come as they are and do what they can.”  There is no right or wrong in Moving for Life – only joyful movement!

Our next six-week online session of Moving for Life starts Monday, July 27, from 1:45 pm to 2:30 pm, and runs every Monday through August 31, 2020.  Learn more about Moving for Life or to register for the class, visit, or call 781-749-7565 x10.

Kaitlyn Mazzilli is South Shore Conservatory’s board-certified dance/movement therapist, with five years’ experience working with senior populations.