It Takes a Musical Village

By Su D’Ambrosio

Last week I attended the Massachusetts Music Educators Southeast District meeting. As I looked around the room it occurred to me that the South Shore is blessed with many dedicated educators who work hard to build and maintain strong music programs in our public schools. There was a mix of familiar faces and new teachers, with chorus, band, orchestra, jazz band and general music represented.  We reviewed plans for our upcoming Junior and Senior festivals, which bring students together from all over the South Shore for a weekend of rehearsal and performance.  In order to participate, students must audition.

Last year over 1000 students auditioned for each festival.  Just over 400 were accepted at each level. The competition is strong and students often feel the pressure at their audition. To prepare, students spend hours at school working with their band, chorus, orchestra and jazz band teachers. Many also study with a private teacher who helps them in their weekly lessons. In addition, some students participate in groups or classes outside their school, such as South Shore Conservatory’s Bay Youth Symphony (BaYS), chamber music or Mezzo Voice Class. The most successful students are those who had strong music education experiences before they even touched an instrument or joined a chorus. Elementary general music teachers set the foundation for all of the learning that takes place later, by helping students understand rhythm, tonality, musical form and reading music notation.  Teachers at all levels of a student’s musical journey contribute to their success in the audition room.

Through my own children, I have had the great privilege of observing this process firsthand. They both participated in Junior and Senior District ensembles as well as the All-State Festival. My daughter Maria was accepted into the All-National Honor Band. Both were immersed in music as babies and had the great fortune of having excellent music teachers (too many to list!) at all levels of school.  Suffice it to say that between my two girls, there have been eight public school music educators, nine private teachers on four different instruments, and fourteen group instruction teachers and conductors.  Their success in the audition room was the result of this talented village of music and arts educators. This musical village was also responsible for shepherding my daughter Maria along the path that led to The Boston Conservatory.

At South Shore Conservatory, with private instruction, group classes and small and large ensembles, we are honored to be part of so many students’ journeys through the arts. On October 30, from 12-3 pm, we are hosting a free Festival Audition Workshop at our Hingham campus to help prepare students for their Junior and Senior District festival auditions. This event is open to any student on the South Shore.  During this workshop, students have an opportunity to play their audition pieces for faculty and receive valuable feedback to help them do their best on audition day.  We are proud to be part of the outstanding village of music educators that support young musicians in our communities.

South Shore Conservatory’s Festival Audition Workshop is free to SSC and non-SSC students by reservation.  Students interested in reserving a spot, should call 781-749-7565, ext. 10 before October 26. For more information, visit

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 wants to thank Lisa at PetSmart for shepherding him on his journey through doggie obedience school.

Celebrating an outstanding commitment to music


By Elaine Sorrentino
One of my favorite parts of the summer is during the final Summer Music Festival (SMF) performance in July, when our conductors celebrate the outstanding musicianship, leadership and dedication of our students. After two weeks of rehearsals, and with so many talented and ambitious young musicians, selecting only one or two students who stand out in a large ensemble is a difficult task.  Each conductor looks for qualities such as playing collaboratively and confidently, having respect for fellow musicians, and acting as a role model for others.

As I sit in the audience, hankie in hand, these surprised (and probably nervous) students come up to receive their awards.  Most of them receive scholarships toward next year’s Summer Music Festival program.  But only one deserving recipient receives the Malcolm W. Rowell Music Education Scholarship awarded to a college-bound music education student.  This special scholarship was established in honor of Rowell who served as Summer Music Festival Music Director for over 21 years.

This summer’s deserving recipient of the Rowell Scholarship was horn player Erin Jenkins of Hanover.  Erin, who also plays clarinet and saxophone, has participated in Summer Music Festival (SMF) since tenth grade, and started at UMass at Amherst as a music major this fall.

Erin’s impressive music resume extends far beyond her experience here at South Shore Conservatory. Over her high school years she played principal horn and principal clarinet in Hanover High School’s (HHS) Symphonic Band, first tenor saxophone in HHS’s jazz ensemble, and was the drum major for the Pride of Hanover Marching Band.   In addition, she was accepted into SEMSBA in 2016 and 2013, and scored 5 on her Advanced Placement (AP) Music Theory test.  Clearly music has had a profound impact on Erin’s life.

“My main goal and inspiration is to be able to share with others the effect that studying, creating, practicing, and performing music has had on my life. A mix of all of the musical experiences that I have been fortunate enough to take part in have all had powerful impacts in the way that I perceive, practice, perform, and share music (especially Summer Music Festival),” Erin wrote in her scholarship essay.

According to SMF Music Director Eric Laprade, she was selected because “Erin epitomizes the Summer Music Festival spirit.  During her three years as a student at SMF she has shown herself to be a creative, dedicated, articulate and inspiring individual.  She has contributed immensely to the Summer Music Festival culture and we are excited by her potential as a future music educator.”

Erin is very excited at the prospect of continuing her music training at UMass Amherst, a university with a great reputation for music education.  “I’m lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of the horn studio at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. UMass has been my dream school for many years. I am excited to further my education and knowledge of the arts, and to get as many people as possible excited about music as I can.”

To learn more about South Shore Conservatory programs and scholarships, visit

Elaine Sorrentino is South Shore Conservatory’s Communications Director.


Satisfy the thespian in your teen!


Do you have a teen thespian or teen comedian in your house? Have them join us at our Hingham campus this weekend (Saturday, October 15) and next weekend (Saturday, October 22) for free trial classes of Saturday Stage Club (ages 12-14) and Teen Improv Comedy (ages 15+).

Saturday Stage Club, which runs 9:30 – 11:30 am,  brings together students who have a passion for the stage. Students work as a team to create a unified idea out of many voices through character deep-dives, improvisation, writing and design.

Teen Improv Comedy, from 12-2 pm, is brand new this year.  We are so excited! It teaches the dynamics of improvisational comedy. Focusing on teamwork, collaboration and the freedom of saying yes, this class helps individuals build new skills through classic improv games, exercises and scene work.  Participants learn how to think on their feet and create rich worlds and characters from nothing at all.  Most of all, participants will have fun learning to trust themselves and their peers as they explore this burgeoning art form.

Full class info is at

Meet our new faculty members in concert


By Jesse Stiglich

All throughout our towns we see that fall has arrived and summer has slowly backed into the rearview mirror. As I drive to work at South Shore Conservatory, I observe the leaves on the trees slowly start to turn from green to vibrant red, orange and yellow.  It’s noticeable just how different each of these leaves truly are, just by their colors. Their change in appearance and introduction to our landscape and environment offers us a chance to explore each leaf’s identity and uniqueness.

With this new academic year, we are introduced to many new faces.  One of the newer members of SSC’s faculty, I’ve already met many new students as they entered my percussion studio for the first time a couple of weeks ago.  Each one was unique, just as every new faculty member is unique.  I am eager to learn more about my fellow educator/musicians and will have the opportunity to do so and to share my own story and musical style at this year’s SSC Debuts concert, which features our newest faculty members.

Much like the freshness and change that the autumn leaves provide, so too do SSC’s new faculty members. Each performer in the concert offers their own unique taste in music. With each piece of music played during the fall Sunday afternoon, the audience is allowed a chance to not only explore the music’s art and melodic concepts, but also delve into experiencing the personalities of each of our newest faculty.

The program for SSC Debuts features a vast variety of musical selections. It ranges from vocal music from the repertoire of Schubert and Faure, to classical trumpet, French horn, violin and piano, to a fun marimba solo by Eric Sammut, which is what I am performing. The talented faculty performers tasked with turning these pieces of music and mixed program into a stellar afternoon include Devin Morin, baritone, Christine Hedden, fiddle, Robert Marlatt, French horn, Siu Yan Luk, piano, Emily Hale, violin, Allyson Lynch, soprano and Andrew Moreschi, trumpet.

The freshness of these new faces accompanied by the recent change of seasons will provide a new sparkle to the SSC community as a whole. With all of the solo pieces taking place that afternoon, the audience will get a chance really connect with these new faces individually.  SSC Debuts provides a terrific chance for the musicians to connect with many of the people that make up the South Shore Conservatory community. With such talented, fresh musicians entering the fold, accompanied by a program with something for everyone’s tastes, the SSC Debuts concert is one that cannot be missed this fall.

South Shore Conservatory presents SSC Debuts, the first of five Conservatory Concert Series (CCS) concerts on Sunday, October 16, 4 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.   The concert is free and open to the public.  Seating is limited, so I suggest you arrive 30 minutes prior to the performance in order to guarantee yourself a seat in the concert hall.  Following the concert, the audience is invited to join the performers for a reception in the lobby.  Be sure to come up and say hello!

For more information, visit or call 781-749-7565, ext. 20.

Percussionist Jesse Stiglich teaches private lessons and Time Train, for students 6-8, at South Shore Conservatory’s Hingham and Duxbury campuses.


Share the Mad Love!

By Eileen Puzo
Most of the times in life that I can look back on and think “THAT was awesome” are one-offs. Weddings, birthdays, special events. There’s one time, however, that I get to repeat this year: Mad Love. I think you should be there, too.

The Dave Jodka Mad Love Music Festival is an annual day of great live music, delicious local food and drink, community and positivity, all in celebration of the life of my friend Dave. Dave loved all of these things, but more than anything, he loved his family and friends. So many of them have come together to create Mad Love. Last year, the event sold out in advance with over 750 guests. They came from Hingham, Scituate, the Cape, Norwood, New Jersey, Chicago, Florida, D.C., California and more. It is that much of a good thing.

So I want you to be there, too! I want you to listen to one of the awesome live bands who will play. I want you to hit up the food truck from Galley in Scituate, and sip a cider or get a sausage from The Sausage Guy. I want your kids to have the time of their lives in the Kid Zone while you play a game of Mad Love branded corn hole. I want you to witness firsthand the very real and palpable love that Dave Jodka inspired. When something is this good, you want to share it. I promise you will walk away feeling like you have been a part of something awesome. And you have!

Mad Love was born out of inspiring grace in the face of tremendous loss. Some of you know the story. Dave Jodka, a Scituate father of four, husband to Kathleen, and so much to so many others, lost a year-long furious battle to rare cancer at the age of 44 in October of 2014. I think the word the British use to describe this feeling of loss and devastation is “gutted.” And yet, in the face of this, Kathleen and the kids thought about what Dave loved and how to honor his memory. And Dave loved music.

Throughout his brilliant life, Dave performed in bands. He talked about being a teenager and just knowing that his band could have been a smash if they’d just had the resources…someone to coach them in everything from branding to marketing to creating an engaging performance.

With this in mind, Dave’s family introduced Mad Love as a way to establish a scholarship in his name at South Shore Conservatory to enable students of all backgrounds to experience the same love of music that Dave inspired. These students work weekly with a coach who is a professional rocker, get a first-class education in marketing, and train alongside specialists in their instruments. I am absolutely delighted to announce that Toast, the first recipients of the Dave Jodka Scholarship for Future Rockers, will make their debut at this year’s Mad Love, on the same stage as internationally touring bands. Dave would be psyched.

I’d invite you to mark your calendars for October 9, 2016 from 11 am – 5 pm for Mad Love, but given the speed with which it sold out last year, I think you’d better buy your tickets first and mark your calendar after! Come be a part of an amazing day! Share the Mad Love.

Tickets to the Mad Love Music Festival may be purchased at  South Shore Conservatory is located at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.

Hingham resident Eileen Puzo is not only a huge Dave Jodka fan, she is also South Shore Conservatory’s Director of Annual Giving.




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

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


Fall is the New Spring!


Back Camera

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