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

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

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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 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, 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.

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Living in Harmony

By Su D’Ambrosio
In a world where there are enough resources to feed, clothe and house every human being, you would think there would be plenty of peace and harmony.  However, the sad truth is that we are living in a time of tension and turmoil where war is prevalent and mass shootings are becoming commonplace.  Now, more than ever, the arts are needed to help us find and reclaim our humanity as only the arts can.

Here at South Shore Conservatory (SSC) we see people come together through the arts with the common goal of working to create something that speaks to others and feeds their souls every day. Arts belong to everyone: the very young and the very old in every culture on earth and the only requirement for participation is acceptance and an open mind.  The arts allow us to see differences through the lens of possibility.  They are a common thread binding us together and, if we increase arts education and involvement I have no doubt that the result will be transformative for society.

All summer I have had the pleasure of hearing amazing music across our SSC campus, as students in our various summer programs rehearse and prepare music ranging from traditional American fiddle tunes, to modern wind ensemble repertoire, to jazz, rock and pop tunes.  These programs bring together students from different geographic, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds for the sole purpose of creating art through music.  Amazing young musicians arrive with open minds and hearts, ready to accept and work with their peers to create and share something special, unique and beautiful and grow as human beings.  I can only imagine what our world would look like if we made sure every single young person could have this kind of experience.  Perhaps we would see less gun violence and more encounters like one observed at our Summer Music Festival (SMF) last week: one young teen reaching out his hand to a new friend to say, “Glad to meet you!”

Of course, it isn’t enough to put a bunch of young people in a room with instruments, ballet shoes, paint brushes or a play and expect miracles.  We need guidance from dedicated artist educators who understand the importance of their work and their potential to effect social change through arts education.  SSC launched a special music educator retreat program this summer that brought music educators together to talk about their craft, connect with their peers, and start a dialogue that is likely to result in a new appreciation for the potential of music education to be a catalyst for creative youth development.

In his presentation to educators, former SMF Music Director Malcolm Rowell encouraged them to make sure, “All students are encouraged to come to every rehearsal bearing gifts.” In what other area of their lives are young people charged with this expectation and responsibility? And once they rise to this challenge, reap the unbelievable benefit of being part of true art and walk away from that experience out into the world, won’t they be ready to be peaceful, loving, accepting, productive members of society and amazing human beings?  Save the world.  Support the arts.

To learn more about arts-based programs and events at South Shore Conservatory, visit or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

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 reminds his family every day of the importance of acceptance and unconditional love.

A Grand Night for Singing at SSC

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by Sarah Troxler

The fourth wall: in stage tradition, it’s a magical entity.  It’s that barrier between performer and audience that is rarely intended to be broken.  It’s the proverbial thin line between fantasy and reality, setting the scene of the story, and pulling you into a world that is not completely your own.  The fourth wall is the edge of the stage, really, completing the three other physical walls of the performance space and encasing the story in its own little world.  Audience members are invited into this world where fiction becomes truth and anything is possible, to ride along for the story with all its emotional twists and turns as the plot develops.  We dream along with the heroes and heroines.  We survive failures and successes, jeer at the sinister antagonist, cry at defeat and sorrow, yearn for love.  In two glorious hours, enveloped in the sights and sounds of the stage, we take a journey that exceeds time and space.  Musical theatre: entertainment at its finest.

From a young age, I learned about the various aspects of the stage as a performer, backstage hand, and musician.  The thrill in preparing an elaborate project is in working with a team that includes a director and choreographer, set designer, costumers and make-up artists, actors and musicians, lighting and sound technicians – each working together to present a story and entertain the audience.  All the preparation and anticipation culminates in the performance, when everyone comes together to make the dream a reality.  The synergy between those working parts cannot be equaled!

Musical theatre is thriving on Boston’s South Shore, and I think there is no better place to experience it this summer than at South Shore Conservatory (SSC).  On July 30, audiences will be whisked away into another world as we celebrate the brilliant works of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II with A Grand Night for Singing, a musical theatre revue.  Truly a community endeavor, this performance, featuring favorite tunes such as Surrey With A Fringe On Top from Oklahoma!, Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific, and Hello, Young Lovers from The King and I, showcases volunteer chorus members from across the South Shore, and principal characters and instrumentalists from SSC’s faculty.

My role as pianist in A Grand Night for Singing allows me to work alongside each of the working parts in our concert presentation – chorus, principals, and instrumentalists.  It is very similar to my role as music director in several local community theatre groups in and around Hingham.  I am fortunate to have one of the most satisfying jobs, because not only do I take part in each step of the rehearsal process in the months prior to performance, I also experience the thrill of being a performer and getting carried away by the music, lights, and story.  It’s truly the best of both worlds!

Join South Shore Conservatory as its Evenings Under the Stars concert series presents A Grand Night for Singing: The Music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, on Saturday, July 30, 7 pm in the Jane Carr Amphitheater at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  Tickets for either the lawn or the pavilion are available online at or by calling 781-749-7565, ext. 22.  You are sure to walk away from this performance dancing on a bright cloud of music and whistling a happy tune!

Pianist Sarah Troxler has been with South Shore Conservatory since 2012.

Harry Potter Weekend Book Fair

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SSC faculty member Hayley Piecut presents Harry Potter themed activities July 30 at Barnes & Noble 

by Elaine Sorrentino

Harry Potter lovers everywhere are anxiously counting down the days until the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the eighth official installment in J.K. Rowling’s exciting tales of wizardry.  I admit I am among the lovers, and look forward to being at Barnes & Noble in Hingham for the release party on Saturday, July 30 at 8 pm.  South Shore Conservatory (SSC) has been invited to be there for the fun, add some performing arts to the festivities, and use this special weekend as our book fair!

Although nine years have passed since we’ve gotten our hands on a new Harry Potter book, this latest volume, which is actually a script book, takes place 19 years after the events in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry is working at the Ministry of Magic and is the father of three.  From what I hear, his son is struggling with the weight of his wizard heritage.  Sounds intriguingly familiar, and I can’t wait to dive into it.  Plus, when I purchase my book I can feel good knowing a percentage of my sale will benefit South Shore Conservatory.

When young and old partygoers arrive at the Barnes & Noble on Saturday night, the excitement starts with a “sorting hat” designed to help them determine which Hogwarts house they belong to. Inside the store, stations for each of the four houses – Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw – feature fun Harry Potter activities for revelers.

At 9:30 and 10:30 pm, Barnes & Noble patrons are treated to a special Harry Potter-themed activity led by SSC faculty member Hayley Piecut.  Also, throughout the evening SSC bassoon trio Bassoons R Us will perform selections from Harry Potter movies.  Then, of course, at midnight, the first book will be purchased.  Barnes & Noble is committed to staying open until all customers have been able to purchase their books.  If you miss the Saturday events, the fun continues into Sunday afternoon. SSC student musicians will perform throughout the store.

Customers who visit Barnes & Noble today through July 30 may enter into a raffle for a chance to win either limited edition, poster-sized cover art of the original seven Harry Potter books, or a free copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The drawing takes place at midnight, and the lucky book winner receives the first copy of the book.

If you’re concerned about the book selling out before you can get to the store on Sunday, Barnes & Noble Community Business Development Manager Jonathan Hickey recommends that you either come to the store or call 781-749-3319 before July 23 to reserve your copy.

So visit Barnes & Noble on Saturday, July 30 or Sunday, July 31, dressed in your favorite Harry Potter attire, or sporting your house colors, for a little Harry Potter fun.  Mention SSC at checkout, or give them voucher number  11914900 (good online as well), and SSC receives a percentage of your sale.  This applies to all purchases in the store during these two days – even a cup of coffee and a muffin in the café.

Barnes & Noble is located at 96 Derby Street, Hingham.  For more information about SSC programs and events, visit or find us on Facebook.

Elaine Sorrentino is South Shore Conservatory’s Communications Director.

The Big Swing: music of the swing era


By Emily Browder Melville
“Got a little rhythm, a rhythm, a rhythm, that pitter-pats through my brain . . . ,” sings Ella Fitzgerald, her voice bouncing ever-so-lightly over equally delicate cymbals.  The language of swing music, born in the big band era (measured roughly as the years 1935-1946), has had incalculable presence in American music – and American culture – ever since.  I know, for me, the delightfully danceable music of this era touches my soul in a special way.

The familiar tunes, crooned by powerful horns sections with shimmering clarity, persist in our hearts and minds: they surface when we remember loved ones past, they underscore classic films, they hoist us onto the dance floor at weddings.  And lest we suspect that swing lives only the past, please note that one of the most successful recording artist alive today is Michael Bublé, a handsome, charming, modern-day crooner with an absolutely extraordinary band.  Bublé’s concerts are full of screaming fans – high-schoolers, baby-boomers, and beyond – who cheer on his instrumentalists like sports heroes.  Big band swing is alive and well.  It is timeless.

And yet, a big band swing concert is still a special occasion, an exceptional event.  Big band concerts require an extra-large load of musicians playing complex arrangements.  They demand virtuosic playing; each band member brings a bold soloist spirit yet integrates seamlessly with the other players.  The total sound is rhythmically energized, harmonically rich, and surprisingly sensitive.  A big band concert is always a celebratory occasion.

Which is why I am tooting my proverbial horn about an upcoming super-exciting event in the South Shore Conservatory (SSC) Jane Carr Amphitheater. On Saturday, July 23, SSC’s Evenings Under the Stars (EUS) outdoor concert series presents a celebration of this vibrant American music in The Big Swing: The Music of the Swing Era.  As EUS celebrates its 20th anniversary this season, this big band concert is the very thing to inspire audience members out of their seats and dancing.  Trumpeter Rob Reustle heads a 10-piece band of SSC faculty performers who will call to life swing greats such as Glen Miller, Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, Fletcher Henderson, Hoagy Carmichael, and others.

SSC voice faculty member Maria Marini and I are the featured vocalists. I am having a truly fabulous time preparing gems such as Doris Day’s “Sentimental Journey,” Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing!,” and – of course – Ella’s “Fascinatin’ Rhythm.”  It’s going to be a toe-tapping, heart-lifting event of music, food, and friends, a summer evening to cherish.  Bring your loved ones and let’s make some new memories!

Join South Shore Conservatory for The Big Swing: The Music of the Swing Era on Saturday, July 23, 7 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  Tickets for either the lawn or the pavilion are available online at or by calling 781-749-7565, ext. 22.  For more information about South Shore Conservatory and Evenings Under the Stars, visit us online or find us on Facebook.

Voice Department Chair Emily Browder Melville has been with South Shore Conservatory since 2009.

Please don’t let Governor Baker send us back to 1994!

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We have shocking news to report from the State House.

Late Friday afternoon, Governor Charlie Baker vetoed the Legislature’s budget for the Massachusetts Cultural Council and slashed arts funding by 55%.

Send an email to your legislators asking them to override the governor’s arts veto.

If lawmakers do not override this veto, the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s budget will be slashed to $6.5 million from $14.1 million.

That’s right: $6.5 million. The last time arts and culture were funded at that level in the Commonwealth was 1994.

No other state arts agency in the country, even those in states like Pennsylvania and Louisiana, which are facing budget gaps of $2 billion, have been hit with cuts of 55%. If this veto stands, the Massachusetts Cultural Council will be forced to slash grants by 30 to 60% and may have to eliminate entire programs. These grants fund creative projects that help revitalize our downtowns, make art more accessible to everyone, young and old, and build closer communities.

The good news is that the chairs of the Legislative Cultural Caucus and the Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development Committee are circulating a letter among colleagues to rally around an override of the governor’s arts veto. We already know that our community is worthy of investment. With enough support from both houses, we can make it happen.

Send a quick note to your senator and representative urging them to support the arts, cultural, and creative community.

If you join us in voicing support for arts and culture in Massachusetts, we can override Gov. Baker’s veto. We were successful in overriding Gov. Baker’s arts veto last year – let’s do it again this year.

Keep up the good work!