Sunday, April 23 features sweet music and savory fare

Chris rathbun
Attention jazz lovers!
You are invited to join South Shore Conservatory’s SSC Jazz Quartet on Sunday, April 23, at 11 am, for a feast for the senses, featuring relaxed melodies and light tones of cool jazz, and a fabulous array of savory and sweet brunch items from Ellen Mackenzie Catering. The buffet includes peach French toast, broccoli/cheese/sausage/pepper quiche, hash brown casserole, and classic crispy bacon.

Families and friends are invited to sit together and chat during the buffet brunch, or simply use the moment to appreciate live music.

The SSC Jazz Quartet is comprised of Elan Mehler on piano, Chris Rathbun on bass, Trevor Kellum on saxophone, and Ed Sorrentino on drums.

South Shore Conservatory is located at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.

For tickets, contact Beth MacLeod Largent at or at
781-749-7565, ext.20.

One great reason to get up early in the summer

SMF 2016 clarinets

By Eric Laprade
Sixteen years ago, my high school music teacher told me I had to wake up at 5:30 am every day for two weeks in the summer and drive more than an hour to attend South Shore Conservatory’s Summer Music Festival (SMF)At the time I didn’t even know where Hingham was!  Sixteen years later, not only have I been a student at the festival, but also the SMF tuba instructor, chamber music coach, conductor, and I now serve as SMF Music Director.  Over these 16 years, I’ve lived in three different states, taught for five years in the Randolph Public Schools, earned two college degrees, and am about to finish a third. The one consistent part of every summer, and the thing I look forward to every summer, is Summer Music Festival. In retrospect, I’m glad I listened to Mr. Watson.

Summer Music Festival changed my life.  This statement isn’t cliché, it is a fact.  It inspired me to pursue a career in music.  Some of my closest friends and most important mentors are from Summer Music Festival; I consider them family. Each year, SMF challenges me to be a better musician, a better teacher, and a better human being.  There is nothing better.

For me, there are three things that truly define the Summer Music Festival experience. First and foremost, the people.  Collaborative music-making is a human art.  What makes the experience so special is the opportunity to create art, in the moment, with other people who share the same passion and excitement for music-making.  What we create is greater than any one of us individually. Each year, SMF attracts approximately 100 students from over 35 different Southeastern-Massachusetts schools.  These students exude talent, tenacity, dedication, and enthusiasm.  What they accomplish during the festival is nothing short of incredible. Along the same lines, SMF maintains a faculty of 14 world-class musician-educators; many are alumni of the festival.  They are first-rate artists and master educators and empower students to reach goals beyond what they perceive as attainable.  The SMF family, for over 40 summers, has created a culture of musical excellence and a legacy of music making of the highest caliber

Second, is that how and why we make music at Summer Musical Festival is unique.  “Every child is an artist.”  At Summer Music Festival, every student is a creative artist.   In an education system dominated by standardized testing and a right vs. wrong mentality, the SMF environment empowers students to think and act creatively, to ask questions, to take risks, and to be themselves.

Finally, the environment defines the SMF experience.  South Shore Conservatory’s Hingham campus is truly the Tanglewood of the east.  Every summer, I get just as excited as I drive up the driveway.  The facilities at the SSC Hingham campus, with its outdoor state-of-the-art amphitheater, are second to none. The opportunity to create music in such a beautiful environment, surrounded by nature, is transformative to our music-making.

Summer Music Festival 2017 runs July 6-21, 2017.  We have programs for woodwind, brass, and percussion students in elementary school through college.  The festival features concert band, jazz ensemble, chamber music and opportunities.  Interested students should visit or for more information.


Life Lessons for Teens through Rock Band

Rock Band 2016
By Su D’Ambrosio
When I talk to my friends about qualities they would like to see in their teens, I often hear things such as “responsible,” “confident,” “strong work ethic,” “joyful,” and, of course, “communicative.” While I’m not sure there are too many activities that can inspire a teen to become chatty with their parents, music and the arts can strengthen all of the others and more.

If you ever get the chance to observe an ensemble rehearsal, look in and you will see the most amazing thing: teens working together toward the common goal of making something beautiful happen.  Well, at first it might seem like cacophony, but over time the sounds do come together to blend in harmony.  You can even see the elusive skill of communication developing, especially if you have the opportunity to sit in on a small group rehearsal like a quartet or even a rock band.  In those rehearsals you see students using eye contact and body language to let each other know when to start or when a solo is about to wrap up.  Sometimes, during a performance, players can get a piece that has gone astray back on track without anyone in the audience knowing, simply by using physical cues.

When it comes to rock bands in particular, this type of collaboration might come as a surprise. Stereotypically, a “rock star” can appear conceited and self-absorbed.  There can be a bit of a cutthroat dynamic in the entertainment world, with one group trying to out-perform another.  At South Shore Conservatory (SSC) we work hard with students to make sure this is not the case for them.

Two of my favorite teen events are Open Mic Night and Middle School Monster Jam.  At these events I see student musicians cheering each other on, encouraging each other as they perform and take risks on the stage.  Each band and performer has something special to offer in this community of like-minded teens.  It is a fun and safe environment for making music and making new friends.  I also enjoy seeing our resident rock bands, such as Toast, No Bueno and Lights in the Basement, develop a following and becoming leaders in this community.  At the last event I attended, I saw students take the stage with their peers, work together to produce a fantastic product, then become part of the audience to support the next group of performers.  There was a true sense of community for these students.  Parents were there as well, participating in the moment and sharing their pride in and love for their kids.

Many of these students started out with programs such as April Vacation Rock Camp happening at our Duxbury campus next month, or Jazz/Rock/Pop Summer Camp in Hingham this August.  These kinds of programs bring students together from many towns across the south shore and help them connect with other teens interested in exploring rock and pop music.  Faculty member Erik Caldarone coordinates these camps and makes sure that everyone has a great time and opportunities to grow as a musician and young person.

To learn more about April Vacation Rock Camp and other music opportunities for teens, visit or visit 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 jams with his doggie friends in his band: The Rolling Bones.

Take a free coffee break with the Stardust Trio tomorrow

amanda and jonathan roberts
Looking for a relaxing break from your normal humdrum Tuesday morning?

Join South Shore Conservatory for an hour of music by the Stardust Duo. This classically-trained husband/wife team, Jonathan and Amanda Roberts, presents virtuoso classical works, often influenced by popular styles, such as jazz, pop, and fiddling. At this interactive concert experience, audiences will hear anything from George Gershwin or Astor Piazzolla, to standards from the Great American Songbook.

This piano and violin concert is offered free-of-charge, thanks to series sponsor The Village at Duxbury.  After the performance audience members can stay, meet the performers and enjoy complimentary coffee, tea and breakfast treats.

The concert is Tuesday, March 28, 11 am at 64 St. George Street in Duxbury.  To guarantee yourself a spot, call Anne Smith at 781-934-2731, ext. 21.  Enjoy the concert!

Learn about the future of music on JRP Day: April 8


Join our Jazz/Rock/Pop Department (JRP) for its second JRP Day, which focuses on the future of music.  Free and open to all musicians, the event kicks off with a rhythm event jam, followed by a workshop/performance on World Music and Collective Improvisation with bassist/composer Mike Rivard.

Informative breakout sessions include: Singer/Songwriting with award-winning indie singer-songwriter Hannah Christianson; Recording, Session Work and Touring with producer/engineer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Jon Chi; Pop Vocal Styles and techniques with SSC voice faculty member Meredith Borden; and a new music technology petting zoo with Berklee professor Loudon Stearns.

The event concludes with an all-participant jam.

For more information about this event, contact JRP co-chair Ed Broms at or 781-749-7565, ext. 45.

Books + Music + Fun = Performathon 2017


By Beth MacLeod Largent
Here at South Shore Conservatory we are diligently working on our annual Performathon: 27 hours of incredible performances, spread out over four days, guaranteed to make you smile from start to finish!  As Director of Performance, I absolutely love seeing all levels of performers, from tiny Suzuki violin players, through adult chamber musicians. However, when I think about Performathon 2017, it’s not just the performing that makes me happy.  It’s the raising money for scholarships for deserving students, a noble venture and part of our daily work at SSC that makes me happy.  But additionally, there’s something even MORE that touches close to my heart.

Growing up, the Duxbury Free Library was one of my favorite places to visit. Every week my mother would take me and my brothers to borrow as many library books as we could hold.  We carted those books everywhere: to the beach, to our grandparents, in the car –and home. Reading and books continue to be an important component of my personal life. Being in the middle of a big, beautiful book store is a large part of why I adore Performathon, SSC’s annual performance marathon so very much! We bring our students to Barnes & Noble at the Derby Street Shoppes in Hingham, and for four days, my love of music and my love of books are combined. Our students, beginners through adults, raise pledges to help with scholarship – something so important for access at SSC. It’s thrilling to see the excitement on our younger students faces as they hand in their pledge envelopes, knowing they are helping others. At Performathon, they are able to put all their hard work to use.

In between checking in students and listening to heartwarming performances, I allow myself the luxury of wandering the down aisles in the store. I hold the books, I smell them, I feel the lovely fabrics and paper – it’s sublime. Also, I BUY!! I feel good doing this because a portion of my purchase comes back to SSC for scholarship support, so its guilt free. I’ve purchased holiday gifts, birthday gifts, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day gifts.  And, of course, gifts for me. In true non-profit spirit, my 13-year-old son also volunteers his time checking in performers…and he’s a VERY good shopper! Every day of Performathon we leave Barnes & Noble with something new, and every day I come home feeling energized and happy.

I invite you to join us for Performathon Thursday, March 30 from 5-9 pm, Friday, March 31 from 4-9 pm, Saturday, April 1 from 9 am – 6 pm, and Sunday, April 2 from 12- 5 pm at Barnes & Noble, 96 Derby Street in Hingham! Come visit, have a cup of coffee and listen to some inspiring music. I promise you that your heart will sing right along with the music.  And who knows? You might just find a treasure you just have to bring home. Mention South Shore Conservatory at checkout and a percentage of your sale comes to SSC. There’s nothing like the feel of a book combined with sweet music, and knowing you’re raising money for deserving students. I can’t think of anything better. I hope to see you there!

Beth MacLeod Largent is South Shore Conservatory’s Director of Performance and a member of SSC’s voice department.

SSC’s New Handy, Healthy Snack Machine

KarmaBox vending machine.jpg

By Sharon Bohan
You might think it an easy task, but choosing the right vending machine for South Shore Conservatory (SSC) was definitely not a walk in the park.  And, having it installed was even harder! Let me start from the beginning though, so you can get the full picture.

We’ve had a vending machine in the reception area of our Hingham campus for longer than I have been employed here. The popular machine was used by everyone: staff, faculty and students alike. It was particularly popular during the summer months, as summer programs and concerts drew larger numbers of people into the building.  Keeping it well stocked was a large part of my weekly workload, and involved going to BJ’s Wholesale Club to buy snacks and drinks, and then filling the machine. It was extremely time consuming.

I tried to buy snacks and drinks that were healthy and peanut-free, but finding healthy items in BJ’s that would fit nicely into the slots in our machine became more and more impossible. Over time, the drink section stopped keeping drinks cold, and the machine’s limited change-making function made extra work for those of us at the front desk.  I was constantly clearing out the bills and coins, then refilling the coins. It gradually got to the point where this was becoming the focus of my life!

In September 2015, we reached the end of an era. I simply had to stop refilling the machine so I could concentrate on other areas of my job.  The machine lay empty for the next few months. During this time, I heard comments such as “oh, it’s still empty,” and “looks like it’s all sold out again.” It was time to look for a replacement.

We had a few important criteria to consider: snacks and drinks had to be in the one machine (as we have only one available space); the machine had to be small enough to fit into the space; snacks and drinks had to be healthy (and peanut-free); refilling the machine had to be the responsibility of the vendor; and the service would need to be free, as SSC is a non-profit and could not afford to pay monthly fees.

Finding a supplier who could meet all of these requirements took longer than anticipated. I contacted four local healthy snack vendors. None of them were able to fulfill all our criteria.

I had just about given up hope when I received an email from KarmaBox, a Californian-based company with local franchisees. I checked their website and saw that they met all our criteria. I met with their local representative, Nancy McAloon, and discovered KarmaBox was a perfect match for SSC! They could provide us with the vending machine of our dreams. We had a few problems actually getting the machine installed (broken pallet jack, snowstorms), but on February 15 our machine was fully operational. And we love it!

The computerized machine lets Nancy know an item is running low, so she can immediately restock it, and the machine accepts credit cards as well as bills and coins. Nancy has already made a new friend – one of our young students, who was mesmerized with our KarmaBox.  Stocking the machine, she answered his many questions concerning healthy snacks, but didn’t quite know how to reply to his statement, “using your credit card is not good for your bank account!”   I’m not sure how I’d reply either, but I do know that having a grumbly belly is not good for a productive afternoon.  I’ll use my credit card!

Sharon Bohan is South Shore Conservatory’s Hingham Campus Manager.

Creative Sources of Inspiration

edwina-and-margaret-liBy Margaret Li
What inspires musicians to do what they do?  What gives them inspiration to pursue and share?  Inspiration can come from anywhere and appear in any form. It also means different things to different people.  Sometimes, the most mundane thing can lead to a burst of creativity, a period of productiveness, a spark to a writer’s block, a new way to approach something.  It’s this unifying notion of inspiration that brings together SSC’s piano faculty for a concert of music that moves us, called Inspirations.

For me, one of my earliest memory of inspiration came from a thunderstorm.  Thunderstorm?  Sure, there is repertoire out there that depicts rain and thunder. Beethoven’s Symphony 6 is the first to come to mind.  But no, I am speaking about an actual thunderstorm!  One that cut our electricity and plunged our house into darkness one day.

This being before the Internet and cell phone days, our regular recreations of drawing and reading were augmented by creating music.  What better way to ride out a blackout than creating some music to fill the darkness and silence?  Our entire family gathered together: chairs were drawn around the piano, the big red flashlight placed on the piano desk, music books opened.  One of our older sisters thought it might be fun to have either my twin sister Edwina, or myself play a piano duet with her.  What a revelation!  It was then that Edwina and I thought to try playing piano four-hand ourselves, with our older sister acting as teacher.  As a youngster terrified of the dark and storms, I found that particular night pass quickly. It was the only enjoyable blackout I can remember.

Learning to play the piano can be a solitary endeavor.  The instrument demands patience, perseverance, motivation and self-discipline.  So it was in that moment that all those factors came into play, and it felt all at once effortless.  After that, our teacher could barely keep up with our insatiable requests for more duets.  It is luck that I was born with my musical partner, and we could discover the repertoire together as we continued our studies.

As to the source for an inspiration for Inspirations, my sister and I have chosen to perform two movements from Eric Ewazen’s A Suite from the Cloud Forest.  Ewazen was a wonderful inspiration in our early years; one could not have had a more dynamic, charismatic, upbeat theory and ear training teacher than he.  A nine o’clock theory class on Saturday mornings was something to look forward to, even if class was relocated behind the elevators due to construction and we got lost finding the room!  An accomplished composer who has written a wealth of music that is constantly being performed around the world, he has opened a whole new door of discovery by instilling the thorough study of music.  Recently, we came across a single copy of his Suite and thought, “what could be a more fitting venue than Inspirations to share music of his in the form we love best to play?”

Inspiration is all around us – that which is a constant state of wonder and open mindedness – come find out what some of our accomplished piano faculty have been inspired by!   South Shore Conservatory’s Conservatory Concert Series presents Inspirations on Sunday, March 12 at 4 pm at 64 St. George Street in Duxbury, and Sunday, March 19,
4 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  Admission is free. Audience members are encouraged to reserve their seat by leaving their name and number of guest attending on SSC’s box office at 781-749-7565, ext. 22 or by visiting

Pianist Margaret Li has been with South Shore Conservatory since 2000 and is co-chair of SSC’s Faculty Council.  

Join us for American Music Camp for Strings!

By Amanda Smith Roberts
As each year seems to fly by faster than the last, I always look forward to the warm months of summer, when we get to enjoy all of the outdoor events that take place in the Jane Carr Amphitheater at South Shore Conservatory (SSC).  Cold winter months, however, signify impending summer fun, as summer planning is in full swing this time of year.  For me, this means planning the next American Music Camp (AMC) for Strings!  AMC for Strings began at SSC in the summer of 2015 when I had the vision of bringing a diverse string camp to South Shore Conservatory. The goal was to provide students with fun classes and creative opportunities that would boost their playing skills, introduce them to new musical styles, improvisational skills, various techniques for their instruments, all of which help them enjoy creating and sharing music with each other.  The 2015 inaugural camp was such a great success that the faculty and majority of student campers returned for our 2016 camp.

The wide range of camp classes allows students to explore new areas of string playing. To ensure students are placed in classes geared to their interests, playing level, and age group, each camper is asked to fill out a questionnaire where they can both choose classes they are most interested in joining, and tell me a little bit about themselves.  A top favorite class has been Old Time Radio Show, reminiscent of Prairie Home Companion, where students learn to write a script and run a variety show that hosts the daily student recitals.  Faculty interviews, student-told jokes, and a game show were a few of the many fun components of this class. Another big hit was Movie Music and Arranging, where students create their own renditions of their favorite film scores.  SSC’s rock-star, guitarist Erik Calderone joined the AMC faculty last summer, and formed the “Noodle Band,” a large student rock band that wrote some rockin’ songs – specifically about pasta. We had so much fun!

It is hard to explain the unique AMC experience in words, so we are offering a FREE preview of the camp to anyone looking to try it out! The AMC Preview event is Saturday, March 11 from 3-6 pm in Hingham.  Students are encouraged to bring their instruments and join us for FREE fiddle workshops provided by the amazing AMC faculty! This event is open to students ages 3-18 of all levels, experience, and stringed instruments (violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar, mandolin).  Classes include: Irish and American Styles, Rock’n’Roll, Irish Foot Percussion, Improvisation, Jamming, and more! We will also hold a raffle to give students a chance to win a mandolin and other prizes!

AMC for Strings gives students a taste for what is possible on their instruments, and helps them find their individual musical voices. This five-day summer camp provides opportunities for all string students, ages 3-18, regardless of their experience or musical background. Each day includes an all-camp jam session and student performances in the amphitheater, where kids can showcase anything from solo works to original band projects formed with friends at the camp. One would have to fly all over the nation to accumulate such an expansive variety of experiences that they will gather in five days. I could not be more excited to continue offering something so unique and wonderful for anyone looking for an amazing musical experience!

South Shore Conservatory’s American Music Camp for Strings runs from June 25-30 at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  For more information about the camp or the preview event, visit, find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook, or call 781-749-7565, ext. 10.

Amanda Roberts is the chair of South Shore Conservatory’s string department.