By SSC Volunteer Mary Donius
During its annual Chase Away the Winter Blues event, the stunning transformation of South Shore Conservatory’s (SSC) Hingham campus, from a warm and welcoming center for the arts, to Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, or a 1920s speakeasy, or nightclub on the Left Bank in Paris, is nothing short of extraordinary. I’m sure this year’s Red Carpet-themed event, celebrating the Blues’ tenth anniversary on January 30, will be no exception. All this is in the name of scholarship.
At the risk of sounding corny, I see the physical transformation of the Conservatory, and the Blues event itself, as a metaphor for the magic that happens when children (and adults) have music and music education in their lives. They get to take some risks, learn a little more about themselves and, yes, get a little wild. At least that’s been my family’s experience at SSC.
It all started for us when my daughter Maggie, now a high school senior, began asking… okay, begging … for private voice lessons in fifth grade. I really had no idea what those weekly, thirty-minute sessions would lead to. Fame? Riches? A starring role in a Broadway show?
How about increased confidence? Happiness and pride about an improving skill? An opportunity to connect with some fantastic people she never would have met otherwise? It all started with Emily Browder Melville, a gifted voice teacher who has trained Maggie’s lovely singing voice. Emily has consistently encouraged and challenged Maggie to be her best and, if you will, find her unique voice.
But it’s gone much further than that. Emily co-leads SSC Community Voices, Too, a choir for adults with developmental disabilities. Because Maggie has an interest in music therapy, Emily invited Maggie to be an assistant in the group. So on Wednesday nights, after her lesson, Maggie stays for Community Voices. What a joy it has been to watch Maggie share her love of music and singing with others. The group’s holiday concert is always a highlight of the Christmas season for our family.
Maggie has also participated in Conservatory-sponsored singing competitions, and always joins in the Performathon held at Barnes & Noble at Derby Street to raise money for the Conservatory’s scholarship fund. Later this month she will perform alongside friend and pianist Jenny Boyd for the annual With a Little Help from My Friends concert that pairs voice and piano students for a magical night of music.
A couple of years ago Maggie won the annual Westerbeke Scholarship for an essay she wrote about the joy she finds in singing and performing. The confidence she has gained from these experiences has led her to try out for local musicals and join a well-established community choir and volunteer in Emily’s Music Together® classes for toddlers and their caregivers. Maggie is heading to college next year, and while she couldn’t be more excited, leaving her life at the Conservatory, at least for now, will leave a little hole in her heart.
Which brings me back to Chase Away the Winter Blues on January 30. The annual event gives me an opportunity to give a little something back to the Conservatory — which has given my family, especially Maggie, so much. It’s also a lot of fun. I’m not sure how I’m going to top my flapper outfit from last year’s Gatsby theme, but I’m sure going to try.
To learn more about SSC’s Chase Away the Winter Blues, or to purchase a ticket, visit sscmusic.org or call 781-749-7565, ext. 30. South Shore Conservatory is located at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.
Hingham resident Mary Donius has been volunteering for Chase Away the Winter Blues, which raises over $130,000 annually for scholarship and financial aid, for three years.