Farewell and thank you Dave Marden

dave mardenOn Monday, March 28, SSC lost a very dear friend in the passing of Dave Marden. Dave came to SSC as an 80 year old adult piano student in Edwina Li’s studio.  Dave’s wife had been a pianist, and after her passing Dave decided he either needed to learn how to play her piano or give it away.

He began lessons with Edwina but was frustrated every time he came for his lesson and had to play on a much inferior instrument to the one he had at home. Dave decided to change that and buy a grand piano for SSC to put in Edwina’s studio.  When the piano arrived, Edwina said “Great! Now my sister can have my old one, because it is better than the one she teaches on.”  Dave immediately set out to get a new one for her twin sister Margaret as well.  At the time he quipped that he was grateful they weren’t triplets!

Over the years, Dave became SSC’s piano angel, buying or refurbishing seven grand pianos in all. Dave always spoke about how much joy he got from these gifts, as he could walk around the Hingham campus and see faculty and students learning and making music on his pianos.

But his generosity didn’t end there. As a final wish Dave requested that, upon his death, donations be sent to South Shore Conservatory in lieu of flowers.

Dave was a knowledgeable fan of large theater pipe organs such as “The Mighty Wurlitzer,” was a wonderful dancer, had a great sense of humor and loved SSC. For years he was a “regular” at Conservatory concerts. As much as SSC was special to Dave, he also knew how much he meant to everyone here who came to love him and his jokes. His passing has left an empty chair in our audience and a huge hole in our hearts.

Making our performances accessible to all

On March 19 we had a fun Shed Your Skin festival here at SSC.  Adult students, faculty and staff members were invited to get up and perform something outside of their comfort zone.  It was tons of fun watching vocalists tap dance, singers play bass guitar, and pianists do standup comedy in front of a very supportive audience.  It was a great eye-opening night for many reasons.

After the concert, one of our audience members shared her personal story about living with hearing loss in a cultural society.  She chose to come to our concert because she noticed the ACCESS button on our website, and knew she would be welcome.  Here’s part of Sandy Spekman’s story:

“Just like people in wheelchairs use ramps, open captioning is my” wheelchair ramp.”  Just like a person with mobility issues can’t access a building without a ramp, I can’t access most cultural events without some kind of accommodation.  I’ve noticed that cultural organizations favor mobility issues over hearing accessibility.  Why is one accessibility feature (for mobility issues) favored over hearing accessibility?  Just because hearing loss is invisible does not mean it should be ignored. Why is one part of the population left out but another is welcomed?  You would never say to a person in a wheelchair that you can’t go into my facility.  Yet, someone deaf or hard of hearing doesn’t have the same access.

I have become an advocate for people with hearing loss.  I am used to going to an organization’s website and looking up what kind of accessibility features they offer.  When I went to the SSC website, I saw right away that you had an Access tab on the home page.  Although that there wasn’t much information that is useful to those who are deaf or hard of hearing, I did learn who to contact to learn about what accommodations you could make available for me.

When I arrived at the Shed Your Skin concert on Saturday night, March 19, Beth MacLeod-Largent (SSC Director of Performance) handed me some sheets of paper with some song lyrics written out.  I was able to follow along with the lyrics as the performers sang. Hearing people take this all for granted!   I can’t tell you what a joy it was to be able to laugh along at the humor in the songs, just like everyone else.  For me, usually, when I’m listening to a song, it’s as if it’s being sung in a different language.  I know that someone is singing, but I can’t understand the words being sung.  It was so wonderful to have those lyrics in front of me so that I could participate just like everyone else.

Thank you for welcoming me and for making the concert accessible. I had a great time.”

We still have a way to go to make ourselves 100% accessible, and we are actively working on this initiative.  Stories such as this help us understand the importance of making ourselves welcoming to all.


Hey rockers, become part of something really big!

The Fine Line

High school freshmen, sophomore and junior musicians! Come and perform in a fun, energetic, high intensity rock band.  Vocalists and instrumentalists on all instruments (yes, even cello) are welcome.  All you need is commitment and dedication, as the David Jodka Scholarship for Future Rockers covers the tab for coaching and specialists for instrument and vocal coaching, sound equipment training, and branding and marketing training.  This is a great opportunity for any musician looking to expand their horizons and become part of something really big.

Once the SSC Future Rockers band is ready to perform, they will play at local venues both independently and with support from a coach. The band debuts at the second annual Dave Jodka Mad Love Music Festival on October 9, 2016 at SSC’s Jane Carr Amphitheater in Hingham.  Students must be available for coaching for 1.5 hours a week on Thursdays from 5:30 to 7 pm at the Conservatory’s Duxbury campus, at 64 St. George Street, starting as early as April 2016.  Coaching continues through the summer (with some flexibility).

Interested applicants should have a good mastery of their instrument/voice (at least two years of study), a true passion for working with an ensemble and performing in public, and must be willing to commit to the band for a 14-month period from April 2016 through June 2017.

Interested? Just complete the form at sscmusic.org/scholarships.html#jodka, and return it to SSC with a guardian’s signature.  Students should also submit a two-minute performance video playing their instrument(s) and/or singing to futurerockers@sscmusic.org.  All application materials are due by April 15, 2016.


Giving Back to Music Educators

An Eric pic

By Eric Laprade
March 2016 is Music in Our Schools Month (MIOSM)—31 days for us to celebrate the fundamental role that music plays in the complete education of our children. It’s a total of 744 hours to share (loudly!) how meaningful music education nurtures the soul of the student, inspires them to solve problems creatively, and engages almost all parts of the brain, or a whopping 44,640 minutes to create music!

The theme of MIOSM 2016 is “Music Inspires.” When I think about this phrase—music inspires—one of the first things that comes to my mind is how fortunate I have been to have such inspirational, talented and dedicated teachers. I can say unequivocally that I would not be where I am today had it not been for the support, and belief, of my teachers. I am sure that every person reading this article can think of an outstanding educator who inspired them. Henry Adams was correct when he said, “A teacher affects eternity; he/she can never tell where his/her influence stops.”

Albert Einstein so eloquently stated, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Just as music is an art form, teaching is also an art form—one that must be nurtured and constantly developed. It is so important for music educators to continually refine, broaden and evolve their craft. This why I am excited for South Shore Conservatory’s (SSC) brand new program, the 2016 SSC Music Educator Retreat.

Held in collaboration with South Shore Conservatory’s well-known Summer Music Festival (SMF), the SSC Music Educator Retreat runs from July 15-16, with a focus on nurturing music educators and inspiring them to grow as both artists and educators. The retreat is open to all music educators, regardless of what age or genre they teach—public school, private school, large ensemble directors and studio teachers.

During the two days we will explore the elements of engaging and inspiring teaching, observe outstanding teaching in action, improve our teaching effectiveness and grow as artists. The retreat will include time for personal reflection, foster a sense of collaboration between educators and provide time for music making and creative expression. Our goal is for the retreat to serve as a springboard of creativity, collaboration and personal growth, with the ultimate goal of advancing music education on Massachusetts’ South Shore. We aim to inspire the creative artist within each educator.

One of the aspects about the retreat that excites me most is our guest clinician. Noted conductor/educator Malcolm W. Rowell, Jr. is Director of Bands and Professor of Music Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and former Music Director of South Shore Conservatory’s Summer Music Festival. Professor Rowell has influenced thousands of students (myself included) and educators during this career, and we are excited to welcome him back to South Shore Conservatory to share his artistry and passion for teaching.

The 2016 SSC Music Educator Retreat runs from July 15-16 at South Shore Conservatory’s Hingham campus at One Conservatory Drive. For more information or to register, visit www.sscmusic.org/educator.html or contact Eric Laprade at e.laprade@sscmusic.org.

Eric Laprade is the current Music Director of South Shore Conservatory’s Summer Music Festival and conductor of SMF’s Festival Wind Ensemble. He has been with SSC since 2006.

Create, play, share and live: it’s Music in our Schools Month!

Festival Audition Workshop pic

by Eric Laprade, Music Director, Summer Music Festival
While I am very excited for Music In Our Schools Month, I would like to propose a name change: “Music in Our LIVES Month.”

We are all creative artists—children, parents, teachers, grandparents, CEOs, lawyers, doctors—every single one of us. The creative spirit that we advocate as being so important for our children, is in fact essential to all our lives. Picasso was right: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. I may have the solution.

For five years I had the privilege to teach in the Randolph, MA public schools. One of my fondest memories from my time in Randolph was the evening of Friday, February 16, 2013. SSC faculty member Ed Sorrentino had just completed a week-long residency in the schools, facilitating over 30 drum circle sessions with our students. The week was to culminate with one final drum circle: open to students, parents, faculty, and community members.

To witness our students, their teachers, their parents, and members of the community come together and create beautiful art was truly special and spoke directly to the music’s centrality to our lives. Not everyone in the group spoke English. In fact, some of the youngest members of the drum circle couldn’t even speak yet! No matter the differences of the members of the drum circle, music served as the great equalizer. Music brought everyone together, enabled us to communicate, create and share. It was democracy in action.

This brings me to the solution: during Music in Our Schools Month, create music, and create lots of it. I believe there is no better way to celebrate what is most important to us than to engage in unending creativity. I challenge you to attend a concert, sing in the car, get your old trumpet out of the attic, sing in the shower, tune up the old guitar, play the drums with your child, challenge a stranger to an air guitar battle, channel your inner Freddie Mercury. Most importantly, create, play, share and live!

Great turnout at yesterday’s Jazz Brunch

Jazz Brunch cropped

Great music and great food were on Sunday’s menu

A huge thank you to all who attended SSC’s fabulous Jazz Brunch Sunday, March 6. We hope you had as much fun as we did.  The music and the food were outstanding, and the house was full.  This performance was the first of three Hingham Jazz Festival “preview events” for our Jazz/Rock/Pop department musicians.

The next preview event?  Jazz at the Academy on Saturday, April 23 at Derby Academy’s Healey Family Center for Innovation at 56 Burditt Street in Hingham. Stay tuned for more details!

For tickets, visit http://sscmusic.org/hingham-jazz-festival.html.


Made in America

Katy Boc 2012

Fiddler Katy Boc

by Beth MacLeod Largent
A few years ago when we presented our first American roots concert at our Duxbury campus, the audience just loved it and were amazing at the depth of music they were hearing. When they arrived at the concert, they didn’t know what to expect, so when they heard everything from early fiddle tunes to the familiar pop and country music of our country today, they were very excited.

The feedback from this performance was so positive, that we knew we needed to share it with our Hingham audience as well. So, with the help of fiddler Katy Boc, on faculty here at South Shore Conservatory (SSC) since 2003, we have put together Made in America, a concert that features SSC’s jazz/rock/pop (JRP) department performing the tunes and songs from the vast and varied landscape of American roots music.

Katy, who had played classical violin for many years, discovered how much fun it is to use her violin as a fiddle a few years ago, when she found herself at an Irish pub listening to a session of talented musicians chew through their improvised tunes with great gusto. Katy knew this was something she wanted to be a part of, and that she needed to step outside her classical comfort zone. As she tried to improvise and stumble through some jigs and reels for the first time, she was struck by not only the beauty of the music but also by the sheer fun that these musicians were having. They weren’t rehearsing for an upcoming performance or a concert of any kind. They were simply a group of musicians, having a great time, making great music together. Since that time, Katy has focused her music-making on American roots music.

Instrumentation for this concert is a little different from other JRP department performance. For one thing, there’s no winds or brass. Made in America features a combination of fiddle, guitar, bass, mandolin, pedal steel (this is a guitar and not a percussion instrument), percussion, banjo and voice. Audience members can expect lots of fun improvisation and trading fours, and leave knowing that they have just seen a one-of-a-kind performance. With improvisation, the music is never performed the same way twice. The quality and uniqueness of this type of performance is rare to find anywhere south of Boston.

Now, I would be dishonest if I didn’t divulge the fact that we actually did try to present this American roots concert last February in Hingham. But as we all know, Mother Nature threw a monkey wrench into everyone’s plans last winter, and the performance was cancelled. Our Made in America concert needed to wait a year before we could find a date that worked for all the musicians, so we could try it again. I’ve got my fingers crossed that it will not be snowed out again this year. It’s a great concert with surprises for the audience. Did YOU know that the country music of today is actually pop music? Come and find out for yourself!

South Shore Conservatory’s Made in America concert, on Sunday, March 13, 4 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham. It is the fifth of six Conservatory Concert Series concerts, funded in part by Boston Private. Admission to the performance is free. To learn more about this and other Conservatory Concert Series concerts, please visit http://www.sscmusic.org/concert_series.html.

Beth MacLeod Largent is South Shore Conservatory’s Director of Performance and an active member of the voice faculty.