Music Together provides welcoming musical environment for families

Cristina McSharry Music Together class cropped

By Cristina McSharry
A few years ago, a young child in my care, who was diagnosed with autism just before his 2nd birthday, could not communicate his needs in a typical way. Often out of frustration he would lash out into tantrums – screaming, kicking, sobbing. The same child sat in a circle with other children his age, while a music therapist began to strum her guitar. The child froze, staring at the instrument and his eyes widened. They sparkled as his expression softened into a smile. For the next 45 minutes, the child interacted and expressed himself alongside his peers. There was pure joy in his face.

I’ve worked with young children, ranging in ages three months to three years old for the last six years. Coming from a musical background myself, singing is one of my “go-to” methods for any situation, difficult or otherwise, involving children. Remembering the way my father softly sang lullabies at bedtime, it becomes a natural habit for me to sing it to children in my care at nap time when they are having difficulties falling asleep. My many years of dance classes inspire dance parties in the afternoons when the children are exhausted from a long day and need some stimulation and fun. Recalling my father’s ability to create a song out of any word or topic becomes my way to help children transition in a smoother way. I could rattle on about 100 other ways I use music to motivate and engage the children in my care on a daily basis, but my point is… it works, and we are all happier taking advantage of it.

Everyone loves music. Whether listening to your favorite station or song on the radio, dancing at a wedding, or singing your child’s favorite song over and over again, music is all around us. Up until last year, I had left my years of dance classes, musical theater performances and singing lessons behind to pursue early childhood education as a career. Although I did use music with children in the ways I described earlier, it wasn’t until I watched that child with autism engage in a music therapy enrichment program that I realized how much more special music could be. I had to find out how I could provide a musically enriching experience for the children in my care, similar to the music therapy program. An internet search led me to South Shore Conservatory’s Music Together®.

An international research-based music and movement program founded by Ken Guilmartin and Dr. Lili Levinowitz, Music Together combines a versatile and culturally diverse music experience for young children and their caregivers in a 45-minute session across a ten week semester. Encouraged by principles of how young children learn through watching and through play, Music Together encourages caregivers to model the music-making throughout the session by following along with the Music Together teacher. The program includes a CD and songbook to continue music-making at home or in the car. As an early childhood educator and new Music Together teacher, I can tell you first hand that your child will learn much more from watching you than she will from watching me.

Since finding Music Together I am a much happier person for having music back in my life on a regular basis. Providing a welcoming musical environment for families to come together and make music has been very rewarding for me. Week to week, I see parents and their young children bonding in similar ways I remember as a child with my dad. Everyone is competent and capable of learning rhythm and tonality at any age. Whether you are a shy singer or a professional musician, your child deserves more musical experiences with you. Music Together demonstrates how naturally gifted and inspired children can be.

Come join us this summer at South Shore Conservatory.  The first of two Music Together summer sessions starts the week of May 31. For more information, visit us at sscmusic.org.

Cristina McSharry has been a Music Together teacher at South Shore Conservatory since January, 2016.

SSC Community Voices Presents A World of Music!

SSC Community Voices May concert 2016

If you’re looking for an inspirational, concert of cheerful music about the world and from around the world, check out South Shore Conservatory’s SSC Community Voices and SSC Community Voices ! concert on Sunday, May 22, 3 pm at Inly School, 46 Watch Hill Drive in Scituate.  It is free and open to the public.

These two non-auditioned choruses that provide joyful ensemble singing and performance opportunities to over 50 adults and young adults with developmental delays. These choruses are funded by the Cordelia Family Foundation.  Their support of these choruses has provided greater access for many more singers, nearly doubling the choruses in size, and necessitating the larger performance space for this combined chorus spring concert.

A World Of Music features songs such as Arirang, What a Wonderful World, Waltzing Matilda, and Three Dog Night’s Joy to the World.  Both choruses will sing together Sibelius’ Finlandia (This Is My Song) and I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.

SSC is grateful to Inly Head of School, Donna Milani Luther and the entire Inly School community for the use of their beautiful performance space.

To learn more about this unique chorus, please visit http://sscmusic.org/class_ssc-community-voices.html.

Walking in an artist’s footsteps

Kindergarten Art Show May 13, 2013

By Elaine Sorrentino
Every spring South Shore Conservatory (SSC) PreK and Kindergarten students don their finest attire and treat their family and friends to a fabulous art show which features student art, inspired by well-known artists.  These beautiful pieces are not the kind of artwork you would pin up on your refrigerator for fear of sticky fingers destroying it.  Meticulously crafted, they are more the quality of artwork you might want to frame and put up on your wall.  They are really that good.

As an arts-integrated program, SSC’s PreK and Kindergarten program strongly encourages students to create open-ended art, meaning we give them the tools they need and let them follow their imaginations. This special artist study component of the curriculum, however, is teacher-directed, and allows students to learn interesting age-appropriate facts about famous artists, study their art in a way that makes sense to children, and mimic their style. This leads to a deep understanding of the essence of each artist’s style and the building blocks of art in general, which we see them apply in the spontaneous, non-directed art that they create.

People often assume that young children cannot relate to fine art or classical music.  We have discovered this is not true.  When you break something complex down to its fundamental elements, children can appreciate it and embrace it at their level of comprehension.  At SSC, when we present a piece of fine art to children, we focus on basic concepts, such as shape, color, line and composition.  We ask the children what they see in each piece, and talk about how it makes them feel.  It’s astonishing how over time students are able to recognize other pieces by the same artist.  For example, our students are pretty adept at recognizing the abstract artwork of Wassily Kandinsky, whose art focuses on circles, triangles and squares, rather than on a particular subject.

This year’s PreK class studied Henri Matisse, Wassily Kandinsky, Joseph Albers, Andy Warhol, and Annie Leibovitz. Students were encouraged to buddy up with a PreK friend to create some pretty creative Leibovitz-like photographs, posed and shot by students.  They also created lots of Warhol’s pop art soup cans. (No, they had nothing to do with the recent art heist in Missouri!)

Our Kindergarten students studied the fine art images of Paul Klee, Picasso, Faith Ringgold, Georgia O’Keeffe, Vincent Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Edward Hicks, and Charles Burchfield.  In fact, some of their Burchfield artwork was featured at the Hingham Public Library earlier this year.

To create an art museum feel, teachers transform the classrooms into magical, art-filled spaces. They mat and mount each piece of art (over 100 in each classroom) and attach a tag with the student’s “artist” name.  In the Kindergarten museum this year you’ll see artwork by Hank O’Keeffe, Elizabeth O’Keeffe, Griffin O’Keeffe, Evelyn O’Keeffe…you get the idea.  Putting on a show of this magnitude also gives teachers the chance to discuss and model concepts such as the proper way to act in an art museum, how to be a polite, inviting host, and how to guide your guest around a museum. The best part is watching them lead their families from piece to piece with a great look of pride on their faces, explaining each work like a tour guide at the MFA.

We invite you to join South Shore Conservatory’s PreK and Kindergarten students as they present their spring art exhibit on Wednesday, May 18 from 5 – 6:30 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  The show is free and open to the public.  Learn about this program, which still has limited openings for the 2016/2017 school year, at http://sscmusic.org/preschool_kindergarten.html, or call 781-749-7565, x36.

Elaine Sorrentino is South Shore Conservatory’s Communications Director and a literacy specialist in SSC’s PreK program.

Congratulations Graduating Seniors!

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Congratulations to the eight graduating seniors who performed beautifully in Friday’s recital.  Left to right:  flutist Jillian Benway, bassoonist Angela Connors, bassoonist David Leen, flutist Katie Johnson, vocalist Molly Cahill, vocalist Victoria Ellis, violinist Justin Conner and percussionist Phillip Bishop.

Honoring our graduating seniors in recital

Justin cropped

Violinist Justin Conner

We are incredibly proud of our graduating seniors and get a little teary-eyed just thinking about them leaving.  Many of these students have been part of the South Shore Conservatory family since elementary school.  In order to give them the send off they deserve, we are having a Graduating Seniors Recital on Friday, May 6, 7 pm at our Hingham campus at One Conservatory Drive.  If you don’t have plans, we highly recommend attending this free concert.  You’ll be moved by the talent and dedication of both the students and the teachers.  You may even shed a tear or two.

Students performing include: Justin Conner, who has participated in our Bay Youth Symphony since its inception nine years ago;  Flutist Katie Johnson, a student of Donald Zook who has won competition after competition the past few years; bassoonist Angela Connors, student of Janet Underhill;  flutist Jillian Benway, student of Donald Zook; vocalist Victoria Ellis, student of Maria Marini; vocalist Molly Cahill, student of Lorna Jane Norris;  bassoonist David Leen, student of Janet Underhill; and percussionist Phillip Bishop, student of Ed Sorrentino.

We wish these and all SSC graduating seniors (some were not free to perform on this night) the very best in their future endeavors,  thank them for joining our SSC family, and hope they come back and visit often.

 

A Shift Towards Access

Handicapped Parking

By Anne Smith
A few weeks ago, we received a call from Plymouth resident Sandy Spekman.  She is new to the area, and wanted to know what accommodations South Shore Conservatory could make for someone with hearing loss (Sandy uses cochlear implant speech processors to hear.)   We assured her we would have the lyrics printed for her so that she would know what the singers were saying.

After the concert Sandy shared her personal experience as an arts patron with hearing loss.  She told me, “My husband and I moved from the NYC Metro area one year ago.  In New York City there is more hearing accessibility (than in Massachusetts).  Just as a person with mobility issues can’t access a building without a wheelchair ramp, I can’t access most cultural events without some kind of accommodation.  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 to many arts organizations.

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.  I learned whom to contact to learn about what accommodations you could make available for me.

When I arrived at the concert tonight, I was given a set of lyric sheets.  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.  Thank you for welcoming me and for making the concert accessible. I had a great time.”

This experience with Sandy was an exciting and pivotal moment in the life of this organization.  We have spent the last two years thinking deeply about accessibility.  Access to the arts is at the core of SSC’s mission: we have large Community Partnerships program and a flourishing Creative Arts Therapies department.  Until recently, though, it never occurred to me what a large (and steadily growing) segment of our population requires accommodation in order to fully participate in the arts.

Last year, SSC was chosen to be a founding member of the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s UP Inclusive Design Initiative. Through this year-long series of workshops, we learned to ask, “What more can we do to include and welcome people of all abilities?” across the full spectrum of our organization – classes and concerts, to development and marketing.  The answer is, “So much more!”

The new “Access” tab on the home page of our website is the most visible sign of this culture shift.  There, our friends can find information about the physical accessibility of our two campuses, watch “Social Story” videos introducing our programs, and learn who to contact for American Sign Language interpretation.  We are also working on creating training manuals for our front-desk staff and volunteers, professional development sessions for our faculty, large-print programs for our friends with vision limitations at concerts, and (new this week!) arm chairs available for those with mobility issues at all events.

SSC has grown so much over the last 18 months, yet we still have a ways to go. Sandy had some valuable, constructive criticism for us that we welcomed whole-heartedly.  Please, come visit us.  Come to a concert.  Sign up for a class. Tell us about your experience.  Help us learn. Everyone is welcome at South Shore Conservatory!

Anne Smith is the South Shore Conservatory’s Director of Community Partnerships.