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.

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

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.

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!

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.

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.