It Takes a Musical Village

By Su D’Ambrosio

Last week I attended the Massachusetts Music Educators Southeast District meeting. As I looked around the room it occurred to me that the South Shore is blessed with many dedicated educators who work hard to build and maintain strong music programs in our public schools. There was a mix of familiar faces and new teachers, with chorus, band, orchestra, jazz band and general music represented.  We reviewed plans for our upcoming Junior and Senior festivals, which bring students together from all over the South Shore for a weekend of rehearsal and performance.  In order to participate, students must audition.

Last year over 1000 students auditioned for each festival.  Just over 400 were accepted at each level. The competition is strong and students often feel the pressure at their audition. To prepare, students spend hours at school working with their band, chorus, orchestra and jazz band teachers. Many also study with a private teacher who helps them in their weekly lessons. In addition, some students participate in groups or classes outside their school, such as South Shore Conservatory’s Bay Youth Symphony (BaYS), chamber music or Mezzo Voice Class. The most successful students are those who had strong music education experiences before they even touched an instrument or joined a chorus. Elementary general music teachers set the foundation for all of the learning that takes place later, by helping students understand rhythm, tonality, musical form and reading music notation.  Teachers at all levels of a student’s musical journey contribute to their success in the audition room.

Through my own children, I have had the great privilege of observing this process firsthand. They both participated in Junior and Senior District ensembles as well as the All-State Festival. My daughter Maria was accepted into the All-National Honor Band. Both were immersed in music as babies and had the great fortune of having excellent music teachers (too many to list!) at all levels of school.  Suffice it to say that between my two girls, there have been eight public school music educators, nine private teachers on four different instruments, and fourteen group instruction teachers and conductors.  Their success in the audition room was the result of this talented village of music and arts educators. This musical village was also responsible for shepherding my daughter Maria along the path that led to The Boston Conservatory.

At South Shore Conservatory, with private instruction, group classes and small and large ensembles, we are honored to be part of so many students’ journeys through the arts. On October 30, from 12-3 pm, we are hosting a free Festival Audition Workshop at our Hingham campus to help prepare students for their Junior and Senior District festival auditions. This event is open to any student on the South Shore.  During this workshop, students have an opportunity to play their audition pieces for faculty and receive valuable feedback to help them do their best on audition day.  We are proud to be part of the outstanding village of music educators that support young musicians in our communities.

South Shore Conservatory’s Festival Audition Workshop is free to SSC and non-SSC students by reservation.  Students interested in reserving a spot, should call 781-749-7565, ext. 10 before October 26. For more information, visit

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 wants to thank Lisa at PetSmart for shepherding him on his journey through doggie obedience school.

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