Creative Sources of Inspiration

edwina-and-margaret-liBy Margaret Li
What inspires musicians to do what they do?  What gives them inspiration to pursue and share?  Inspiration can come from anywhere and appear in any form. It also means different things to different people.  Sometimes, the most mundane thing can lead to a burst of creativity, a period of productiveness, a spark to a writer’s block, a new way to approach something.  It’s this unifying notion of inspiration that brings together SSC’s piano faculty for a concert of music that moves us, called Inspirations.

For me, one of my earliest memory of inspiration came from a thunderstorm.  Thunderstorm?  Sure, there is repertoire out there that depicts rain and thunder. Beethoven’s Symphony 6 is the first to come to mind.  But no, I am speaking about an actual thunderstorm!  One that cut our electricity and plunged our house into darkness one day.

This being before the Internet and cell phone days, our regular recreations of drawing and reading were augmented by creating music.  What better way to ride out a blackout than creating some music to fill the darkness and silence?  Our entire family gathered together: chairs were drawn around the piano, the big red flashlight placed on the piano desk, music books opened.  One of our older sisters thought it might be fun to have either my twin sister Edwina, or myself play a piano duet with her.  What a revelation!  It was then that Edwina and I thought to try playing piano four-hand ourselves, with our older sister acting as teacher.  As a youngster terrified of the dark and storms, I found that particular night pass quickly. It was the only enjoyable blackout I can remember.

Learning to play the piano can be a solitary endeavor.  The instrument demands patience, perseverance, motivation and self-discipline.  So it was in that moment that all those factors came into play, and it felt all at once effortless.  After that, our teacher could barely keep up with our insatiable requests for more duets.  It is luck that I was born with my musical partner, and we could discover the repertoire together as we continued our studies.

As to the source for an inspiration for Inspirations, my sister and I have chosen to perform two movements from Eric Ewazen’s A Suite from the Cloud Forest.  Ewazen was a wonderful inspiration in our early years; one could not have had a more dynamic, charismatic, upbeat theory and ear training teacher than he.  A nine o’clock theory class on Saturday mornings was something to look forward to, even if class was relocated behind the elevators due to construction and we got lost finding the room!  An accomplished composer who has written a wealth of music that is constantly being performed around the world, he has opened a whole new door of discovery by instilling the thorough study of music.  Recently, we came across a single copy of his Suite and thought, “what could be a more fitting venue than Inspirations to share music of his in the form we love best to play?”

Inspiration is all around us – that which is a constant state of wonder and open mindedness – come find out what some of our accomplished piano faculty have been inspired by!   South Shore Conservatory’s Conservatory Concert Series presents Inspirations on Sunday, March 12 at 4 pm at 64 St. George Street in Duxbury, and Sunday, March 19,
4 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  Admission is free. Audience members are encouraged to reserve their seat by leaving their name and number of guest attending on SSC’s box office at 781-749-7565, ext. 22 or by visiting

Pianist Margaret Li has been with South Shore Conservatory since 2000 and is co-chair of SSC’s Faculty Council.  

Join us for American Music Camp for Strings!

By Amanda Smith Roberts
As each year seems to fly by faster than the last, I always look forward to the warm months of summer, when we get to enjoy all of the outdoor events that take place in the Jane Carr Amphitheater at South Shore Conservatory (SSC).  Cold winter months, however, signify impending summer fun, as summer planning is in full swing this time of year.  For me, this means planning the next American Music Camp (AMC) for Strings!  AMC for Strings began at SSC in the summer of 2015 when I had the vision of bringing a diverse string camp to South Shore Conservatory. The goal was to provide students with fun classes and creative opportunities that would boost their playing skills, introduce them to new musical styles, improvisational skills, various techniques for their instruments, all of which help them enjoy creating and sharing music with each other.  The 2015 inaugural camp was such a great success that the faculty and majority of student campers returned for our 2016 camp.

The wide range of camp classes allows students to explore new areas of string playing. To ensure students are placed in classes geared to their interests, playing level, and age group, each camper is asked to fill out a questionnaire where they can both choose classes they are most interested in joining, and tell me a little bit about themselves.  A top favorite class has been Old Time Radio Show, reminiscent of Prairie Home Companion, where students learn to write a script and run a variety show that hosts the daily student recitals.  Faculty interviews, student-told jokes, and a game show were a few of the many fun components of this class. Another big hit was Movie Music and Arranging, where students create their own renditions of their favorite film scores.  SSC’s rock-star, guitarist Erik Calderone joined the AMC faculty last summer, and formed the “Noodle Band,” a large student rock band that wrote some rockin’ songs – specifically about pasta. We had so much fun!

It is hard to explain the unique AMC experience in words, so we are offering a FREE preview of the camp to anyone looking to try it out! The AMC Preview event is Saturday, March 11 from 3-6 pm in Hingham.  Students are encouraged to bring their instruments and join us for FREE fiddle workshops provided by the amazing AMC faculty! This event is open to students ages 3-18 of all levels, experience, and stringed instruments (violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar, mandolin).  Classes include: Irish and American Styles, Rock’n’Roll, Irish Foot Percussion, Improvisation, Jamming, and more! We will also hold a raffle to give students a chance to win a mandolin and other prizes!

AMC for Strings gives students a taste for what is possible on their instruments, and helps them find their individual musical voices. This five-day summer camp provides opportunities for all string students, ages 3-18, regardless of their experience or musical background. Each day includes an all-camp jam session and student performances in the amphitheater, where kids can showcase anything from solo works to original band projects formed with friends at the camp. One would have to fly all over the nation to accumulate such an expansive variety of experiences that they will gather in five days. I could not be more excited to continue offering something so unique and wonderful for anyone looking for an amazing musical experience!

South Shore Conservatory’s American Music Camp for Strings runs from June 25-30 at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  For more information about the camp or the preview event, visit, find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook, or call 781-749-7565, ext. 10.

Amanda Roberts is the chair of South Shore Conservatory’s string department.

In Matters of Love

allison-lynchBy Allyson Lynch
In just a few days, the diversely-talented voice faculty of South Shore Conservatory (SSC) takes the stage for a Valentine-themed concert called In Matters of Love. I am very excited to be singing in this performance because I am the newest addition to SSC’s voice faculty. This is the first time I will have the opportunity to perform alongside my new colleagues.

In July 2016 I began teaching voice at SSC. I started teaching just a few private students, then added Summer Vocal Institute teaching, and this fall took on some group voice classes. It’s hard to believe that since this summer I have taught close to 40 voice students!  What an honor it’s been to join this amazing faculty, because I was once a student at South Shore Conservatory myself. This is the place I studied and learned so much about music and my voice, and where I continued to develop my love for singing as a teenager. It has been incredible to work alongside this faculty, whom I have always looked up to.  It feels as though I have come full circle.

When asked what kind of music I love, the answer was simple. I have loved musical theater my entire life. The upbeat dance numbers, the emotionally-charged ballads, and the beautiful love duets engage the listener in such a true and meaningful way. Some of my favorite composers in this genre include classics such as Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bock and Harnick, and Sondheim as well as more contemporary writers such as Alan Menken, Jason Robert Brown and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

In my last year as an SSC student, I started singing classical music, and went on to study it in college at The Hartt School. I quickly developed a love for opera, which is really the original, more dramatic version of musical theater! Some of my favorite classical composers to listen to (and to sing) are Puccini, Faure, and Richard Strauss.

In matters of love within my own life, music has always played an important role. I am a newlywed and met my husband David when we were both freshmen at Hartt. He was a fellow voice performance major and an immensely talented tenor. Needless to say, I heard him sing and was hooked from the start! We love singing together – at our church job, along to the radio, in recitals. Any opportunity to sing with each other, we will take it. We got married this past October, and music played very prominent role in our beautiful outdoor ceremony. We had friends sing us down the aisle, along with an incredible acoustic guitar player, and we quoted from love songs that have special meaning to us.

The text of the song I am singing for In Matters of Love was actually read during our wedding ceremony.  It’s one of my favorite poems by E.E. Cummings called I Carry Your Heart.  The beautiful melody was written by John Duke, and the song is very special.  Music is and always will be a huge part of our life as a couple.  I hope you’ll come and hear this heartfelt tribute to all things love-related.

South Shore Conservatory’s Conservatory Concert Series (CCS) presents In Matters of Love on Sunday, February 11, 4 pm at SSC’s Duxbury campus at 64 St. George Street.  Admission to the concert is free, and audience members are invited to join the performers for a reception following the performance.  For more information, visit

Feeding your soul in the New Year


South Shore Conservatory offers an adult ukulele class this spring.

By Elaine Sorrentino
I own a $400 drying rack.  You may think this a bit extravagant until you discover it was not purchased as a clothes rack; it was purchased as an elliptical trainer one January not long ago, so that I might shed the extra pounds that sneak up during the holidays.  My New Year’s resolution to spend at least 25 minutes on the elliptical lasted an entire two weeks before I discovered that sleeping later than 6:00 am was preferable to dragging myself out of bed to exercise.

This is a story we’ve all heard before.  Make a resolution, break a resolution.   But there IS one resolution I made and have not broken.  It’s my resolution to do something fun that feeds my soul and stimulates my brain.

In January of 2008 I joined South Shore Conservatory’s Woman Song, an cappella ensemble for women who love to sing.  After 90 minutes of harmony and reflection, I leave relaxed and invigorated, feeling loved and lifted up by my fellow singers. This was the best resolution I’ve ever made.  So, while my elliptical sits in the corner virtually unused (save for the times it acts as a clothes rack), I continue to make music with my singing sisters.

My friend Su D’Ambrosio, Director of Programs and Curriculum here at South Shore Conservatory (SSC), has met many adults over the years who share that they regret giving up an instrument they played when they were young, never picking it up again.  Others share they are sorry they never tried one when they were young, and fear it’s too late. Her response is that it’s never too late! What a great resolution! Coming back to an instrument or learning one for the first time as an adult has many benefits including strengthening brain function, enjoying a sense of accomplishment, meeting new people with a common interest and simply experiencing the joy that only the creative arts can bring.

When you look around the room at one of SSC’s adult group classes, you see a combination of focused concentration, and smiles and laughter. These adult students are having fun, chuckling through the mistakes and celebrating the successes!  In addition to having introductory classes in violin, guitar and piano, we are starting an adult ukulele class this spring. Ukulele is inexpensive, portable and not too complicated to learn, so you tend to see progress fairly quickly.  The ukulele is light and easy to hold, and even our oldest students are able to manage. Ukulele also lends itself to singing along which adds an element of fun and festivity to the class.  We ran a ukulele class at the Hingham Senior Center in the fall and it was a huge hit.

Happy New Year to all, and if your resolution is to do something nice for yourself in the New Year, check out our arts-based programs at or call 781-749-7565, ext. 10 for more information.  SSC’s next semester starts the week of January 30.

Elaine Sorrentino is South Shore Conservatory’s Communications Director.