By Su D’Ambrosio
When I talk to my friends about qualities they would like to see in their teens, I often hear things such as “responsible,” “confident,” “strong work ethic,” “joyful,” and, of course, “communicative.” While I’m not sure there are too many activities that can inspire a teen to become chatty with their parents, music and the arts can strengthen all of the others and more.
If you ever get the chance to observe an ensemble rehearsal, look in and you will see the most amazing thing: teens working together toward the common goal of making something beautiful happen. Well, at first it might seem like cacophony, but over time the sounds do come together to blend in harmony. You can even see the elusive skill of communication developing, especially if you have the opportunity to sit in on a small group rehearsal like a quartet or even a rock band. In those rehearsals you see students using eye contact and body language to let each other know when to start or when a solo is about to wrap up. Sometimes, during a performance, players can get a piece that has gone astray back on track without anyone in the audience knowing, simply by using physical cues.
When it comes to rock bands in particular, this type of collaboration might come as a surprise. Stereotypically, a “rock star” can appear conceited and self-absorbed. There can be a bit of a cutthroat dynamic in the entertainment world, with one group trying to out-perform another. At South Shore Conservatory (SSC) we work hard with students to make sure this is not the case for them.
Two of my favorite teen events are Open Mic Night and Middle School Monster Jam. At these events I see student musicians cheering each other on, encouraging each other as they perform and take risks on the stage. Each band and performer has something special to offer in this community of like-minded teens. It is a fun and safe environment for making music and making new friends. I also enjoy seeing our resident rock bands, such as Toast, No Bueno and Lights in the Basement, develop a following and becoming leaders in this community. At the last event I attended, I saw students take the stage with their peers, work together to produce a fantastic product, then become part of the audience to support the next group of performers. There was a true sense of community for these students. Parents were there as well, participating in the moment and sharing their pride in and love for their kids.
Many of these students started out with programs such as April Vacation Rock Camp happening at our Duxbury campus next month, or Jazz/Rock/Pop Summer Camp in Hingham this August. These kinds of programs bring students together from many towns across the south shore and help them connect with other teens interested in exploring rock and pop music. Faculty member Erik Caldarone coordinates these camps and makes sure that everyone has a great time and opportunities to grow as a musician and young person.
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 jams with his doggie friends in his band: The Rolling Bones.