By Eric Laprade
Sixteen years ago, my high school music teacher told me I had to wake up at 5:30 am every day for two weeks in the summer and drive more than an hour to attend South Shore Conservatory’s Summer Music Festival (SMF). At the time I didn’t even know where Hingham was! Sixteen years later, not only have I been a student at the festival, but also the SMF tuba instructor, chamber music coach, conductor, and I now serve as SMF Music Director. Over these 16 years, I’ve lived in three different states, taught for five years in the Randolph Public Schools, earned two college degrees, and am about to finish a third. The one consistent part of every summer, and the thing I look forward to every summer, is Summer Music Festival. In retrospect, I’m glad I listened to Mr. Watson.
Summer Music Festival changed my life. This statement isn’t cliché, it is a fact. It inspired me to pursue a career in music. Some of my closest friends and most important mentors are from Summer Music Festival; I consider them family. Each year, SMF challenges me to be a better musician, a better teacher, and a better human being. There is nothing better.
For me, there are three things that truly define the Summer Music Festival experience. First and foremost, the people. Collaborative music-making is a human art. What makes the experience so special is the opportunity to create art, in the moment, with other people who share the same passion and excitement for music-making. What we create is greater than any one of us individually. Each year, SMF attracts approximately 100 students from over 35 different Southeastern-Massachusetts schools. These students exude talent, tenacity, dedication, and enthusiasm. What they accomplish during the festival is nothing short of incredible. Along the same lines, SMF maintains a faculty of 14 world-class musician-educators; many are alumni of the festival. They are first-rate artists and master educators and empower students to reach goals beyond what they perceive as attainable. The SMF family, for over 40 summers, has created a culture of musical excellence and a legacy of music making of the highest caliber
Second, is that how and why we make music at Summer Musical Festival is unique. “Every child is an artist.” At Summer Music Festival, every student is a creative artist. In an education system dominated by standardized testing and a right vs. wrong mentality, the SMF environment empowers students to think and act creatively, to ask questions, to take risks, and to be themselves.
Finally, the environment defines the SMF experience. South Shore Conservatory’s Hingham campus is truly the Tanglewood of the east. Every summer, I get just as excited as I drive up the driveway. The facilities at the SSC Hingham campus, with its outdoor state-of-the-art amphitheater, are second to none. The opportunity to create music in such a beautiful environment, surrounded by nature, is transformative to our music-making.
Summer Music Festival 2017 runs July 6-21, 2017. We have programs for woodwind, brass, and percussion students in elementary school through college. The festival features concert band, jazz ensemble, chamber music and opportunities. Interested students should visit www.sscmusic.org/smf or www.facebook.com/sscsmf for more information.