A Toast to Mad Love

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By Suzie O’Neill
When I was seven years old, I used to go with my mom and my sister every Monday night to the Ellison Center in Duxbury where they took guitar lessons from John McCarthy.  Most of the time, I sat in the corner, listening as they learned the chords to “Time After Time” and “Don’t Stop Believin’,” but every once and awhile I would wait outside the room and talk to drum teacher Ed Sorrentino.  I was a really shy kid, so when my mom found out that I liked talking to Ed, she signed me up for lessons with him.  I’ve been taking them ever since.

I played percussion in the school band in elementary and middle school, but it wasn’t until a friend asked me to be in an SSC rock band in eighth grade that I really became passionate about playing music.  I thought it was the coolest feeling when we played our songs on stage for the first time. We had mastered our specific musical parts, but when we put all our instruments together, we made unbelievable music.  I was hooked on this music thing!

As I began high school at Notre Dame Academy (NDA) in Hingham, music became an even bigger part of who I was.  I continued playing drums in an SSC rock band, and eventually got up the courage to sing a little bit too.  I taught myself how to play the ukulele, started taking guitar lessons at SSC, and took a class called Songwriting and Composition with Erik Caldarone, all of which broadened my musical horizons.

After a few years of playing in bands in the SSC Rock Band program, Erik encouraged me to apply for the Dave Jodka Scholarship for Future Rockers, funded by Mad Love Music Festival, and one of the most incredible parts of my musical journey began.  I am grateful and honored to be the drummer in the Mad Love band that came to be known as Toast.  The best way to describe Toast and the Mad Love community is as one big family: Kathleen, Clare, Andrew, Conor, and Matthew Jodka – who established Mad Love and the scholarship in memory of their husband/dad Dave – are truly inspiring, and seeing their smiling faces in the audience motivates Toast to continue working hard and spreading the Mad Love in the best way possible – by making music!  In addition, my fellow bandmates have become such good friends that I know I can always count on them.  It is crazy to think we were complete strangers a year and a half ago, and now we are a Toast family that loves making music together!

One of my favorite parts of Toast and Mad Love is the Mad Love Music Festival.  Last year, playing at the festival with Toast was an incredible experience because everyone was so happy to be together, sporting their Mad Love gear, talking with friends, and listening to music.  The Mad Love Music Festival reminds me of the really important things in life, such as laughter, good friends, and of course, Mad Love.

Heading into my senior year of high school, amid loads of homework and many college discussions, I know I’ll be alright because of the love and support of Toast and Mad Love. Although I am not planning to study music in college, it will always be a part of me.  I definitely want to play in a band with friends in college, and I will carry the many musical and life lessons that I have learned during my time at SSC with me wherever I go.  I am excited to be playing again this year with Toast at the festival, and of course, even when I head off to college next year, will always come back home for the Mad Love Music Festival!

South Shore Conservatory’s Mad Love Music Festival is Sunday, October 8, from 11 am to 5 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  More information at http://sscmusic.org/mad-love-music-festival.html or call 781-452-7455, ext. 206.


Festival Blues Brunch: September 24

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Anthony Geraci leads the SSC Jazz Trio on Sunday, September 24

It’s nearly here! Our Festival Blues Brunch, with the SSC Jazz Trio, is the best way to kick off our annual JRP Festival this Sunday, September 24 at 11 am!  Great music and yummy brunch foods from Ellen Mackenzie Catering provides a delicious duo!  Grab your tickets now to either brunch (purchase by Saturday, September 23), the 1-6 pm JRP Festival, or a combined ticket at http://sscmusic.org/jrpseries.html.

Celebrating 50 years of Sgt. Pepper on September 24

Cedar Hill Club further cropped5By Deborah Edmundson

I always enjoy September and the start of a “new year” at school and around town.  We get back into our “regular” routines, and reconnect with the friends who have traveled and vacationed away.  It can be bittersweet, but this September will be particularly sweet because South Shore Conservatory is presenting its fourth annual Jazz/Rock/Pop (JRP) Festival on Sunday, September 24.  Starting with a tasty brunch in the Carr Amphitheater, the festival will continue with small ensemble performances by SSC jazz/rock/pop faculty, and end with a performance of the Beatles’ entire Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, in honor of the 50th anniversary of its release.  It’s going to be an afternoon of great music!

My husband Phil and I have been involved with SSC for over 20 years, and have a particular attachment to the Jazz/Rock/Pop department. Our son Will became involved when he was a percussion student there. Watching the variety of teaching and performing styles of the JRP department, I was not surprised to discover it’s the fastest growing department at SSC.  Jazz, rock and pop music is probably not what you think of when you think of SSC, is it?  But it should be!  Expand your definition!  There’s nothing quite like seeing a kid play the electric guitar in public for the first time.  The sense of achievement is palpable, sometimes accompanied by the necessary “attitude,” and seeing the encouragement he/she receives from her teacher is a wonderful thing.

When we’ve attended JRP performances, the educator/performers have certainly impressed us with their musical skill.  From having our children take lessons at SSC, we already knew that the teachers work wonders, truly. But it was delightful to discover they are each accomplished and active performers in their own right.  That secret was too well kept – SSC has amazing musicians on the faculty, and we want to hear them!

At the JRP Festival, they will play a huge variety of music, from traditional jazz, to blues, rock, funk and pop.  Some covers, some original tunes, some you’ll recognize, some that will be new to you.  Some will be as comfortable as your favorite t-shirt, and others may challenge you a little.  One of the things I really like is that there’s always something I didn’t expect, whether it’s an instrument I never knew about, or a new interpretation of a song I thought I knew, or a performer’s personal story of her musical journey.  There will be something you’ll love, and something that will surprise you!

The JRP Festival is so much fun, and it’s an easy way to hear some really outstanding music.  We’re happy to go to Boston to hear great music, but even happier to support great music right here in Hingham.    It’s been 50 years since Sgt. Pepper was released.  Come and celebrate it!  Don’t let another September go by without checking out South Shore Conservatory’s JRP Festival.  I hope to see you there!

SSC’s JRP Festival is Sunday, September 24 from 11 am to 6 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  For more information or tickets, visit http://sscmusic.org/jrpseries.html.

Hingham resident Deborah Edmundson is a South Shore Conservatory overseer and a jazz/rock/pop enthusiast.

How music influenced her path in life

Chamber ensemble with Emma DwyerBy Elaine Sorrentino
“Making music and art with other humans creates a phenomenal emotional bond that connects us in a completely unique way, and to be able to experience this every day is a true blessing,” is my favorite line from an essay, written by student clarinetist Emma Dwyer about how music affected her life. I hear different variations of this statement from students and faculty members who feel fortunate to share their talent/passion daily, and witness its effect on others.  It’s remarkable.

This summer, Emma, a recent Scituate High School graduate, received the Malcolm W. Rowell Scholarship, which is awarded each year to an outstanding Summer Music Festival (SMF) musician who has been an SMF participant for at least two years, and intends to pursue a music degree. This scholarship honors Rowell’s deep commitment to music education, and his 23 years as SMF Music Director.

SMF Music Director Eric Laprade explains why she was chosen as this year’s recipient,  “Emma has a bright future as an artist and teacher. She leads through her musicianship and embodies what it means to be dedicated and committed to something you are passionate about. During her many years at Summer Music Festival, we have witnessed her develop into a leader amongst her peers. We are excited by her potential as an educator and eager to see her give back and enrich the lives of others through music making.”

Ithaca College-bound Emma has been involved with SMF for five years.  She talks about how SMF improved her playing, “When I first participated in SMF, I was entering my freshman year of high school; and my musicianship and musical abilities clearly reflected my young age. Up until that point I had never experienced advanced and mature music, but I certainly had quite the introduction when Ticheli’s Vesuvius was handed out to us that year. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement, yet this was a significant transition for me. I was suddenly exposed to an environment where the expectations higher and where I quickly learned that it was crucial for me to take responsibility and play with not only accuracy but also musical intent.”

According to Emma, the music educators in her life, both in Scituate and at Summer Music Festival, have forever impacted her life, showing her a deeper and more emotional understanding of music.  Clearly they have inspired and motivated her to pursue a career in music education, so that she too might have a similar impact on others.

“I’ve always aspired to be like the amazing music educators that have supported me in my musical career. I plan on performing as well, as I enjoy it immensely and I would like to always keep that aspect of music in my life, says Emma.

In addition to being a Scituate High School (SHS) Symphonic Band section leader for three years, and a member of the SHS Jazz Band and SHS Honors Symphonic Band for four years, Emma was also a member of the National Honor Society.  While in high school she took ballet, participated in the volleyball club, and took part in a drama festival.  We wish her luck as she continues her musical journey this fall.

To learn more about SSC programs, including Summer Music Festival, visit www.sscmusic.org, call 781-749-7565, ext. 10, or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

Elaine Sorrentino is South Shore Conservatory’s Communications Director.