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.