A fun camp preview for string students!

AMC 2016 cropped

By Amanda Smith Roberts
With the cold weather we’ve been experiencing, I long for the warm months of summer, when there’s an abundance of outdoor camps and performances taking place in the Jane Carr Amphitheater at South Shore Conservatory (SSC).  During these cold winter months, however, summer planning is in full swing, which for me means I am now planning for American Music Camp (AMC) for Strings 2018!

It is hard to explain the unique AMC experience in words, so we are offering a FREE preview of the camp for string students to experience the fun firsthand! AMC for Strings began at SSC in the summer of 2015 with the goal of providing students with fun classes and creative opportunities to 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.  Since its inception, AMC has inspired the majority of its faculty members and student campers to return each summer!

Our March 3 preview event allows violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar, mandolin and ukulele students, ages 3-18, to bring their instrument and explore new areas of string playing, with fun offerings such as 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, or Movie and Pop Music and Arranging, where students create their own renditions of their favorite film scores and pop tunes.  Noodle Bands, rock bands that write and perform songs about pasta, tend to pop up here and there during the event.  Students are placed in classes geared to their interests, playing level, and age group.

Other preview classes include: Irish Fiddling, Improvisation, Musical Story Telling, Foot Percussion, Pop/Movie Music Arranging, Cool Cello Techniques, and Baroque Ensembles.  Participants can buy raffle tickets for a chance to win a mandolin and other exciting prizes! Joining me for the preview are faculty members Joy Adams (cello), Andy Reiner (5-string fiddle), Hazel Ketchum (guitar), Erik Caldarone (electric guitar), and Emily Hale (Baroque ensembles).

AMC for Strings, which runs from June 24-29, gives students a unique taste for what is possible on their instruments.  Additionally, it helps them find their individual musical voices through inspiring creativity. The camp provides opportunities for all string students, regardless of experience or musical background. One of our favorite activities is the daily all-camp jam session and student performances in the amphitheater. Some of our younger students, who attend the half-day camp, return at the end of the day just for this fun activity.  One would have to fly all over the nation to accumulate such an expansive variety of experiences that they will gather in five days!

South Shore Conservatory’s AMC Preview event takes place on Saturday, March 3 from 2-5 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  To register, visit https://goo.gl/forms/XKqSnCkMUgqNCk872.  For more information about the camp or the preview event, visit www.sscmusic.org, find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook, or contact Amanda Roberts at a.roberts@sscmusic.org.

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

Support for those dealing with memory issues

By Kari O’Briant   shake-your-soul
When I first heard about Memory Cafés two years ago, I was delighted at the concept.  I’ve seen how Alzheimer’s has affected members of my own family, as well as the families of my friends; I imagine there are few people in this country who have not been directly impacted by it.  How wonderful that we are creating opportunities to support the people dealing with this disease!  I wish this had been available years ago.

In 2017, through South Shore Conservatory I began providing music therapy at Memory Cafés at various local Councils on Aging.  These gatherings, designed for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as their care partners, offer a supportive, relaxed environment that eases feelings of stress and loneliness that can occur with these diagnoses and caregiving.  I’ve been to cozy events that involved only a couple of participants and allowed time and space for deep discussion, and I’ve been to others with over 20 participants that were energetic and full of lighthearted laughter.

Cafés are typically provided in community spaces, free of charge, and staffed by individuals with experience in Alzheimer’s and dementia.  They usually center on a theme, such as a co-occurring holiday, often include engagement in an activity such as art or music, and can include educational opportunities.  Music provides space for expression and connection.

In my work, I have used music therapy interventions such as singing favorite songs, playing instruments, and songwriting, to encourage reminiscence, social connections, expressions of emotion, communication, and movement – all applicable goals for individuals attending Memory Cafés.

One of my great joys is witnessing families and communities connect through music.  Within my work as a music therapist at these events, I’ve seen:

– married couples smile at each other while recounting how they met
– individuals discuss their favorite Thanksgiving desserts and pie-making techniques
– recent strangers cheer each other taking a drum solo
– 25 people laughing and playing kazoos along to Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever”
– someone smile with delight at discovering how to play a new instrument.

Participants have the option of attending as many sessions as they like, as frequently as they would like.   This setup creates space for connecting with peers in the community that they might not ordinarily encounter.  For example, a significant number of people with Down Syndrome are expected to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s as they age, and most of the Cafés I have attended have included individuals with Down Syndrome as well as individuals without.  Too often, people who have Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities are kept separate from their peers.  Inclusion is important to building a strong and supportive community, and Memory Cafés promote inclusion in multiple ways.

It has been a pleasure to share space with these people.  Now I have the honor of facilitating the new SSC Memory Café on the third Thursday of every month at One Conservatory Drive, Hingham. While there is no cost to join in, participants are asked to register prior to each session by contacting Eve Montague, Director of Creative Arts Therapies, at 781-934-2731, x20 or e.montague@sscmusic.org. For more information on the SSC Memory Café, visit http://sscmusic.org/cat/.

Kari O’Briant, MT-BC is a board-certified music therapist.  She joined SSC’s Creative Arts Therapies faculty at South Shore Conservatory in 2011.