Michael Dempsey photo
by Jenny Boyd
Last Friday I played in my last studio recital as a piano student of Mark Goodman. The experience was just as exciting as any other performance, but it was tinged with bitter-sweetness. I was one of two recent high school graduates performing in the recital.
It was my turn to play. As I struck the last chord of Lecuona’s “Malaguena,” I listened to it reverberate, and I never wanted it to end.
I started taking piano lessons at South Shore Conservatory when I was eight years old. Now 17, I recognize the formative role SSC has played in my life. After three teachers, one chamber group, one music theory class, one summer festival, countless competitions, and even more recitals, here I am.
So, what did I learn? I learned how to properly execute a killer passage in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, and I learned the fine line between “too much” pedal and “not enough” in a Chopin ballade.
But these things, while important, are not nearly as significant as the major lessons SSC imparted to me. SSC helped me discover what makes me tick, what makes me excited to get up in the morning: music. How did they do it? Not through any masterclass or rehearsal, but through two values: mentorship and collaboration.
At SSC, I learned the value of mentorship. My piano teachers showed me endless support. Mark often held additional lessons for me as a competition neared. He even came to cheer me on at a performance I did at Carnegie Hall! He went out of his way to help me achieve my personal goals. I’ll always be thankful for his dedication to helping me succeed.
But, he wasn’t the only one who supported me along the way. I truly felt that everyone at SSC, even teachers from different departments, share his passion for helping students reach their personal best. I found inspiration in these faculty members who dedicate their lives to their craft, these musicians who hold an unparalleled commitment to helping others maximize their talents. The spirit of giving back is tangible at SSC. In these faculty members I found not only teachers, but role models.
In my opinion, an SSC education doesn’t end with the faculty members; it begins with them. At SSC, I learned just as much from my peers. I learned the value of collaboration.
In my chamber group, we always sought the perfect, euphonious blend of voices among us: piano, violin, and cello. We identified our strengths as a group, sought to improve our weaknesses, and enjoyed the victory of every successful performance together. We were a team.
But all those times I stayed after my lesson so that Mark’s next student and I could peer-perform for one another? All those times I’d celebrate the wins of my fellow students at a competition? All those times I’d cheer for a friend after a brilliant performance? Those were instances of collaboration, too.
While we may have played different instruments, studied with different teachers, or even been different ages, I shared a common denominator with my fellow SSC students: a love of music. We sought to help each other achieve our personal goals. We empathized and celebrated with one another. Music brought us together.
But, it wasn’t just music that unified us. It was SSC.
So, thank you, SSC. Thank you for supporting me along every step of my personal journey. Thank you for teaching me empathy and compassion. Thank you for helping me become not only a better musician, but a better human.