Increasing abilities with Yoga for the Special Child®

SoniaBy Annie Ryan
On Saturday mornings, South Shore Conservatory (SSC) holds Yoga for the Special Child®. This Creative Arts Therapy class is provided for children like my son, James Ryan.

James is a five-year-old who loves listening to Frank Sinatra Radio on Sundays, being outside, his cousins, and school. He is a tall and very slender boy who has various medical diagnoses. He lives his life with Cerebral Palsy, a gastrointestinal tube (Gtube) for nutritional intake, and Cortical Vision Impairment. He also has a variety of medical complications. These diagnoses started directly at birth when James had an Inventricular Hemorrhage, causing a major blood clot in his brain. He is a quadriplegic and does not walk or sit up on his own. He has a wheelchair, gait trainer walker, hospital bed, body brace, eye patch, foot braces, and hand braces.  Upon meeting James and seeing his obvious physical disabilities, you will then see his contagious smile, and notice how happy he is with life. This happiness grows with the time spent in SSC’s Yoga for the Special Child® (YSC).

We were introduced to yoga teacher Gita Brown and her Yoga for the Special Child® program during a summer camp with the Fragile Footprints program of which James is a member. This program, available through Cranberry Hospice, provides family support, child life care, community resources, and more. James took part in Gita’s session during this camp and enjoyed it. Noticing his interest during the session, Gita informed us that accessible yoga classes are available through South Shore Conservatory. Seeing James so happy with and interest in yoga, we signed him up right away. He had an initial meeting with Gita, and let us know, through his excited body language, that he wanted to continue with yoga. Prior to meeting Gita, James had only experienced early intervention therapies. He has been enrolled in YSC for over a year now, and it’s an activity James looks forward to every Saturday.

When we first met with Gita and added this extracurricular activity to his typical therapies, our goal was for James to gain physical strength, but we’ve noticed so many more benefits. For example, where it was not possible before, he can now blow his nose; and when upset or ill, he now can take better breaths to give himself appropriate oxygen and calmness to heal. James has gained strength in motor ability. With Cerebral Palsy his muscles are always at work, even when sleeping. Practicing yoga gives his body the perfect stretch to his muscles in a relaxing environment. He has gained the ability to lift and hold his head up better, strength to hold himself in a supported sitting position, and is beginning to lift his legs and hold his head up more while doing tummy time on the floor. Practicing yoga has also helped his internal organs. James has small kidneys and a cyst on one of them, constipation complications, acid reflex, complications eating by mouth, and more. Yoga helps give a boost to his blood flow, teaching his body’s organs to work appropriately, and teaching his brain to send appropriate messages to his body.  While yoga has done amazing things for James in these last two years, I look forward to seeing even more surprising benefits in his yoga future.

At SSC’s Yoga for the Special Child® training last summer, James was used as a ‘model’ student. Sitting and watching him, I was blown away at the positions he can get into. I wouldn’t have thought a child with his disability could do such a thing. YSC has been wonderful for James. He has also met children with special needs who see Gita before and after his own session. If you have a child with any type of special needs, or know a child with special needs, have them meet Gita. Yoga provides an experience of strength, healing, relaxation, fun, and self-awareness. James will forever have a love for Gita and yoga. As a parent, I will forever be thankful to South Shore Conservatory for providing this amazing yoga class for my son.

Learn more about SSC’s Yoga for the Special Child at https://sscmusic.org/accessible-yoga/.

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At home with the ukulele

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By Karen Hughes
What makes a person want to play an instrument?  One suggestion from Itzhak Perlman, “They like the sound they hear in their head.”  Once I heard the laughing sound of the ukulele, I knew I wanted this instrument as part of my life.  A timely article in the Hingham Journal highlighting the formation of a ukulele group was the invitation that opened the door to a whole new experience. The Hingham Senior Center and South Shore Conservatory (SSC) were partnering to provide ukulele enthusiasts an opportunity to learn from the best and in our community.

I had never played a string instrument, or with a group, so the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere at the Senior Center (a senior-me?) was the first clue that I had found a new musical home.  We all came from various musical backgrounds.  Whether classically trained, a band musician, or a novice on any instrument, we were soon all concentrating on coordinating our fingers and strumming the sound we believed we could eventually make.

Our gifted and delightful teacher, SSC guitar faculty member Julie Morgan, carried us along in this belief, even when at times it didn’t look or sound too promising.  Julie’s enthusiastic appreciation for diversity, in people, music and learning styles, kept us laughing and playing the hard parts…just one more time.  We found ourselves exploring, stretching and celebrating our new skills. We had to toughen up tender fingers.  We shared information on the best tuners, how to use them.  If help was needed, where were the good music stores with ukulele information?

Forming a community around making music has a completely different focus than any other kind of social group.  We never have to get it all right all the time.  We can enjoy trying on different musical genres, and yes, there is a “little bit of country and a little bit of rock and roll” in all of us.  We sing with enthusiasm if not perfection. We have different strengths, and that makes the music we play more than the sum of our parts. And in busy lives, it’s good to know that having had time to practice or not, we are encouraged by each other and never leave a class without having discovered something new.

And there is magic.  Suddenly one of our accomplished members surprises us with his harmonica; smiles all around, and we suddenly understand why it’s called “playing” together.  There is strumming Happy Birthday to a loved one.  There are unexpected requests from grandchildren for their own ukulele, and then the inevitable, “Can you teach me, Grammie?”  Yes, there is magic.

Here are some other remarks from my fellow ukulele club members:

“Bliss, forgetting everything else in my life exists playing and singing along”
“Always wanted to play the guitar, and this class has given me the confidence to try”
“The group gives me permission to sing – even though everyone knows I can’t!”

We are the “Grand Ukes,” and if you like the sound of all this, come on along.

South Shore Conservatory offers a three-session beginner class on Tuesdays,
September 11, 18, and 25 from 11:15 am – 12:15 pm at the Hingham Senior Center, 224 Central Street.  The Grand Ukes start up their new session, welcoming new members and old, on October 6.  To sign up for the fun, contact Barbara Farnsworth at the Hingham Senior Center, 781-741-1458.

Creating a safe environment for vocal exploration

YouthChorus_FallConcert_0039By Peter Mundt
I believe I was in late elementary school when I discovered The Beatles among my parents record collection. It was life-changing.  This music was drastically different from the type of music I was hearing in school, and I just couldn’t get enough of it.  Before long I found myself wanting to do more than just listen to the music.  I wanted to play it.  So, I picked up my mother’s guitar and never looked back.

My teenage years were spent playing in garage bands and going out to hear live original music performed by other groups in the Binghamton/Ithaca area, which had a vibrant local music scene, of which I was happy to be a part.  Unfortunately, at the same time, music I was learning in school seemed boring and disconnected from the joy I was experiencing with making music.  I hoped to change this someday.

With this history, how ironic is it that I ended up becoming an elementary school general music/chorus teacher in a public school system? Now teaching in the Scituate school system, I have experienced great success in engaging my students. No boring music for my students! I attribute much of my success as an educator to the effort I make to not repeat the way music was presented to me in school.

My teaching philosophy is that there is a fun way to teach just about anything!  Kids deserve to be taught real music – from folk, jazz, rock, blues and classical repertoire.  I find that many of the songs and chorale arrangements written for young people are so uninspiring that they turn kids off.  This is why I dedicate so much time listening to music and arranging it myself.  I want all my students in Scituate and in South Shore Conservatory’s SSC Youth Chorus, which I conduct, to love what they’re singing. This year, the chorus sang familiar tunes such as ‘Viva La Vida,’ ‘Joy to the World,’ ‘Summer Breeze,’ ‘Happy,’ Walking in the Air,’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believin,’’ and they loved it.

In addition to fun music, I also enjoy providing my students with musical challenges.  I’m happiest when my students are excited about what they are working on, even to the point where they may feel a bit nervous.  Often their voice trembles as they step out of their comfort zone for the first time, but I can feel their excitement and know we’re in new, fertile territory.  It may be when students lock into a new harmony or sing a solo.  They experience an indescribable joy from this new awareness, which requires persistence, risk, and prior failed attempts.  It changes everybody forever!

Chorus can do this, and it’s the main reason I teach. In South Shore Conservatory Youth Chorus (SSCYC), students throughout the South Shore have the opportunity to thrive in a safe environment with other students who love to sing.  They learn the fundamentals of proper vocal production and singing in harmony.   They are encouraged to try out solo opportunities and special performance collaborations with other SSC departments (such as singing with the SSC Youth Orchestra).  It is my hope that students feel safe enough to step outside their comfort zone and come away loving to sing even more than they thought imaginable!

South Shore Conservatory invites singers in grades three through six, who are interested in learning more about SSC Youth Chorus, to participate in the chorus’s first rehearsal, an open rehearsal/pizza party on Monday, September 10, from 5 to 6 pm at SSC’s Duxbury campus at 64 St. George Street in Duxbury. To learn more about SSC Youth Chorus, visit https://sscmusic.org/sscyc/.

SSC Youth Chorus conductor Peter Mundt has been with South Shore Conservatory since 2017.

Last week’s JRP Camp was an enormous success!

Last week SSC hosted our annual Jazz/Rock/Pop Summer Camp! From August 6 to August 10, students developed critical musical skills through daily solo and ensemble coachings. In addition to learning about music technology, students also practiced songwriting and improvisation! The End of the Week Concert wrapped up the camp on August 10! The showcase featured an All Camp Band, rock bands and ensembles, solos and small groups, and breakout session demos. We can’t wait for next year’s JRP Camp!

Rosemary Hoitt: Rowell Scholarship Recipient

Rosemary HoittBy Elaine Sorrentino

“I was asked by an English teacher this year, ‘What is the most beautiful thing you know?’ My response: ‘The moment while performing when it all ties together. The moment you get goosebumps up and down your whole body, and nothing can break the beauty and power of the moment,'” wrote South Shore Conservatory Summer Music Festival (SMF) euphonium player Rosemary Hoitt in a recent essay.

Rosemary’s beautiful words were shared by Summer Music Festival Director Eric Laprade at last week’s final performance, immediately before awarding her the Malcolm W. Rowell Scholarship.  The scholarship, awarded annually to an outstanding SMF musician who has been with the program for at least two years, and intends to pursue a music degree, honors Rowell’s deep commitment to music education, and his 23 years as SMF Music Director.

Recently graduated from Norwell High School, Rosemary, a SMF participant for the past four summers, heads to Ithaca College this fall to pursue her dream of becoming a music educator. “As a music educator, I would not only strive to create these moments, but to mold students into strong individuals with strong mindsets, perseverance, and confidence. These qualities have been instilled in me by my most influential music teachers – notably the wonderful staff at Summer Music Festival – and I want to be able to pass on these lessons that are not only applicable in music but in life as well,” she says.

Eric Laprade said this about Rosemary, “It has been a privilege to work with Rosemary over the past four years, and watch her grow into the wonderful musician and human being she is today. We know she will have a positive impact on the Ithaca College community when she begins her studies this fall, and can’t wait to see all of the great things she does.”

Rosemary told me that SMF has influenced her life dramatically by introducing her to a setting and a culture where expectations were very high for all students, inspiring her to raise her own playing standards. It brought her together with ‘forever teachers and mentors,’ such as Laprade, SMF Jazz Ensemble Conductor Aaron Bush, and SMF Tuba Instructor Chip Halt.  The program has also brought her together with some of her closest friends from all over the area; friends she cherishes deeply.

I also discovered that music is not the only thing that inspires Rosemary. Her proudest non-musical moment was during Massachusetts Educational Theatre Guild’s festival competition preliminary round last year, at the Duxbury Performing Arts Center, when she performed a “giant monologue” from SubUrbia.  Rosemary had never performed it in front of an audience before, and didn’t know what to expect. The crowd went wild after her monologue, which filled her with great joy.

Having been involved in a number of ensembles and festival, she has a hard time deciding what her favorite musical experience has been. “It comes down to either the final performance of Crown Imperial during my Italy tour with NEC’s Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble this past February, or this past week when Mr. Rowell paid me a complement on a solo I had in a piece at SMF. Playing in a beautiful concert hall overseas was an amazing experience, but what was even more impactful was that a man with such a passion and influence for music came to me directly to pay a complement and to give advice.”

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

Elaine Sorrentino is South Shore Conservatory’s Communications Director.