Live storytelling at SSC: October 27

Storytelling - MassmouthBy Michael Busack
What if I told you had forty-two first cousins? It’s an interesting fact, but with little context, it doesn’t mean all that much. Now, what if I told you I had forty-two first cousins, but some might say it’s only forty? Would you want to hear more?

Well, the rest of the story is that my mom had ten siblings, and my father had thirteen.  After they all married and had children, the original twenty-four increased by forty children. However, before I was born, my mother’s brother and my father’s sister fell and love and married. They soon had two kids that would become my “kissing cousins,” meaning they are equally my cousins on both sides. So, should I count them twice?  They are more similar to me and my brother genetically that anyone else in my family.

This deeper dive into my family history illustrates an important point about storytelling: details and delivery matter. In fact, storytelling is an artform that stretches all the way to ancient Egypt. Today the art of storytelling from the stage, in front of an audience, is wildly popular, with events and “slams” rising up all over the country, and popular radio and television shows such as “The Moth,” “The Tank,” and “Stories from the Stage” riveting listeners internationally.

Growing up as part of the large aforementioned clan, family lore and how it was told became an important part of our identity. When we would gather together as a family, conversation would inevitably turn into a game of “remember the time when…”  Each time stories were retold, reenactments became more animated, voices a little more comical, and the legend would grow.

I fell in love with the art of telling a story from a young age, and have I’ve carried it with my as I became a young journalist, and now as I tell stories as a marketing and communications professional for mission-driven organizations such as South Shore Conservatory. I love telling the story of an organization that believes in a bold vision, such as “making music, changing lives.”

When I arrived at SSC, I was immediately struck by the number of people the organization touches through music, dance, creative arts, yoga, drama and more. I thought “What an perfect pairing, introducing storytelling to such an arts-appreciative audience.”

I’m proud my vision comes true on October 27, when SSC presents Crescendo: Live Storytelling at SSC – In Partnership with Massmouth. This special event features professional storytellers sharing stories connected to the theme “Face the Music,” live from Cox Hall at SSC’s Hingham campus.

To present this event, SSC partners with Massmouth, a Boston-based non-profit organization that promotes the timeless art of storytelling through storytelling events throughout Greater Boston. Massmouth also partners with WGBH and World Channel each month to produce a national television broadcast, called Stories from the Stage, honoring the art of live storytelling.

Audience members at Crescendo are sure to be intrigued by vivid tales of moments tellers had to ditch their fears and “face the music.” You won’t want to miss it.

Crescendo: Live Storytelling at SSC – In Partnership with Massmouth is Saturday, October 27, 7 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  General admission tickets are $20, and may be purchased at  A cash bar is available, and a reception with performers immediately follows the performance.

Michael Busack is South Shore Conservatory’s Senior Director of External Relations.     

The benefits of audition and competition

Jenny BoydBy Jenny Boyd
Allow me to paint a picture for you. You arrive at the location, check in, and wait anxiously for your turn to warm up in a practice room you wish were soundproof. With sweaty fingers, you glance over the score one last time. You run through your piece, a little too conscious of the eagerly attentive ears positioned outside the practice room. You hear a knock on the door. In the apotheosis of the audition experience, you’re summoned to the hall in which you will perform for a panel of judges.

As a pianist who has participated in over 15 competitions during my time at South Shore Conservatory (SSC), I know this scene very well. I’m acutely aware of the complex nature surrounding musical competitions, yet I believe competitions and auditions are important because they can stimulate the participant’s musical growth. The feeling of accomplishment after receiving recognition is an unparalleled thrill. One prepares vigorously for the defining performance, powering through grueling practice sessions, meticulous training, and of course, the inevitable performance anxiety. The potential for being rewarded for your hard work provides an incentive to achieve your personal best.

But, one need not even place in a competition to reap the benefits of participating. The mere process of leaving your comfort zone fosters enormous growth in one’s performance skills. The benefits of becoming acclimated to performing in “high-stakes” environments are incalculable. For a student, developing “grace under pressure” is a skill that transcends the walls of the performance hall and trickles into other arenas of your life.  After ceasing to view performing for judges as an unachievable feat, one truly feels unstoppable. The result is an expansion in self confidence and self-awareness; you discover your strengths and weaknesses as a performer, reflect upon the experience, and feel proud after doing what previously seemed impossible!

The constructive criticism provided by judges in a competition or festival also helps students grow. Young musicians receive feedback from their teacher, but seldom from other with expertise. By gaining additional perspectives on your playing, you gain a more comprehensive account of the musical areas upon which you can improve.

Keep in mind, in competition there is abundant room for personal bias in the judging process. One judge, for example, may favor a certain repertoire and style because it aligns with the judge’s personal preferences. Another judge may value interpretive originality over technical accuracy because he/she prizes this value in his/her own playing. By the same token, a judge may assess a student’s performance unfavorably if he/she dislikes the selected pieces or the performer’s stylistic choices. Judges are human after all, and humans often judge from the heart.

Additionally, no one knows what metrics a judge may use to determine such factors as originality, stage presence, technique, and musicality – all which are often considered in the judging process. The aforementioned cannot be quantified, and thus it is difficult to call the judging process objective.

Ultimately, the merits of auditioning and competing significantly outweigh any other factors. In music, it is important to prepare yourself for challenging experiences, thus enabling growth. As long as you are amply prepared, you can only gain from the audition experience!

South Shore Conservatory’s Festival Audition Workshop, on Sunday, October 28, from 12 – 3 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham, helps prepare students for their Junior and Senior District festival auditions. It is free and open to any student on the South Shore.  During this event students play their audition pieces for faculty and receive feedback to help them do their best on audition day.  Students wishing to participate should call 781-749-7565 x10 before October 25 to reserve their space.

South Shore Conservatory piano student Jenny Boyd was the overall winner of SSC’s 2015 Concerto Competition.

Winning South Shore’s Got Talent


By Catrina Riker
Even though I have been singing my entire life, meticulously prepared and practiced, I was shocked (in a good way) to be named the winner of Wellspring’s South Shore’s Got Talent (SSGT) competition in June.

When I was only a toddler, I remember watching the Taurino Olympics on television and hearing Andrea Boccelli sing for the first time.  It was inspiring, and piqued my interest in classical music and classical artists. I have seen videos of myself as a young child trying to mimic female classical singers such as Sarah Brightman.  No wonder I decided to study opera.

My mom has always been very supportive of my classical music education, playing Andrea Boccelli’s music so I could familiarize myself with his songs, and encouraging me to take voice lessons at South Shore Conservatory (SSC), which I’ve been doing for three year, since fifth grade.  Up until now I’ve been studying with voice teacher Emily Browder-Melville.  In addition to private lessons, I’ve been involved in the Accelerando Program, which gave me  the opportunity to play for other students and faculty members, and explore topics such musical interpretation, expressivity, how to manage nerves and body awareness. I’ve also gone to Summer Vocal Institute for the last four years, take piano, and have gone to Piano Camp for two years.  All of these experiences were helpful in preparing for competition.

When I was in sixth grade I was at Starbucks, and saw a flyer advertising the talent show, and I thought “here’s my chance,” so I tried out and made it that year, but didn’t win. That didn’t stop me.  I came back the next year to give it another shot, and ended up winning.  To me it was a huge surprise, there were so many talented individuals already comfortable with the show environment!

For South Shore’s Got Talent, I sang Nella Fantasia, by Ennio Morricone. It is Italian and means “In my Fantasy.”  I’ve listened to that beautiful calming song for years, and never considered singing it until this year, when I thought, “People will actually really appreciate this.” So I sang it, and hoped the lyrics, which are full of hope, would touch the amphitheater audience and the judges. Emily helped me prepare. She made sure I was comfortable performing with a mic, as opera singers tend not to use mics.  This contest required it.

Pianist Brandon Santini accompanied me. I was comfortable choosing him as an accompanist, as I had sung with Brandon multiple times in my Accelerando classes.  In fact, I plan to continue singing with him for other performances in the years to come.

Preparation was nerve-wracking but it was all worth it in conclusion. I was very nervous; gazelles were leaping in my stomach but as soon as I opened my mouth to sing, I felt my nerves dissipate as I stepped into my element, and everything fell neatly into place!

Presented by Wellspring Multi-Service Center in Hull, South Shore’s Got Talent is a fundraising event that helps spread the good word of Wellspring’s impact on improving the lives of our neighbors in need in 19 South Shore towns. The winner receives a substantial cash award, a head shot session, a hair/make-up session, and a live interview on HCAM.

To learn more about South Shore Conservatory’s private lesson program and other class offerings, visit

SSC voice student Catrina Riker is 13 years old and attends Hingham Middle School. She is very excited to continue her opera studies with SSC’s Beth MacLeod Largent this fall.