Classic Rock Unplugged! May 10!

Jimmy CravenBy Jimmy Craven
When people think of rock music, they think of being young and carefree.  They also think of rebellion and counterculture.  They fondly recall an unfettered time in their lives.  More recently, rock music has gentrified, so there is a nostalgia element involved in the reminiscence as well.  And, over time, “like a rock star” has become the ultimate compliment!

While everybody has their favorite rock bands, these always find themselves at the top of the heap: The Rolling Stones, U2, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, Green Day, The Foo Fighters, and our homeboys, Aerosmith. What draws us in are the rebellious lyrics, great songwriting, and awesome guitar-playing (rock is a guitar-centric art form). Rock music is a fun way to escape our everyday lives!  Just think of all the current pop culture events that harken to rock music, such as the film Bohemian Rhapsody or Spinal Tap, or Wayne’s World, or the upcoming Woodstock Reunion.  People flock to these movies to relive the music.  Contemporary rock bands, such as The 1975, The Regrettes, Arcade Fire, and Yungblud, are all doing their part to keep rock alive as well.

On May 10, South Shore Conservatory’s Jazz/Rock/Pop faculty musicians are keeping the classic rock train running here on the South Shore, by presenting Classic Rock UnPlugged: intimate stories from the stage at Hingham Heritage Museum at Old Derby Academy.  Unplugged, or acoustic shows such as these, are the raw, stripped-down-to-the-bone side of rock, without the hubris and amphitheater-style arrangements. No cords, no amplifiers, no auto-tune – just unenhanced instruments and voices. The audience will enjoy rock classics from the 60s through the 90s in an intimate setting that doesn’t damage your hearing.  Plus you can talk to your friends without yelling! I’ve played multiple shows at Old Derby, and it’s killer for really connecting with the audience. When we’re playing, it feels like we’re in someone’s living room, having a conversation.

I started playing rock guitar in sixth grade. By seventh grade I was playing teen events and school dances. Performing “I’m A Man” (which I wasn’t) by the Yardbirds before a group of 1700 people in my hometown was an early performance highlight for me.  And, I still play some form of rock every weekend.  So, I have a million stories to share.  In between songs, musicians will tell the stories behind the songs, and/or share the stories that each song created in our lives as musicians.  There should be some pretty funny recollections.  I’ll be playing keyboards and guitar, and perhaps singing a bit for the audience.  I’ve performed with all of these musicians, individually, in various settings in the past, but this is a unique band created just for this one event. It’s gonna be epic!

If you’re looking to get in touch with your rebellious teen-aged self, hear classic tunes by an all-star SSC unplugged band, and have a memorable night out in Hingham, then this concert is for you!

South Shore Conservatory’s Jazz/Rock/Pop Series, sponsored by Chateau Edmus, presents Classic Rock Unplugged: intimate stories from the stage, on Friday, May 10, 7 pm at Hingham Heritage Museum at Old Derby Academy, 34 Main Street in Hingham.  This is the fourth of six performances in the 2018/2019 season.  For more information or for tickets, visit or call Beth at
781-421-6162, ext. 204.

Pianist, guitarist and synthesist Jimmy Craven has been with South Shore Conservatory since 2009.

A Place in My Heart for SSC

Student Leadership Team Fall 2019

SSC’s Student Leadership Team – David Havens is in the back row, far left. 

By David Havens

I am a senior at Thayer Academy, live in Marshfield, and have been studying percussion at South Shore Conservatory for about eight years.  Next fall I will attend Syracuse University to study Television, Radio, and Film, with a focus on sound engineering at the S.E. Newhouse School of Communications.

I started studying at South Shore Conservatory (SSC) when I was in the fifth grade, after begging my parents to sign me up for lessons for two years.  When I arrived at the Duxbury campus for the first time, with my new sticks in hand, I was both excited and nervous.  My mom sat in the room with me while I was introduced to Ed Sorrentino, someone I would grow to respect and trust with my musical career for the following eight years.  Ed was (and still is) very welcoming and patient, especially with my beginner status.  No matter how many tears of frustration were shed in the Zildjian studio, he reassured me I would learn it in time.  He was always right.

As I became more experienced and developed my technique, I was introduced to the additional opportunities SSC had to offer: Middle School Monster Jam, Performathon, Open Mic, ensembles, and so much more.  Just like before, I was nervous at the beginning.  However, what these new activities introduced me to was a group of people I can play and make music with.  Some of these people are still my friends today because of playing at Monster Jam and Performathon.

Going to a private school such as Thayer was a major obstacle a in my music career. As I progressed through high school, my academic workload got heavier, and I was required to participate in one sport per season.  Finding time for SSC was challenging at first.  Eventually, I found a good time to continue my studies, and continue progressing as a drummer, thanks to Ed’s flexible schedule.

SSC’s wide range of connections and resources helps students give back to the community.  I love participating in the annual Performathon and other charity events.  As a member of the Honors Percussion Ensemble, I performed at the Chase Away the Winter Blues gala in January.  That performance is one of the highlights of my time at SSC.  Being able to play at an event of that scale was an amazing opportunity I was lucky enough to be a part of because of SSC.

One more thing that SSC has been able to provide me with is a way to improve the institution to which I had dedicated so much time.  Last year I joined the Student Leadership Team at South Shore Conservatory.  The team, consisting of SSC students, plans fundraisers and organizes volunteer opportunities.  The group’s supervisor, Sarah Troxler, is the student’s liaison with the faculty and board members at SSC, giving the actions and ideas of the students more credibility.

Sitting here writing this article about my journey with SSC has been a journey in and of itself.  I am grateful for the opportunities and education that Ed, Sarah, and many others have provided me in order to learn and expand my horizons, not only as a musician, but as a person.  As a graduating senior, these valuable experiences will remain with me as I start a new journey elsewhere.

Percussionist David Havens is a featured performer in South Shore Conservatory’s Graduating Seniors Recital on Friday, May 3, 7 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  The celebratory concert is free and open to the public.


Calling All BaYS/SSC Youth Orchestra Alumni!

DSC_0859By Elijah Langille
When I was approached to be Music Director of the South Shore Conservatory Youth Orchestra, I had a lot of ideas for creative collaborations. One goal was to have the youth orchestra experience a performance with SSC ballet students, which they did with great success at our winter concert in February. Another goal was to reconnect with alumni that have been affected by our program. The opportunity to connect our current members with past students, finding new and creative ways to support them, excites me.

At our spring concert, all past SSCYO/BaYS participants are invited to perform together with all our current orchestra students, performing an arrangement of Verdi’s Overture to Nabucco. This is one of my favorite pieces by Verdi, and I’m so excited to hear what it will sound like with all these talented musicians! The concert is on Sunday, May 5, at the Duxbury Performing Art Center, and is a featured ArtWeek and Music Drives Us performance.

Whether you participated a decade ago, or last year, anyone who has ever been a part of SSCYO (BaYS) is encouraged to join us for this special performance. If you know someone who was part of this youth orchestra program in the past, please share this invitation, and complete the survey at If there are any questions, please e-mail me at

Paving their path to Carnegie Hall

Abby at Carnegie

Abby, 10, performing at Carnegie Hall

By Lauren Whittaker
If anyone snapped a picture of me, I’m sure I was beaming as I watched three of my piano students perform in the Celebration of Excellence Recital at New York’s Carnegie Hall on a cold night this past February.  Dressed in their finest clothes, Abby Mercer, 10, Sophie Smith, 10, and Austin Smith, 8, had all earned the honor of performing in this historic concert venue by scoring First Class Honors with Distinction on their Royal Conservatory Music (RCM) Development Program examinations.  As they performed on stage, I reflected on the hard work it takes to land one’s self in Carnegie Hall.

Abby, for example, started down her music path at four years old, when she participated in South Shore Conservatory’s early childhood summer program, The Arts Tell a Story.  She enjoyed the experience so much that her mother enrolled her in SSC’s arts-integrated preschool program that fall.  From there, she continued her arts-based learning on through kindergarten.  While she was in kindergarten, Abby started her introduction to piano, taking a weekly Piano FUNdamentals group class for an entire year. By the time she was six, Abby knew she liked playing piano enough to start private lessons with me, and loved reading enough to join the SSC Book Club with kindergarten teacher Jill Martin.  I welcomed her addition to my studio.

By eight years old, Abby added Piano Chamber Ensemble to her list of activities. At nine, she performed in SSC’s Piano Competition, and has participated in the Summer Vocal Institute for two summers. It was thrilling to watch her thrive in the arts.

In the fall of 2017, Abby’s private piano lessons included curriculum from the Royal Conservatory of Music Development Program.  This comprehensive program of music study includes scales, arpeggios, repertoire from the Baroque to 21st century music, sight reading, ear training, and music theory, leading to regular examinations at each level of study (12 levels for pianists).  RCM, which helps track a student’s progress, is available for virtually all instruments including voice, and offered through South Shore Conservatory, one of the founding schools when the Canada-based program was introduced in the US. On her very first exam, Abby achieved the grade of First Class Honors with Distinction. She continues to grow and challenge herself in the RCM program.

So, if you ask, how a ten-year-old could possibly end up performing at Carnegie Hall, the answer is simple:  Abby and her parents seized the many opportunities to participate in music and the arts available to children at SSC.  These classes, lessons, ensembles and competitions are all part of what SSC calls a program curriculum.  From birth to 100, students may join at any ability level, and continue studying their entire life.

I don’t want to make it sound as though Abby, Sophie, and Austin spend all their days practicing piano.  They are well-rounded students, enjoying soccer, basketball, softball, baseball, ballet, and gymnastics, and few other regular activities.  Busy kids?  Yes!  Focused on what they enjoy from life?  Yes!  Supportive parents?  Yes, Yes, Yes!  That’s how one ends up at Carnegie Hall before they even reach their teen years!

Learn more about South Shore Conservatory Royal Conservatory of Music Development Program, and their classes, lessons and ensembles at, or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

Piano Instructor Lauren Whittaker has been with South Shore Conservatory since 2013.

Learning empathy, love and vulnerability through music

Into the Silent Land imageBy Eric Laprade
“What is essential is invisible to the eye” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

As Music Director of South Shore Conservatory’s (SSC) Summer Music Festival, I have had the privilege of calling South Shore Conservatory “home” for the last 17 summers. As a young student at SSC, the institution inspired me to pursue a lifetime of teaching music to young people. My greatest mentors have taught, and continue to teach at SSC. I’ve met my closest friends here, and had some of the deepest and most profound musical experiences of my life in the Jane Carr Amphitheater. The powerful words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery illustrate what I have come to believe makes South Shore Conservatory so vital to the community and the people it serves. While music is the vehicle we use to teach—violin lessons, wind ensemble, rock band—what we are teaching goes much deeper: creativity, empathy, love, vulnerability.

The words intent, relevance and social change guide all of my work at South Shore Conservatory. I often remind our faculty at Summer Music Festival that what makes our program and SSC so special and unique is not ‘what’ we do, but rather ‘how’ and ‘why’ we do it. We believe musicians are one of the greatest vehicles for social change, and that, through our music-making and teaching, we can improve the lives of others around us. This is what we do at Summer Music Festival (SMF).

This past summer, SMF had the opportunity to perform a powerful new musical composition by composer Steve Danyew. Mr. Danyew attended grades three through five at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and was commissioned by a group of schools, including South Shore Conservatory, to compose a piece that reflected upon the Sandy Hook massacre. Our students had the privilege to present the Massachusetts premiere of Into the Silent Land.

The students who performed Into the Silent Land ranged in age from 14-19 years old. They came from19 different communities across the region and before July 12, 2018 they had never played a single note together. This project reinforced my belief that music brings us together and creates community. In a world fill with negative and opposing rhetoric, music breaks down walls and allows us to work towards goals that are far greater than any of us could accomplish on our own.

As our students began to study and experience Mr. Danyew’s music, the emotional impact of the piece became apparent. They found themselves connecting with the music, understanding the composer’s intent, and feeling the power of the narrative, “Remember me when I am gone away. Gone far away into the silent land…” It is hard not to perform Mr. Danyew’s music without being deeply affected.

Although at SMF we believe in using music as a vehicle to nurture the souls and minds of our students, the Steve Danyew project left me wondering who was actually teaching whom. I left this project a profoundly different person because of our students and because of the music.  What we accomplished goes so much deeper than any musical note, any alternate fingering on the clarinet, or any sticking technique. This project reminded me that our students’ potential is only limited by what we, their teachers, believe they are capable of. I witnessed 57 human beings give all of themselves—mentally, physically, and artistically—to a common goal and to a common good. Our students did this with a maturity, poise, and intellect that is a model for all of us.

I have been fortunate, as both a student and a teacher, to experience the life-changing impact of South Shore Conservatory. I encourage you to visit and experience this special place for yourself and for your children.

Summer Music Festival 2019, for woodwind, brass and percussion students, is July 11 – 26 at South Shore Conservatory’s Hingham campus. For more information please visit To listen to the making of Into the Silent Land, visit


SSC’s First Annual Ukulele Festival

hingham and norwel ukesWhen my teenage daughter asked for a ukulele for her birthday a few years ago, I had no idea it would become one of her most beloved gifts.  Within a few days, she had learned enough chords to play dozens of songs, and soon she was playing it at Open Mics, strumming along with the preschoolers at her volunteer gig, even tucking it into her backpack when she babysat. It has become an extension of her musical self – something to accompany her own voice while inviting others to join in.

In the world of community music-making, the ukulele is a powerful tool.  It’s inexpensive – you can buy a good-quality instrument for around $50 – and easy to play. The strings offer less resistance than a guitar, so even small or arthritic hands can make music.  It’s small and light and portable.  But most of all, the ukulele invites participation.  Who can help singing along when someone strums “You are my Sunshine” or “Run Around Sue?” And what’s more fun than a group playing and singing together?

As Senior Director of Community Engagement at South Shore Conservatory (SSC), I’ve seen a huge growth in interest in the uke over the last two years.  Through our Community Partnership program, we offer off-campus ukulele lessons at schools, senior centers, social service organizations and housing developments.  The feedback is encouraging, with people describing powerful feelings of inclusion, connection, accomplishment and joy.  They love playing together.

Building on the success of these small groups, we are very excited to announce our first South Shore Ukulele Festival, presented with our partners at Laura’s Center for at the Arts at the South Shore YMCA, on Saturday, April 20.  We hope to provide an opportunity for all South Shore uke lovers to gather for a group play-in.  Proficiency doesn’t matter – beginner through experienced ukulele players are encouraged to participate. SSC ukulele teacher, Juli Morgan, will teach the chords and lead participants from the stage.  Music will be projected on a screen so everyone can follow along.

The cost is $10 per person, or $25 per family, payable online at at the door the day of the festival.  For those who might like to see the music ahead of the festival, PDFs of the music are available for download at

Laura’s Center for the Arts is located at 97 Mill Street in Hanover.

For more information, contact Anne at or (781)421-6162 x210.

Sharing our compelling collaboration

DSC_0105One of the most wonderful aspects of working at South Shore Conservatory is the vast potential for meaningful collaboration across arts departments and disciplines. Earlier this year, on February 10, the South Shore region experienced a most compelling and unique collaboration; a youth orchestra accompanying a youth ballet!

While this seemed a great idea, we were aware things could go wrong. But talented and fearless faculty members, SSC Dance Department Chair Susie Guthro, and SSC Youth Orchestra Director and Symphony Conductor Elijah Langille worked hard to make it successful.  As a result of their planning and guidance, five ballet dancers and 27 youth orchestra musicians had an experience they will never forget.

Dancing with a live orchestra and playing music for live dancers is exciting and exhilarating in a way that is difficult to describe. The dancers not only hear the music, they feel the vibration through the stage and through the air all around them The musicians do not just play for themselves, they have a responsibility to be as accurate as possible for the dancers in front of them. Ballet and orchestra students alike reached for and grabbed a higher bar as young artists, and are now poised to improve and grow even more than they imagined. After having set and achieved this ambitious goal, Susie and Elijah are also eager to push their programs to the limits of possibility. This collaboration has taught all involved lessons that surpass choreography and compositions. They have learned the value of reaching beyond the limits and the value of hard work, practice and perseverance.

We invite the public to come and view the amazing video of the performance on Saturday, April 6, 6 pm at Barnes & Noble in Hingham, during our annual Performathon. Come and watch our ballet dancers and orchestra students as they relive this incredible moment of compelling collaboration!