Perks of living a life filled with music

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By Olivia Monarch
I have been a student at South Shore Conservatory (SSC) since I was two years old. My family and I participated in Music Together® classes year-round until I was five years old. Music has always been a natural part of my everyday life. Each day at my house included singing, dancing, and plenty of instruments. After Music Together, I went on to study drums, guitar, piano, and voice at SSC. I also participated in Saturday Stage Club, and choral groups, including Summer Vocal Institute.

Summer of 2016 at the Conservatory changed my life forever. I enrolled in Erik Caldarone’s summer Rock Band Camp. There, I met my current best friends and most members of my band, Not Today, an alternative band, comprised of six teenagers from five Boston South Shore towns. My band is often described as 90s-influenced, and indie alternative rock. With Erik’s guidance, Not Today built a unique sound, became prolific songwriters, and started landing gigs at local venues and basements.

It wasn’t long before paid gig offers started coming to us. All the while, our band was recording songs in professional recording studios. We released our first full length album called Out of Phase in August of 2018, followed by an EP Point B, and a live EP Live on the Underbelly. Our most recent album, Now in Full Color, came out in July of 2019. In all, Not Today’s music has been streamed nearly 60,000 times on Spotify alone!

Last summer, Not Today was invited to perform at the Levitate Music and Arts Festival. We were the youngest group ever on their lineup! Levitate runs the largest festival in the area, selling 50,000 tickets in 2019. We played alongside Sublime with Rome, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Damien Marley, Nathaniel Ratliff, and more.

The band enjoys performing at South Shore and Boston venues such as the Middle East in Cambridge, the New World Tavern in Plymouth, and the C Note in Hull. We have appeared on radio stations, such as 88.9 WERS, 95.9 the River, WATD, and WEMF. Local music bloggers have written about and reviewed the band’s music. For example, Sound of Boston reviewed Not Today’s song ‘My Dearest Friends,’ and then the song was featured on WGBH’s Mass Mix.

My solo recording career was made possible with the help of SSC alum, Sean Merlin. Sean and I met at an SSC voice performance, where he was selected by my voice teacher to accompany me on the piano. A few months later, he invited me to record vocals for his first released single. Since then, Sean and I have co-produced two of my solo EPs, Subject and Overrated, which can be found on Spotify, iTunes and all other streaming platforms, just like Not Today’s music.

My joyous musical journey truly started at SSC when I was a toddler, singing and dancing with my parents in Music Together. Every step of the way at SSC has been full of learning, and so much fun. I am grateful that my parents prioritized my musical education and involvement over other activities. In addition to loving the experiences and the musical education, I have met most of my favorite people in the world at SSC, and that includes both students and teachers. Next stop for me is to either go on tour again next year, or study music further in college. Maybe both. No matter what, it is guaranteed to be a wild ride.

Hear vocalist Olivia Monarch and her band Not Today as they perform a few tunes at South Shore Conservatory’s Chase Away the Winter Blues gala on Saturday, January 25, from 6 pm -12 midnight, at the Boston Marriott Quincy. Blues kicks off SSC’s year-long 50th anniversary. Learn more about the event at https://sscmusic.org/blues/ or follow South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

Olivia Monarch is a senior at Hingham High School.

Taking the stress out of the holidays

rachel-and-michael.jpgBy Rachel White
It’s no secret that, while the holidays are a lot of fun to celebrate, they can also be very stressful. Between late night holiday parties, diets consisting of candy canes, cookies, and hot chocolate, threats of an elf who is watching your every move, and competing with peers for the latest, coolest presents, it is often our young children who feel the brunt of this holiday strain.

Here at South Shore Conservatory (SSC), our teachers make it a priority to teach holiday traditions to our Preschool, PreK, and Kindergarten students in a constructive manner. The holidays we celebrate with our family are a big part of who we are and our individual identity within a larger community. While navigating the holiday topic gently and respectfully, our students are encouraged to share their own family traditions in the classroom. Believe me, once we start this discussion, everyone wants to share!  There is something very special when a student is comfortable sharing about their home life in the classroom.

As a group, we discuss many different holidays and how they are celebrated all over the world. We have parents of all different demographics come in and discuss how they celebrate winter holidays such as Thanksgiving, Chinese New Year, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas, in their own homes. In doing this, we celebrate the differences among us, and use that as a valuable tool for understanding diversity and building community.

Celebrating holidays at school connects a student’s home life to their school life, something we, as teachers and parents always strive for, as it makes learning more meaningful. Students learn about various cultures and diversity, while learning acceptance and respect for differences. In order to be “politically correct” or sensitive to their students, some schools steer away from any holiday celebrations at all. We feel this is detrimental to a young child, as the excitement of the holidays and celebrating with their family is what is on their minds during the months of November and December, and a huge part of their culture and their own identity.

During the holidays, our teachers avoid activities such as having students write letters to Santa asking for presents. We also stay away from focusing on religious aspects or preach any topics. Instead, we focus on the wonderment and common themes among all of the holidays – love, family, creating meaningful traditions and memories, and being thankful. Of course, being an arts-integrated program, we also have our children play sleigh bells as they listen to “Sleigh Ride,” and present class “informances” (no-stress versions of performances) and family seasonal sing-alongs.  The theme of giving is reinforced through our Community Giving Tree, which invites parents and children to pick out a gift for less fortunate friends at the Old Colony YMCA.

By focusing on simple joy, compassion, and the love of family and friends, we turn the craze of the holidays into something calm and beautiful. Here at SSC’s Preschool/PreK/Kindergarten, we aim to create a cultured generation of empathetic, kind, and loving young people.

Learn more about South Shore Conservatory’s art-integrated Preschool/PreK/Kindergarten at https://sscmusic.org/philosophy-and-mission/ or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

Rachel White is South Shore Conservatory’s Preschool/PreK/Kindergarten Director.  She lives in Weymouth with her husband Chris, her infant son Michael, who is celebrating his first holiday, and her dog Nala.

Teens share holiday joy with SSC’s youngest students

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By Sarah Troxler
Committed.  Compassionate.  Open-minded.  Inclusive.  Thinking outside the box.  Collaborative.  Communicative.  Gracious.  All these are among the leadership qualities our South Shore Conservatory (SSC) Student Leadership Team (SLT) members seek to emulate.  Each year, students on the team commit (or re-commit) for an entire school year, by signing that they will strive to embody the qualities of a leader in the SSC community and on the South Shore.  Three years ago, the fourteen original members of the team created that list, and today’s team of twenty-one are continuing to follow the tradition.

Students on the leadership team come highly recommended by their SSC teachers, and attend high schools all across the South Shore, from Milton to Plymouth.  They represent many different disciplines at SSC: piano, strings, woodwinds, voice, dance, rock bands, chamber groups, and SSC Youth Orchestra.  Many have been at SSC since they were little, but some have only been here for a couple years.  Either way, they see SSC as a place where they thrive and have learned to grow as artists and as people.

So, this group of dedicated student leaders have decided to give back.  They want to reach into every corner of the SSC community, meet new people, and help them to have the same positive and life-changing experience that they are having with the arts.  This year, they desperately wanted to connect with SSC’s Preschool/PreK/Kindergarten program, which some of the student leaders themselves attended as youngsters.

When I met with SLT members, and we imagined a holiday caroling event we could share with the preschool program, the buzz and excitement in the room were palpable!  It was a no-brainer!  Ideas were flying, and students immediately started working on planning an event to share with the preschoolers. Split into mini teams to get the work done, the student leaders covered logistics such as timing, invitations, and snack donations, crafts, and story time. One group even formed a band and practiced all the carols so they were prepared to accompany the singing!

Hayley Cardillo, a junior, and one of two student interns leading the team says, “I’m super excited for this activity with the preschool, because the team has been working really hard to make it fun.  I think it’s such a good start to bring different communities together!”

Three years ago, if you had asked me what I was doing to celebrate the holidays, this would not have been on my list.  I simply would not have thought of it.  Yet since then, a group of high-schoolers have opened up my eyes to see those around me in a new way. I am proud of their collective initiative, and have learned to ask, “how can I connect with that person,” and “how can I include them,” and “how can we work together?”

On Friday, December 13, the Student Leadership Team will get their opportunity to spread their joy of music and the holidays with some of the youngest students at SSC.  I cannot wait for what this inspires them to do next!

Learn more about South Shore Conservatory programs, including SSC’s art-integrated Preschool/PreK/Kindergarten programs, at sscmusic.org, find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook, or call 781-749-7565.

Sarah Troxler is South Shore Conservatory’s Student Engagement Coordinator and SSC’s Piano Department Chair.