Grateful for music in my mother’s life

Memory Caf -Dec 2018

SSC Memory Cafes provide an opportunity to those with memory loss and their care partners to share activities that help with cognitive awareness, in a safe, supportive environment.

By Elaine Sorrentino
It’s really hard to watch someone you love struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.  I should know.  My mother has been living with it for a few years now.  From the outside, she looks like the same person – perhaps a bit grayer, and, with bad knees, she now uses a walker to zip around.  But the quick-witted, problem-solving, outgoing person she once was, lies dormant inside her.  Her usual self-confidence has flown. With that loss comes a constant anxiety.  And she’s somewhat aware of her new limitations, which creates frustration and confusion.  On some level she realizes what she perceives is not what is necessarily so.

I know I cannot take away her disease.  But what I can do is assuage her fears, and partake in activities that calm her and make her happy, even if just for the moment.  With the beautiful weather we experienced two Saturdays ago, I grabbed my mother from senior housing, picked up a pizza and headed to the beach.  Together we sat there with the warm, gentle breeze coming through the open window, enjoying our snack, gazing out at the water.  She was calm and peaceful, and she smiled as she remarked, “The water is so soothing.”  You can be sure we’ll do that outing again, very soon.

Perhaps the most effective activity that puts my mother in that cognitive sweet spot is music.  Any type of music that is melodious will do the trick.  When music starts, it’s like there’s nothing else in her world that matters, and immediately her attention turns to what she is hearing.  The brain that cannot remember what she just ate for lunch, recalls words to songs from 80 years ago.  Songs from her childhood, songs her mother sang, songs her children blared from the stereo, songs her grandchildren played in Boston clubs.  (Yes, she was still going to clubs to see her grandchildren well into her late 70’s!) Happiness takes the place of confusion.  It’s truly magic.

I’m grateful that her senior housing facility, recognizing these benefits, offers musical performances and sing-alongs twice a week.  As I sit next to her and join in the fun, I am grateful to have an activity I can still enjoy with my mother, putting us on an equal playing field.  Wait, what am I saying?  She knows many more songs than me.  In a “who knows the word” competition, she’d leave me in the dust!

For individuals experiencing memory loss, who do not have access to music and other brain-stimulating activities, South Shore Conservatory encourages them to participate in one or two SSC Memory Café sessions per month.  Each café offers activities designed for cognitive awareness, and encourages individuals and care partners to enjoy creative arts activities, including music, dance, and visual art, and to share refreshments and conversation with others. Participants choose their own level of interaction and participation.

South Shore Conservatory’s two free SSC Memory Café programs take place the third Thursday at Laura’s Center for the Arts, from 12:30-2:30 pm at 97 Mill Street in Hanover, and the first Tuesday of the month, from 10:30 am – 12:30 pm at SSC’s Ellison Center for the Arts, 64 St. George Street, Duxbury.  The Hanover café is generously funded by the Middleton Family Foundation.  The Duxbury café is generously funded by the Harry C. and Mary Elizabeth Grafton Memorial Fund, Bank of America, N.A., co-trustee. Although there is no cost to participants, registration is requested by contacting Eve Montague, MT-BC, Director, Creative Arts Therapies, at 781-934-2731, x20, or e.montague@sscmusic.org.

Elaine Sorrentino is South Shore Conservatory’s Communications Director.

Congratulations to our Concerto Competition participants!

HuiMin Wang Youth Concerto Competition participants 2020

2020 HuiMin Wang Youth Concerto Competition Participants:  (Back Row L-R) Sam Schorer, Rahul Prasad, Overall Winner Owen Masur, Renee Han, Ava Hosea, Sara Tardif, Aaron P.J. Fernandes; (Front Row L-R) Justin Liu, Ella Liu, Grace Chen, Lena Harati, Sudarshan Krishnan

Congratulations to all our students who participated in the 32nd HuiMin Wang Youth Concerto Competition last Friday night.  We applaud their hard work and courage, and we thank their teachers for their dedication in preparing them for this special day. Just look at these smiling faces! They are all winners in our book.

Self Care Through the Arts

Tap class with Su
By Su D’Ambrosio
Last fall I decided to do something nice for myself, so I enrolled in a tap dancing class. When my girls, now in their 20s, were young, I jealously watched them learn tap, wishing their tap shoes fit me so that I could secretly try a few clickety-clack dance moves before they arrived home from school. Over time, they both gave up tap, and I gave up my dream, until we started to offer tap class for adults at South Shore Conservatory. As I called prospective students to invite them to try a class, one woman, noticing my enthusiasm, suggested I join them, and I thought, why not? I laced up some tap shoes and gave it a try. Best. Decision. Ever.

As I donned my first pair of tap shoes and entered the dance studio that first day, I was nervous, as many of the students knew each other and had some tap experience. There was a mix of younger and older students, and I was definitely one of the oldest dancers. The teacher, Donna, quickly put me at ease as we started with some simple warm-ups that guaranteed immediate success for everyone. The other adult students were extremely accepting and supportive, and I soon felt part of the group. There was laughter and encouragement as simple warm-ups turned into more complex combinations, and then we took our new steps into the beginning of a routine. At the end of the class we clapped and talked about looking forward to the next week. Week after week we built on skills learned the previous class, improving our dance routine until we achieved a final product. We’re not perfect, but that is not the point. We are working toward a common goal, challenging our skills, reaching for a higher bar, growing, laughing and getting some great exercise, all through the medium of tap dancing.

When I started, I didn’t realize the extent to which this would feed my body, mind and soul.  I had devoted all my energy and resources to my children for 22 years, which fed me in a different way, but also took a bit of a toll. As I stretched myself literally and figuratively, working up a sweat and using muscles I didn’t realize I had, I felt an awesome sense of satisfaction and accomplishment specific to myself. This time in class also allowed me to let go of everything weighing on my mind, leave it at the door and enjoy the moment. That experience of lightness and freedom allowed me to return to my difficult baggage with a new sense of clarity and strength, and has helped me find new and creative ways to manage stress and tackle challenges.

This is the magic of the arts. No other activity can bring people of all ages and walks of life together to learn, grow and create as a community. The arts allow for connection with others as well as opportunities for personal growth. The benefits are wide ranging, from physical to psychological to spiritual. In that first class I experienced a range of emotions that culminated in joy. Throughout the semester I have built up strength and coordination, made some new friends and have something to look forward to each week – something I do just for me. On weeks when I am not able to attend class, I miss it. As the fall semester winds down, I am eager to sign up for the spring session to continue my progress and dedicate one hour each week to something that brings me joy. We all need something like that to look forward to in our lives. What is your “tap class?”

Learn more about SSC’s classes for adults and students of all ages at sscmusic.org, call 781-749-7565, x10, or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

Su D’Ambrosio is Director of Education for South Shore Conservatory.  She lives in Plymouth with her daughters Maria and Rosa, and her dog Bernie, who looks forward to the music of the neighborhood birds on his daily walks.

Chairing Chase Away the Winter Blues

SSC_012718

By Rennan Bayturk
My journey with South Shore Conservatory (SSC) started almost 20 years ago.  Both of my kids went to this fantastic music school for many years.  Even after their graduations, my journey still continues.  SSC is like my second home, and I have served as an SSC overseer for years.  I love volunteering for Duxbury Music Festival, which takes place in the summer, and Chase Away the Winter Blues gala, which takes place in late January. I feel privileged to be part of this amazing community.

The individuals I volunteer with are very dedicated and strong, and care about our surrounding communities.  We always increase our event goals so we can help even more people. Funds raised through these efforts help talented students, young and old, access music education through tuition assistance and scholarships; help individuals with disabilities access creative arts therapies programs; help those dealing with memory loss, and their care partners, access therapeutic activities designed to promote cognitive awareness and connection; and assist our community partnership programs, which include ImagineARTS, SSC’s kindergarten arts and literacy program, offered for free to the Brockton school system.  Proceeds from our fundraisers support these programs and more.  We work hard for this great nonprofit organization.  I become a better volunteer each year as I work with amazing, loving, caring and giving people.  I volunteer with great enthusiasm and look forward to many more years of volunteering.

This year I am co-chair of the Blues gala with Linda Jones.  It’s my second time as co-chair. The last time was many years ago when Blues took place at SSC’s Hingham campus. The gala has grown so big we had to move it to a bigger location, Boston Marriot Quincy, to accommodate more guests.  Last year we had 330 guests.  We hope to have 350 guests this year, to help kick off SSC’s 50th anniversary year.  It’s SSC’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

We have amazing live auction items, including a luxurious curated seven-day trip to Portugal, compliments of Travel Sommelier; a week skiing or hiking in Winter Park, Colorado; a getaway weekend via private jet to Martha’s Vineyard Island; a fantastic week on Key West, in the Old Town-Truman Annex; a Nantucket getaway weekend with dinner at Island Kitchen; and Sunday Jazz Brunch or dinner with chef Paul Wahlberg, hosted by Motoko and Gordon Deane.

Our Raffle Committee is preparing exciting raffle baskets, including jewelry from King’s Jewelers, Nichole VonDette children’s portrait session, entertainment basket with tickets to Boston Lyric Opera’s Norma, a fabulous wine basket, a beauty basket which includes a Spa Day at Mirabeau, a golf basket which includes a Granite Links Foursome, a fun sports basket with Bruins and Boston College Football tickets, a tennis basket which includes courtside ticket to the Tennis Hall of Fame, a private photobooth/Red Carpet in your home by AnOriginal Photography, and an exciting Hingham Police cruisier ride to take the winner’s kids to school! Who wouldn’t love that?

South Shore Conservatory’s Chase Away the Winter Blues gala is Saturday, January 25, from 6 pm to midnight at Boston Marriot Quincy, 1000 Marriot Drive in Quincy.  For those who cannot make the whole night, there’s a fantastic After Party that starts at 9 pm, with dance band East Coast Soul, a piano bar, and dessert bar.  I hope to see you there!  Learn more at https://sscmusic.org/blues/ or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

South Shore Conservatory named Rennan Bayturk 2018 Volunteer of the Year for always cheerfully giving over and above.

Performing with the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra

Reagan George performs with The Phil
By Reagan George

As I waited backstage at Plymouth Memorial Hall to perform at The Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra’s annual Sunday Family Concert last March, I was feeling a mix of emotions. I was excited but also very nervous. Even though I was twelve years old, I had worked towards this moment for a very long time. The chance to play with The Plymouth Philharmonic with conductor Maestro Steven Karidoyanes. As I walked out to the stage and bowed, I looked out into the crowd of 1000 people. Taking my seat, I turned towards the Maestro and waited for his nod.  After playing the first notes of my Mozart Concerto No. 19, my nervousness vanished and the excitement of playing with an orchestra took over.

I prepared for this moment for over four months at South Shore Conservatory, with my teacher HuiMin Wang. Preparing for a concerto is different than preparing for a piece you would play by yourself. This concerto was 37 pages long, and took twelve minutes to play. This was much longer than any other piece I had learned before. To get through the piece successfully, I needed to maintain stamina and learn to pace myself. I had to not only memorize all of the notes, but the smallest details as well. I also had to learn to play with other musicians. It was important to be both aware of the details of the piece, and aware of my surroundings. I had to pay particular attention to the teacher’s cues, in preparation for my work with the Maestro. Above all, I had to maintain perfect tempo in order to keep up with the orchestra.

In some ways, I had prepared for this experience my whole childhood. We had a piano in our house that had been left by previous owners. I would always tell my parents, with no musical background, “I want to play that piano!” Not knowing where to take me for lessons, my mother tried to steer me towards other hobbies, such as gymnastics or karate. But I insisted on piano. And when I was seven, I was lucky that my mother found South Shore Conservatory.

Playing with the Philharmonic was the result of my five years of training with my teacher HuiMin. When I played with the orchestra, I learned a lot about myself. It helped me realize that playing in front of large crowds isn’t so scary after all – it can actually be fun! And the audience’s response to my playing definitely helped reinforce my realization. Through collaborating with the orchestra, I’m now more comfortable playing pieces with other musicians.  This will be important if I make a career out of playing piano.

It was wonderful to meet all of the musicians. Everyone was so encouraging, especially the Maestro. After playing, I was given a standing ovation, and took a bow by the Maestro’s side. The whole experience convinced me of what I already knew deep down. That if I continued to work hard, one day I could achieve my goal of becoming a professional musician.

South Shore Conservatory’s next annual HuiMin Wang Youth Concerto Competition, supported by the Herzfelder Family, takes place on January 18 at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  The overall winner of the competition, in addition to receiving an SSC scholarship, will perform with the Plymouth Philharmonic at their annual Family Concert on Sunday, March 8.  Learn more about SSC’s student competitions at https://sscmusic.org/student-competitions/ or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

South Shore Conservatory student pianist Reagan George, 13, lives in Easton.  In addition to piano, Reagan likes playing flute in marching band, jazz band and concert band and she enjoys spending time with friends.

SSC Youth Orchestra and SSC Dance Department collaborate for Winter Season

SSC Dance and Orchestra combined performance

If you’ve ever dreamed of performing spectacular music with a ballet troupe, you’re in luck! Our collaboration with the SSC Dance Department makes this 2020 winter season truly unique. Auditions are open for this next session, which starts Wednesday, January 8 at Marshfield High School.

Here’s what our alums are saying about their orchestra experience:

Being a part of the program made me a stronger player, expanded my knowledge about music, and allowed me to apply that knowledge beyond the program. – Ava Schipper

SSCYO gave me experience that put me ahead when it came to college auditions. As a current music major in college, I can say participating in BaYS was a large part of my audition success. – Quinn Woodworth

Contact Elijah Langille at orchestra@sscmusic.org for more details.

 

Participating in an ensemble through Monster Jam

Cam on drumsBy Cameron Igo
I first started taking private percussion lessons at South Shore Conservatory (SSC) when I was six years old, under the tutelage and guidance of Ed Sorrentino.  I immediately knew I wanted to be a drummer, and wanted to learn as much as I could.  For the first few years I was at SSC, I participated in recitals as a solo artist.  But it wasn’t until I reached middle school that Ed invited me to participate in my first Monster Jam.

Middle School Monster Jam is a fun music event that invites any student in grades six to eight, on any instrument or voice, to learn how to play a current pop song (chosen by the faculty) in two hours.  I remember that the first Monster Jam I attended was at SSC’s Duxbury campus.  The vibe in the room was incredible!  So many musicians gathered together to learn Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off, and then play it together.  If you know Jimmy Craven (faculty member, who led this particular jam), you understand how that energy level increases as the night goes on!

Faculty members handed out our sheet music, based on the instrument we’d be playing.  We then broke out into miniature sessions with an instructor and learned our parts.  Just before we played it for an audience, we all got together as a group and practiced the song a few times.  Then we were ready.

Now, Shake it Off is a song I probably would never have learned on my own, but it was so much fun to do!  If you can imagine this song performed with horns and even an oboe, you can imagine how amazing it sounded!  The evening only lasts about two hours, ending with the performance, (and most always an encore!) for our friends and family, who would always be grinning from ear-to-ear with huge smiles on their faces.  I can tell you, the time flew by!  I enjoyed the jam so much, I attended several more monster jams while I was in middle school, including jams at the Hingham campus, where once I was able to play American Author’s Best Day of My Life, on a drum kit and then just bass drum.

I highly recommend monster jam to any middle school student who knows how to play an instrument or sing.  I feel the whole experience taught me how to be in an ensemble.  It is so important in music to be able to play in a group and listen to other musicians as you play.  The collaboration helps shape you for your future in music, especially if you plan on being in a band someday, or even just a school concert performance or district festivals.

The “bug” I got after participating in Monster Jam, inspired me to join a percussion ensemble at SSC (playing different parts with three other students), and eventually join a rock band.  I found it is also a great way to meet other kids your age who have the same passion and desire you have.

South Shore Conservatory’s next all-instrument Middle School Monster Jam is Friday, January 10, 7 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  The featured song is Sucker by the Jonas Brothers. Performers should bring their own instruments. (Drum kits and sound system provided.) To make sure SSC has music for all participants, advanced registration is required by January 8.  Admission is $10.  To register, call 781-749-7565 x10 or visit https://sscmusic.org/monster-jam/

Percussionist, Cameron Igo is a sophomore at Marshfield High School.  He has been with SSC since he was six years old, when he started private percussion lessons with Edward Sorrentino. He plays drums for SSC’s rock band Not Today.