Music IS Medicine

Robert Bekkers

Guitarist Robert Bekkers

By Beth MacLeod Largent

As much as I love the fall season, it is a bittersweet time, as it brings with it the anniversary of my husband Med’s death. This year marks 11 years since his passing from cancer.  In the seven years before he died, we spent hours and hours in waiting rooms – first at Brigham and Women’s in Boston, then at Dana Farber Cancer Center (DFCC) in Boston, and finally at Jordan Hospital in Plymouth.  I went with Med to every single appointment, and, hands down, the waiting times that felt most comfortable were the ones at DFCC, when musicians were playing in the lobby.  Often there was a pianist who greeted us with soothing music, which felt normal to us, because Med and I were so involved in music and the arts.

The waiting rooms at DFCC were quite large, which meant that you saw people at many different stages of the disease. In the beginning this was disconcerting, but then we became friendly with some of the patients we would see week after week. The times when music was playing in the lobby, everyone smiled as they entered the space. Sometimes, people would just sit, close their eyes, and listen while they waited for their ride.  It was a moment of calm in an otherwise turbulent time.

Fast forward 11 years to the fall of 2018.  Executive Director of the Dana Farber Cancer Center in Weymouth, Jennifer Croes, reaches out to South Shore Conservatory, asking us to provide music for the center’s patients, caretakers and staff member. Concerned with burnout with her dedicated staff members who deal with seriously ill patients every day, Jennifer wished to bring them the healing powers of music.  She felt SSC had the quality of performer that would be perfect for the cancer center.

With the memory of Med’s medical journey still fresh in my mind, and having experienced inner peace through music, I was thrilled that SSC with DFCC connected to create a three-month trial performance series called Music is Medicine.  The first Friday in October, we presented our inaugural concert in the lobby of Dana Farber, and the patients were incredibly grateful.  Cellist Benjamin Swartz greeted them with beautiful Bach cello suites; soothing, calming music, and was rewarded with wide and genuine smiles.  One of the patients stopped and closed her eyes, soaking in the music.  When Ben stopped playing, she cooed, “It’s like hearing the angels…but I’m still here!”

Moving our performances from the concert hall to remote locations, such as medical facilities, means we are able to reach more people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to feel its healing power. This brings me great delight.  Last month, I was blessed to witness pure joy on the faces of people actively fighting a battle most of us can only imagine.  That glimpse was enough to let me know that my own experience was universal. I’m fortunate to work at SSC, where we can provide such comfort.

I’m not the only SSC faculty performer who feels this way.  When I emailed others about this performance opportunity, within a matter of hours I had a waiting list of performers eager to participate. We ALL need to feel that we can help in some small way to ease pain in others.

In November, South Shore Conservatory’s Music is Medicine series features pianist Sarah Troxler with flutist Donald Zook performing a variety of tunes that range from the playful (think variations on Old MacDonald Had a Farm) to the familiar (think Moon River), and on December 7 features holiday classics with Robert Bekkers on classical guitar and Donald Zook on flute.

Learn more about South Shore Conservatory performances at

Beth MacLeod Largent is South Shore Conservatory’s Director of Performance and a member of the voice department.


Take a peek for yourself

Banner - preschool 6By Elaine Sorrentino
The most satisfying hours of my workweek are spent in South Shore Conservatory’s (SSC) afternoon PreK program, where I am permitted to teach literacy, culinary arts and a slew of other subjects in an inspiring manner that is meaningful and ripe for learning.  I am grateful for this arts-based approach which affords me complete artistic freedom in how I present my lessons.

For example, in honor of Halloween week, I was excited to introduce my four and five year olds to Ed Emberley’s If You’re a Monster and You Know It book.  Using the familiar tune, we learned how to snort and growl, smack our claws, stamp our paws, twitch our tails, wiggle our warts, and give a roar.  Fun, yes, but it’s also a lesson about following directions and waiting your turn; plus it allowed them to be a little raucous during Halloween week, and to take the air out of any monster’s tires.  We finished off with a Halloween age-appropriate Mad Lib – give me a type of scary costume, a color, a type of food – you get the idea.  This allowed them to use their imagination to create a very silly story.

South Shore Conservatory’s playful, arts-based curriculum for Preschool, PreK and Kindergarten is a natural and inspiring way for children to explore all the world has to offer. Dramatic play, movement, culinary arts and visual arts, as well as music are all important components of this unique program. Through the rhythm of a drum, children learn math fundamentals and the cadence of reading.  Through the Cha-Cha Slide song, children giggle through discovering right from left, forward from backward, and counting.  Through a humorous, over-the-top manners play, teachers demonstrate what “naughty” behavior at the table looks like.  This dramatization leaves our children with their mouths open in disbelief.  It is a lesson they cannot unlearn.

When you visit our school, you will be delighted by the amount of laughter you hear within our learning environment.  Even in our kindergarten class, you’ll see involved, engaged, inquisitive children at work, happy to be collaborating with peers on hands-on activities. In an effort to make all learning count, this arts-integrated approach celebrates the creativity within each student.  With this program, we’re not focused on creating future musicians, so much as creating future critical thinkers with curious minds.

I invite you to attend one of our Take a Peek tour sessions and see for yourself what arts-integrated learning is all about. It’s a whole-child, whole-body learning approach that appeals to the creativity inside all of us. It sets our children up for success and helps foster a lifelong love of learning.
SSC’s Take a Peek interactive, child-friendly Preschool/PreK/Kindergarten tour is the first Friday of each month.  The tour sessions give you a first-hand experience of our arts-integrated approach to learning and are about one hour long. To reserve your spot, contact Preschool/PreK/Kindergarten Director Rachel White at 781-749-7565, ext. 36 or email her at

Learn more about SSC programs at, or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.  South Shore Conservatory is located at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.

Elaine Sorrentino is South Shore Conservatory’s Communications Director, and a specialist in SSC’s afternoon PreK program.


New faculty members shine at SSC Debuts

Laura Swartz headshotBy Laura Swartz
Mozart’s Le nozze di figaro was the first opera I had the privilege of seeing.  Just a teenager, I found the experience overwhelming, with so many different actions taking place on stage, and the music seeming to soar over everything – it nearly ripped the emotions out of me. Even though I already loved to sing, that powerful opera experience made me hungry to learn how to create such incredible drama with the voice, while simultaneously telling a story that connected with the audience.

Immediately following my first opera experience, I asked my parents for vocal lessons. I dreamed that one day I could sing like the people on stage, and stir others’ emotions, much like my own during that first opera experience. I was fortunate enough to take vocal lessons throughout high school, a time during which my love of music grew, and lead me to pursue music as my career.  I continued my studies through both undergraduate and graduate degrees, and now sing as a professional.

In voice lessons, I expected to improve my singing.  But what I actually learned was so much more! I learned that singing and performing was more than just about vocal technique. It was about exploring the emotional depth within each piece, and connecting to the lives of the poets who wrote the text, the composers, and the artists who originally performed those pieces. I learned that in order for music to be performed with richest intent, there must be personal connections between the music and its performer. Once I discovered the importance of those personal connections, I began looking for music to sing in a new light. Each time I uncover these hidden gems, I learn more about what it means to be an artist as well as a human being.

As I looked for an appropriate ending piece to my master’s recital at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee, I was drawn to Benjamin Britten’s Cabaret Songs. Though these songs are beautiful, what I love about them is that they portray a wide range of emotions within each piece. Within the set, each of the four songs depicts a woman in different aspects of her relationship; for example, the third song, titled Johnny, depicts the woman’s enthusiasm for romance while the man, “Johnny”, is simply not interested. This well–set story challenges the singer to express complex emotions through portraying each character through the perspective of the woman, and doing so in a way that moves the audience to care about the woman and her unreciprocated affection.

This song captures so many elements of the human condition – love, humor, rejection, and sadness – and show cases the intense drama and storytelling that first drew me to music so many years ago. I am delighted to share Johnny from Britten’s Cabaret Songs at SSC Debuts, South Shore Conservatory’s concert introducing new faculty members. I hope you’ll join me.

SSC’s Conservatory Concert Series presents SSC Debuts on Sunday, November 11, 4 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  Tickets are $5 per person. Students are admitted free. Audience members are invited to stay after the performance for a reception, and to meet the performers.  For tickets or more information, visit or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

Soprano Laura Swartz joined South Shore Conservatory’s faculty this fall.

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.

Mad about Mad Love Music Festival!

Andrew, Kathleen, Conor, Clare, Matthew

Andrew, Kathleen, Conor, Clare, and Matthew Jodka

By Eileen Puzo, with Clare, Andrew, Conor and Matthew Jodka
In preparation for the fourth annual Mad Love Music Festival, South Shore Conservatory (SSC) invited some very special guest authors to write this week’s Conservatory Notes article. They are excited to tell you all about Mad Love, which takes place at SSC on Sunday, October 7. And they should know! They helped start it all…

Hello! We are the Jodka kids. Our names are Clare, Andrew, Conor, and Matthew, and we want to tell you about Mad Love. We started Mad Love because our dad, Dave Jodka died from sinus cancer. He loved music and he loved his family. He was in multiple bands and he could play multiple instruments.  In memory of him, we created the Mad Love Music Festival. Mad Love is a music festival to celebrate the life of our dad. Mad Love is fun for all ages with activities for everyone! There will be live bands, food trucks, lots of merchandise, fun activities for kids, and more!

“My favorite part of Mad Love is the food trucks because I like the Galley’s french fries!” says Conor (8).

“My favorite part of Mad Love is seeing the people we know and love because it is always fun to see people we haven’t seen in a while!” Andrew (10) says.

“My favorite part of Mad Love is the music and the games because the games are fun and the music is fun to listen to! I also like meeting the bands!” says Matthew (7).

“My favorite part of Mad Love is seeing friends and family and meeting up with them to take pictures, play games, dance to music, get snacks, or even merchandise!” says Clare (12).

Mad Love is an incredible opportunity to see where your money goes and how it is put to good use. In fact, all the money we earn from tickets and merchandise will be put into a scholarship called The Dave Jodka Scholarship for Future Rockers. This scholarship creates a rock band of high school students who get to learn through South Shore Conservatory. This band we created is called Toast. It is an awesome opportunity for them to meet new people and experience something they have never experienced before.

We like to rock out, just like our dad.  Andrew plays drums and trombone, and Clare plays the piano. Maybe someday we will even be part of Toast (the SSC rock band that Mad Love Music Festival supports)!

We believe Mad Love is more than just a music festival. It is a reminder to be grateful every day and live with gratitude, just like our dad. Tickets are now on sale! Don’t miss out! To buy your tickets or learn more information, got to . We hope to see you there!

So take it from the Jodkas! Mad Love is where you want to be on October 7. This great-for-all-ages day features performances from SSC’s Future Rockers Toast, as well as Carissa Johnson and the Cure-Alls, The Silks, These Wild Plains, the Aldous Collins Band, and Pressure Cooker. With food trucks from Wahlburgers, Hank’s Clam Shack, Sadie Mae’s, Nona’s, and Drank, lawn games and a kid zone, it’s a great day for rockers of all ages.

South Shore Conservatory’s Mad Love Music Festival is Sunday, October 7, from 11am to 5 pm at One Conservatory Drive, Hingham.  Tickets may be purchased at

Eileen Puzo is SSC’s Community Engagement Manager. A Hingham resident, she has been involved with Mad Love Music Festival from its inception.

Sunday’s Big Band Concert

Aretha Franklin Remembering the Queen of Soul_1535720609203.png_96189498_ver1.0_640_480Did you know that Sunday’s JRP Series Kick-off Concert not only features big band music, it also features a tribute to Aretha Franklin.  A versatile vocalist primarily known for her gospel and Motown contributions, Aretha performed beautiful renditions of jazz ballads and standards from the big band era.  Be prepared for a fabulous rendition of Natural Woman, one of the iconic tunes for which she is best remembered.

Tickets for the September 23 afternoon concert, as well as the Sunday Jazz Brunch are still on sale at  One Conservatory Drive, Hingham, MA 02043.


Goodbye Herb Fulton

Herb Fulton
We were sad to learn that Herb Fulton, a major player in South Shore Conservatory’s Hingham campus renovation in the mid-1970s, passed away earlier this month.  With Herb’s efforts,  and the efforts of those at Lester R. Fulton & Son, general contractors, we were able to create a thriving community school for the arts from a rundown, WWII Commandant’s quarters.  His name came up in the news a few months ago when he discovered and donated his old Quincy Patriot Ledger paperboy bag, from back in the 1950s.  The Ledger, in turn, donated it to the Quincy Historical Society.

Thank you Herb for your contribution to South Shore Conservatory!

Big band music kicks off Jazz/Rock/Pop Series

Ed Sorrentino CAWB.JPG

By Ed Sorrentino
Oxymorons.  You hear them everywhere.  Phrases such as “awfully good,” “seriously funny,” or “original copies” just roll off people’s tongues.   Well, here’s a new one for you – little big band.

Some of you may be familiar with music from popular big bands of the 30s and 40s, conducted by bandleaders such as Benny Goodman or Glenn Miller.  Traditional big bands usually had upwards toward 20 plus musicians, with six saxophones, four trombones, four trumpets, guitar, bass, piano, drums, plus male and female vocalists.  This unique makeup created a real danceable, full-bodied sound.

So, what’s a “little” big band?  It’s a smaller ensemble, fewer than ten musicians, playing music designed to create a fuller sound than one would expect from this smaller formation.  The music is fun and lively, and it’s the music our Jazz/Rock/Pop (JRP) department at South Shore Conservatory (SSC) will be presenting at our September 23 JRP Series Kick-off Concert.

Big band songs are familiar to all of us, and are often heard nowadays at all types of events.  One of the most recognizable tunes from this era is In the Mood, which composed by Joe Garland, although it’s always been associated with Glenn Miller who arranged this for his big band.  It quickly became, and continues to be, one on the most popular songs from the 1930s.

Back in the late 70s/early 80s, I performed with the big band Swing Shift, led by the great reed player and Artie Shaw Band leader, Dick Johnson.  It was here that I met some of the greatest jazz musicians in New England, among them, jazz trombonist Alan Cron who is now Rockland Superintendent of Schools.  Remembering what an amazing player Alan was, I invited him to join us for this kick-off concert, then thought about inviting other local music educators.  Performing together in concert would be a fantastic way to celebrate and recognize excellent area music educator/performers. I’d hoped to develop an arts-based collaborative culture, musician to musician, educator to educator, where we can perform together and share advice.  We don’t currently have an SSC big band program, but who knows where this could go?

As a big band drummer, I am often referred to as the “driver of the bus.”  Everything, timewise depends upon the drummer.  Big band music follows a very specific “road map,” a.k.a. written compositions and arrangements.  This type of playing is a real exciting challenge!  Even though the music is more prescribed than in-the-moment, it still allows for a fair amount of improvisation, and requires knowledge of the big band repertoire.  Every arrangement of the songs chosen for this concert has space for improvised solos.

This kick-off concert will not include only instrumental arrangements.  Voice Department Chair Emily Browder-Melville will be singing the famous 1924 George Gershwin tune Fascinating Rhythm. There may even be a nod to versatile vocalist Aretha Franklin, primarily known for her gospel and Motown contributions, but who performed beautiful renditions of jazz ballads and standards from the big band era.

Anyone who loves exciting, popular music is invited to join South Shore Conservatory as they present their JRP Series Kick-off Concert on Sunday, September 23, 1 pm in the Jane Carr Amphitheater at One Conservatory Drive.  Prior to the concert, the JRP department presents a fabulous jazz brunch.  For more information and tickets, visit or call 781-421-6162, x204.

Percussionist Ed Sorrentino is chair of South Shore Conservatory’s Jazz/Rock/Pop department.