Summer Music Festival: tapping unlimited potential

Laprade 2016

When I arrived at the Eastman School of Music as an undergraduate student, the word Meliora was printed on almost everything associated with the University—buildings, bumper stickers, and tuition bills. I didn’t know what the word meant or even how to pronounce it. I soon learned that Meliora is the University of Rochester’s motto, meaning always striving to be better. Meliora is less a word than it is a mindset, a work ethic, a way of life, a culture, and a challenge.

At Summer Music Festival (SMF), South Shore Conservatory’s wind, brass and percussion camp, the concept of always striving to be better defines our educational philosophy for the program. We strive to instill in our students a growth mindset, one in which our potential is unlimited. We challenge each student to be a better musician every time they pick up their instrument. To leave each day of Summer Music Festival a better artist and human being than when they arrived in the morning. Our goal is to develop a mindset that impacts students far beyond the 12 days of Summer Music Festival. As a faculty, we are always so inspired by the growth, transformation, and tenacity of the students that attend Summer Music Festival.

The concept of Meliora applies to more than just our teaching at Summer Music Festival. In fact, it applies to every single component of SMF. We are always thinking about how we can improve the quality of SMF and the educational experience for students. In recent years, as we approach the 50th anniversary of SMF in 2020, we have reflected on the rich history of SMF and what the future of the festival might hold.

SMF  2018 brings quite a few new initiatives and programs. I am particularly excited about our brand new SMF Teaching Academy. The Academy is a hybrid mentorship-internship program for collegiate music education majors. The program will enable a small group of college students to integrate with our immensely talented faculty and develop their musicianship and teaching skills. Speaking of talented faculty, we are very excited to welcome Zach Stern as our new saxophone faculty member. Zach is an international performing artist, committed educator, University of Michigan alum, member of the highly acclaimed Donald Sinta Saxophone Quartet, and a dear friend. I am eager for our students to work with him. Along with new programs and new faculty, comes a new source of financial aid for our students. The All-Star Band Scholarship Fund has been created to support our youngest students at SMF, some as young as elementary school. This fund is designed to increase access for student musicians from underserved and economically disadvantaged situations.

Learn about all Summer Music Festival has to offer at

Eric Laprade is Summer Music Festival’s Music Director.  He is also currently Visiting Director of Wind Ensembles at The University of Utah.



Is ‘learn to sing’ on your bucket list? We can help.

DianneLegro1We are excited to offer the second session of American Songbook, an 8-week class taught by Broadway veteran Dianne Legro, starting Thursday, March 29 (date changed due to the weather), from 6-7:30 pm at SSC’s Hingham campus.  This group vocal class, for adults and young adults, is a great way to get your feet wet vocally, in the company of others who may be new to singing, or at least new to singing outside of the shower.

Here’s what adult students from our first session last fall had to say:

“Any opportunity to try something new is always fun,” said adult student Julie Collinge.  “Getting used to singing in front of a group of people and having someone tell you, ‘try this’ is a challenge.”

But Julie enjoyed being part of a group because they could share with one another the progress they were each making.  She also enjoyed trying out some of the tips the others were receiving.  “I get to sing the funny songs.  I figure, as long as people are laughing at the words, they’re not listening to all the wrong notes!  I had a wonderful time in the class and learned so much.”

Retired dentist Bob DiMaggio took the class to check “learning to sing” off his bucket list. “I don’t read music, but I can carry a tune,” said Bob, who learned Gershwin’s Our Love is Here to Stay.  “The class is very enjoyable.  The most important thing about Dianne is she is an excellent teacher, she knows how to reach people and really helps them! I will take this class again!”

To register or learn more about American Songbook, visit or call 781-749-7565, x10.

Going Rogue: SSC’s Voice Department flips – March 11, 18

Going Rogue Promo Pic

Ready to hear your favorite songs like you never have heard them before? Join us for this delightful twist on singing at CCS’s next free concert Going Rogue:  SSC’s Voice Department flips on March 11 in Hingham, and March 18 in Duxbury, both at 4 pm. Hear a baritone sing I Feel Pretty, from West Side Story along with other hilarious flips from The Magic Flute, Hamilton and others.

Click on the picture for a sneak peek at this rehearsal for Gee, Officer Krupke.

Admission to the concert is free, but reservations are strongly suggested and can be made by clicking here: or by contacting Beth at

Going Rogue at South Shore Conservatory

Emily and MeredithBy Elaine Sorrentino
We all have expectations. When you request chocolate coconut almond ice cream (my favorite), you expect to get chocolate coconut almond ice cream.  And when you hear the name Placido Domingo, often called the “King of Opera,” you expect to hear his powerful dramatic tenor voice singing the part of Otello, for which he is best known.  Placido Domingo equals opera, right? Well, maybe not.  In the 80’s he surprised us all, and recorded Perhaps Love, a pop song (what?) with John Denver.  The unusual collaboration was so unexpected, and the result so beautiful, that Perhaps Love was an instant hit, selling over four million records. Uh oh, I may have just derailed my own thought train here…

…and more recently Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, with his powerful, operatic voice, sang a duet of Perfect with Ed Sheeran in a touching, elegant orchestral version of Sheeran’s song.  It’s like musical candy. If you have not heard it, I highly recommend Googling it and having a listen.  I guarantee you’ll listen to it more than once.  Again, a completely unexpected vocal experiment with unforgettable results.

With this in mind, South Shore Conservatory put together a concert of unexpected vocal surprises, called Going Rogue: South Shore Conservatory’s Voice Department flips.  Believe me, there are flips!  These vocalists will wander far outside their comfort zone, dipping their vocal toes into an unfamiliar pool, and audiences will hear some surprisingly sensational results.

For example, remember fun Gee Officer Krupke from West Side Story (WSS)?  Don’t expect it to be sung by Jets or Sharks gang members.  It will sung by a wild gang of females.  After Going Rogue, you will never think of the Natalie Wood WSS character singing I Feel Pretty again.  You’ll think of baritone Devon Russo belting it out.  This is sure to be a show stopper.

If you liked Mike D’Abo’s version of Herod’s Song from Jesus Christ Superstar, you may find yourself enjoying the Eve Montague version even more!  These Rogue performers seek to entertain and amuse.  Perhaps in the process, they’ll discover their own mixed genre versatility.

Arrive with an open heart and mind, and come prepared to be entertained, because I believe you will be pleasantly surprised at the touching and hilarious gift these talented vocalists bestow on the audience.

South Shore Conservatory’s Going Rogue:  South Shore Conservatory’s Voice Department flips, the final concert in SSC’s Conservatory Concert Series 2017/2018 season, is Sunday, March 11, 4 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  The program is repeated Sunday, March 18, 4 pm at the Conservatory’s Duxbury campus.  SSC faculty members performing include Emily Browder Melville, Holly Jennings, Beth MacLeod Largent, Devon Russo, Eve Montague and Meredith Borden. Admission to the concert is free and open to the public.

To learn more about South Shore Conservatory performances and events, visit or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

Elaine Sorrentino is the Communications Director at South Shore Conservatory.

A fun camp preview for string students!

AMC 2016 cropped

By Amanda Smith Roberts
With the cold weather we’ve been experiencing, I long for the warm months of summer, when there’s an abundance of outdoor camps and performances taking place in the Jane Carr Amphitheater at South Shore Conservatory (SSC).  During these cold winter months, however, summer planning is in full swing, which for me means I am now planning for American Music Camp (AMC) for Strings 2018!

It is hard to explain the unique AMC experience in words, so we are offering a FREE preview of the camp for string students to experience the fun firsthand! AMC for Strings began at SSC in the summer of 2015 with the goal of providing students with fun classes and creative opportunities to boost their playing skills, introduce them to new musical styles, improvisational skills, various techniques for their instruments, all of which help them enjoy creating and sharing music with each other.  Since its inception, AMC has inspired the majority of its faculty members and student campers to return each summer!

Our March 3 preview event allows violin, viola, cello, bass, guitar, mandolin and ukulele students, ages 3-18, to bring their instrument and explore new areas of string playing, with fun offerings such as Old Time Radio Show, reminiscent of Prairie Home Companion, where students learn to write a script and run a variety show that hosts the daily student recitals, or Movie and Pop Music and Arranging, where students create their own renditions of their favorite film scores and pop tunes.  Noodle Bands, rock bands that write and perform songs about pasta, tend to pop up here and there during the event.  Students are placed in classes geared to their interests, playing level, and age group.

Other preview classes include: Irish Fiddling, Improvisation, Musical Story Telling, Foot Percussion, Pop/Movie Music Arranging, Cool Cello Techniques, and Baroque Ensembles.  Participants can buy raffle tickets for a chance to win a mandolin and other exciting prizes! Joining me for the preview are faculty members Joy Adams (cello), Andy Reiner (5-string fiddle), Hazel Ketchum (guitar), Erik Caldarone (electric guitar), and Emily Hale (Baroque ensembles).

AMC for Strings, which runs from June 24-29, gives students a unique taste for what is possible on their instruments.  Additionally, it helps them find their individual musical voices through inspiring creativity. The camp provides opportunities for all string students, regardless of experience or musical background. One of our favorite activities is the daily all-camp jam session and student performances in the amphitheater. Some of our younger students, who attend the half-day camp, return at the end of the day just for this fun activity.  One would have to fly all over the nation to accumulate such an expansive variety of experiences that they will gather in five days!

South Shore Conservatory’s AMC Preview event takes place on Saturday, March 3 from 2-5 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  To register, visit  For more information about the camp or the preview event, visit, find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook, or contact Amanda Roberts at

Amanda Roberts is the chair of South Shore Conservatory’s string department.

Support for those dealing with memory issues

By Kari O’Briant   shake-your-soul
When I first heard about Memory Cafés two years ago, I was delighted at the concept.  I’ve seen how Alzheimer’s has affected members of my own family, as well as the families of my friends; I imagine there are few people in this country who have not been directly impacted by it.  How wonderful that we are creating opportunities to support the people dealing with this disease!  I wish this had been available years ago.

In 2017, through South Shore Conservatory I began providing music therapy at Memory Cafés at various local Councils on Aging.  These gatherings, designed for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as their care partners, offer a supportive, relaxed environment that eases feelings of stress and loneliness that can occur with these diagnoses and caregiving.  I’ve been to cozy events that involved only a couple of participants and allowed time and space for deep discussion, and I’ve been to others with over 20 participants that were energetic and full of lighthearted laughter.

Cafés are typically provided in community spaces, free of charge, and staffed by individuals with experience in Alzheimer’s and dementia.  They usually center on a theme, such as a co-occurring holiday, often include engagement in an activity such as art or music, and can include educational opportunities.  Music provides space for expression and connection.

In my work, I have used music therapy interventions such as singing favorite songs, playing instruments, and songwriting, to encourage reminiscence, social connections, expressions of emotion, communication, and movement – all applicable goals for individuals attending Memory Cafés.

One of my great joys is witnessing families and communities connect through music.  Within my work as a music therapist at these events, I’ve seen:

– married couples smile at each other while recounting how they met
– individuals discuss their favorite Thanksgiving desserts and pie-making techniques
– recent strangers cheer each other taking a drum solo
– 25 people laughing and playing kazoos along to Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever”
– someone smile with delight at discovering how to play a new instrument.

Participants have the option of attending as many sessions as they like, as frequently as they would like.   This setup creates space for connecting with peers in the community that they might not ordinarily encounter.  For example, a significant number of people with Down Syndrome are expected to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s as they age, and most of the Cafés I have attended have included individuals with Down Syndrome as well as individuals without.  Too often, people who have Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities are kept separate from their peers.  Inclusion is important to building a strong and supportive community, and Memory Cafés promote inclusion in multiple ways.

It has been a pleasure to share space with these people.  Now I have the honor of facilitating the new SSC Memory Café on the third Thursday of every month at One Conservatory Drive, Hingham. While there is no cost to join in, participants are asked to register prior to each session by contacting Eve Montague, Director of Creative Arts Therapies, at 781-934-2731, x20 or For more information on the SSC Memory Café, visit

Kari O’Briant, MT-BC is a board-certified music therapist.  She joined SSC’s Creative Arts Therapies faculty at South Shore Conservatory in 2011.


Play is at the Heart of Learning

prek water tableby Rachel Gellis
If you are a parent, I welcome you to take a journey back in time to think about your fondest preschool and kindergarten memories. Did it involve standardized tests? Staring at an iPad? Sitting still in your chair for a length of time? More than likely, these are not the memories that come mind, but unfortunately, this is what school often looks like today. The warm memories you have likely involve making new friends, creating messy art projects, playing cops and robbers on the playground, cooking in the play kitchen and playing restaurant, singing songs with your classmates, learning to tie your shoes, and the best of days when your teacher would take the parachute out of the closet.

Remember what you loved about preschool as a child, while playful and fun, you were learning skills to be successful in the real world. Playing cops and robbers or restaurant, you were learning to make friends, take turns, follow rules, using imagination, and learning how to get along with others. Creating messy art projects, you were flexing your creativity muscle and learning that the process is just as important as the product. You were learning self-help skills and were so proud of yourself when you learned to tie your shoes. You were becoming independent. Although the parachute might have just been for fun, we believe having fun is an integral part of learning.

At South Shore Conservatory, or SSC, we are taking things back to basics. With a comprehensive foundation of social and emotional skills, combined with an arts-integrated curriculum, we are creating a life-long love of learning in our students. Arts-integration is an approach to teaching and learning in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. At SSC, we use various forms of art (drama, music, storytelling, poetry, visual arts, and creative movement) as primary pathways to learning. Through arts-integration, we are giving our children the tools to understand that there are many ways to learn and there is no one right way to learn. The more ways we teach students to learn, the more likely learning is to occur.

Our philosophy is to keep “play” at the heart of most activities as children begin their educational journey. Through play and the arts, we begin to gently introduce academic subjects to young children, and increase the skill level as they continue to grow within our program. Through the arts, young children engage in a creative process which connects an art form to other subject areas. By doing so, they learn key early childhood concepts, and creatively problem-solve and reach benchmarks using his/her own individual learning style. We equip our students with the tools necessary to be successful in the twenty-first century, creating a sense of community through rich art-integrated lessons and activities. Differences are respected and celebrated as each child freely expresses his or her own self.  Using the arts to connect children to the material they are learning, makes it much more meaningful and purposeful.

Learn by “doing” is also our philosophy with parents! The first of every month we invite parents bring their children to an interactive, hands-on Take A Peek Tour, and jump right into the classroom to observe it in full action.  Offering both morning and afternoon sessions lets us accommodate different schedules.  Giving a child the gift of an arts-integrated Preschool/PreK/Kindergarten experience is truly a gift that continues to keep giving throughout that child’s life.

To sign up for a Take A Peek Tour, contact me at or call 781-749-7565, ext. 36.

Rachel Gellis is South Shore Conservatory’s Director of Preschool/PreK/Kindergarten.


From dream to reality: bringing the arts to all communities

YouthChorus_FallConcert_0039By Anne Smith
One year ago, I was home during a snowstorm when an email arrived from Malissa Kenney.  Malissa is social worker and advocate, well known on the South Shore for her work with the ARC, serving individuals with disabilities. As an after-school volunteer at the Algonquin Heights affordable housing community in Plymouth, Malissa was well acquainted with the challenges facing that neighborhood. She wrote me in the hopes that together we could provide arts programming to the families living there.

As Director of Community Engagement at SSC, I work with community groups and social service organizations to provide access to the arts off-site, away from our campuses in Hingham and Duxbury.  SSC’s mission is to make the arts available to everyone, regardless of age, ability, location, or financial status.  A partnership with Algonquin Heights fit seamlessly in to both our vision and our experience. This is a community right in the center of Plymouth, but isolated from many of the cultural opportunities the town has to offer.  Financial challenges and lack of transportation mean that most children can’t participate in after-school activities. Malissa wrote, “We want to bolster the community and give the kids an opportunity to tap into their talents, have fun, and build self-confidence.  All those great things happen when you’re involved in arts.”

In the weeks following, we met with Malissa, fellow volunteer Kathy Dunn, and Ami Knight, Director of Resident Services to brainstorm opportunities to provide the community with arts programming. The partnership began in earnest last June with a series of community-wide drum circles drawing over 150 residents, from grandparents to teens to moms and babies, into active, joyful music-making.

Since then, the partnership has flourished.  Contributions from private donors as well as a generous grant from South Shore Community Partners in Prevention Community Health Network have allowed SSC to provide programming free-of-charge.  This fall, VERC Rentals and VERC Enterprises teamed up to donate access to a van to bring young singers from Plymouth to our Duxbury campus every Monday for the SSC Youth Chorus. With some of the funds raised by our annual Chase Away the Winter Blues gala, SSC provided full scholarships for eight singers from Algonquin Heights.

Led by Peter Mundt, beloved music educator from the Scituate school district, SSC Youth Chorus meets once a week from September through May.  Peter believes his role is to promote a feeling of community and family among his singers. “Whenever there’s an act of kindness I try to highlight it. These kids care about each other.  They take care of each other.  This opens everyone up to taking risks. I really want them to feel comfortable and courageous. When kids are excited about music, I feel like it’s opening up their personality and who they are inside.  Singing allows them to express their true selves.”

The power of this partnership is felt deeply by Algonquin Heights’ administrative staff. Ami Knight came to support the young singers at their first chorus concert in December.  The next day, she wrote, “Last night was beautiful.  I cried during the concert and sat in my car after and cried. I don’t know if you all understand how much it means to these kids to have people follow through, to encourage and support them and to not cancel things and to not give up on them.  The children that participate in the program have the ‘normal’ kid stress along with other obstacles.  Because of the family financial limitations and lack of transportation they cannot participate in many enrichment programs. They cannot expand their horizons outside of the community.  You all worked together to remove the obstacle of transportation and with the sponsorship allowed them to participate, to learn and to meet others.  You never canceled a rehearsal.  You never forgot to pick them up.  You encourage them to be their best and they were.  They absolutely were.”

At SSC we believe that the arts change lives. Our annual Chase Away the Winter Blues gala helps us fund partnership efforts such as this one with Algonquin Heights.  The year’s gala is Saturday, January 27 at the Boston Marriot Quincy, 1000 Marriot Drive in Quincy.  The SSC Youth Chorus will be featured performers that night.  For information about the Blues, the SSC Youth Chorus and Community Partnerships, visit



Make music your New Life resolution

violin-lesson-600x380by Lorna Jane Norris
As the year turns we often find ourselves thinking about what we want to achieve over the next year. Sometimes it’s a practical and measurable goal, such as getting a new job, repainting the house, or losing ten pounds. There’s something about the New Year opportunity window, though, that invites us to consider creating more meaning in our lives; spending more time with loved ones, spending more time reading and less time on social media, or planting an herb garden.

At South Shore Conservatory (SSC), we always see an increase in inquiries for music lessons right after the New Year.  This year we’re making it easier for folks to get started by offering the first lesson for free through the end of February.  Music is just one of those beautiful things we all want to experience more of, isn’t it?

I love what visionary author Kurt Vonnegut said when asked to identify the single most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. “My Lord, that’s a tough question because there is so much beauty, really; it’s what keeps me going in life, is just glimpsing beauty all the time. I suppose the most beautiful thing, although you can’t exactly see it, is music,” he answered.

Wow. Drop the mic. It’s important to point out here that Vonnegut was not a musician, but an author. You don’t have to be a musician to see the beauty in it, and you don’t have to be a musician to enjoy taking music lessons. In fact, that’s kind of the point of the lessons. When I read something like this, I feel so much gratitude for my music education and for the privilege of working at an organization whose mission is to change lives through music.

Another quote I find inspiring was in opera composer Jake Heggie’s address to the 2017 graduating class of Northwestern’s music school.  He told the graduates, “Music is essential – and it is essentially optimistic. It is about the future: the very best of what we can achieve together when we open our hearts and minds to strive for something great and seemingly unreachable. It is about the deepest stirrings in our hearts and souls. And people are absolutely starved for it.”

So, satisfy your hunger and schedule your or your child’s first private music lesson for free. Our placement team will get to know a little bit about you and your learning style, identify what you are looking for, and work to pair you up with a teacher to help you on your way. If you don’t know what instrument you would like to study (we include voice as an instrument), we can help with that too. SSC has 47 years of experience providing high quality music lessons to over 1000 students a week. You’ve got to admit that’s a lot of students!

Visit or call 781-749-7565, ext. 37 before February 28 to take advantage of the free lesson. You can also find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.  Don’t wait to make music your new life resolution!

Lorna Jane Norris is South Shore Conservatory’s Vice President of Education.


Helping Suzuki Hurricane Victims through Music

hurricane relief studentsBy Lauren Whittaker

Watching the devastation of Hurricane Harvey on the nightly news motivated me to seek a way help, but what was the best way?!  Concluding that a monetary donation was the greatest help I could offer left me in a second quandary: where to donate?  Red Cross?  Celebrity phone-a-thon?  (It’d be fun to talk to a well-known celebrity directly!  Oprah?)  Perhaps a local drive?

Then, as a Suzuki piano teacher at South Shore Conservatory, registered with the Suzuki Association of the Americas, I received an email from them with the subject line “Suzuki Hurricane Relief Fund.”  They were suggesting that my students participate in a practice-a-thon, with the goal of raising funds, through pledges, to assist Suzuki teachers and families in the Southeast Texas and Louisiana area, while strengthening my their practice habits and making beautiful music in honor of those who affected by the storm. This was IT!  A way to help a very real need in a way I hadn’t thought about before!

The fund’s priorities were to replace instruments ruined by the hurricane, and help to pay for lessons for those unable to afford to pay, due to the devastation. Of course, no piano is going to fit in a lifeboat, and when the boat came, those with smaller instruments would have had no time to run to find them, so this was a wonderful solution.

SSC knows that participating in music programs has the capacity to increase children’s sense of social responsibility so for both the SSC students and the music students in Houston, this practice-a-thon really was a win-win situation. The more my students practiced, the stronger their piano skills grew and the more they raised for the children who lost so much in the hurricane.  Their practice time included home practice time, listening time, lessons, groups, and recitals!

The program included both September and October, a total of 61 days, at the piano.  Students completed a practice chart then had a parent initial it every day.  Then they added up the minutes.  I pledged one cent per minute at the piano to each of my students.

Nine of my students, ages four-and-a-half to eleven, elected to participate, and did they ever learned some invaluable lessons!  Seven-year old Lily, enjoyed recording her minutes and her mom reported that she practiced more regularly each morning before school.  She told her mom that she felt “happy and helpful” to participate.  Another five-year-old, a new student, had trouble grasping the idea of a practice-a-thon.  But her mom explained it and the idea blossomed.  Near the end, she exclaimed to her mom, “I feel great to help and practice and then give money for the people who don’t have any instruments anymore because I still have my piano!”

Another five-year-old, after only a short introduction from me, learned all of a new piece the first week of the practice-a-thon – on her own by taking the time to listen to her CD repeatedly!  The bounce in her step as she came into my studio and the joy on her face with her new ability had me close to tears!

In the end, the students practiced over 4000 minutes and collected donations of almost $1000.

And they reaped the lasting benefits:  while not required to practice more than their normal amount of time, many of the participating students did.  Some are still maintaining their new habit.  What a pleasure it is working with these children at their lesson.  The joy of mastering something new – a new piece, a new scale, a new and difficult passage – has become the new normal!  The “I Can!” attitude is going viral!

Learn more about SSC’s Suzuki instruction at