SSC Dance: a perfect blend of discipline and joy

by Liz Graham
My daughter, Mirabella (8), begins her third year of dance at South Shore Conservatory (SSC) this coming fall. Mira had taken ballet with another well-known ballet school when she was a toddler, and when we settled in Hingham, she decided she’d like to join a ballet program again. At the time, I was working for SSC, and learned that ballet would be offered that school year at the Hingham campus, in addition to its long-running program in Duxbury. It was a no brainer; I signed her right up!

Since she started the program, Mira has been a student of Ms. Adrienne, a favorite teacher of anyone who has been a part of the SSC community. During her first year, Mira loved to watch a hip-hop class for younger children that took place before her ballet class. She begged me to ask SSC’s wonderful Dance Department Chair, Susie Guthro, if they would consider adding a hip-hop class for her age group the following school year. To Mira’s (and my) surprise, SSC made it happen! We quickly shared this exciting news with several of Mira’s friends who were in her ballet class, and they joined as well. The class, taught by the fabulous Kaitlyn Mazzilli, who is a licensed dance therapist, was a huge success from the perspective of both parents and kids alike. The hip-hop dancers even got to perform a piece in the SSC Dance Department Spring Recital!

The Spring Recital is a wonderful experience for these young dancers. Believe it or not, it’s virtually stress free! They work hard all year, and this is their opportunity to perform in front of family and friends. The faculty manages to keep the recital to an hour, which I greatly appreciate as a parent of a younger child. Students are dressed simply – in their ballet leotards, tights, skirts and slippers. There are three rehearsals beforehand, not at all overwhelming for Mira. It is fun for the students to interact with other SSC students from different towns, as the Duxbury and Hingham campuses come together for this event.

We love so many aspects of SSC’s dance program, but the one thing I always share with other parents and their children, is that SSC has figured out the perfect blend of discipline and joy. The teachers are true professionals, teaching these young dancers the proper French words for ballet steps. They are expected to wear the appropriate attire for their class level. They work hard during class and have the opportunity to perform what they’ve learned in front of an audience. However, SSC faculty also incorporates an element of fun that isn’t always apparent in other programs. These kids come out of their classes laughing and smiling. To me, that says it all! Mira and I are grateful to have discovered this wonderful dance program right in our community.

South Shore Conservatory’s dance classes start the week of September 9.  Learn more about dance department offerings at, or find South Shore Conservatory Dance Department on Facebook at

Liz Graham, former SSC Special Events and Corporate Relations Liaison, is a Hingham resident.




A creative way to give

bill and EW secBy Laura Hay

Who would have thought, during the spring of 1978, when Emmett Eldred and Bill Wheeler opened their first Eldred Wheeler store, on Main Street of Osterville, that their passion for furniture design would result in a booming a world-renowned business?

I recently saw their glorious authentically-designed and handcrafted furniture, replicating 18th Century America Country high-style, and completely understand why people purchase multiple pieces.  This is the type of distinguished furniture you want to pass down from generation to generation.

It did not take long before they opened a second store on Main Street in Hingham, with additional stores opened in Wellesley as well as Connecticut, Arizona, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Texas.  The pieces remain highly sought-after and collected.  All this stemmed from a little creative passion.

South Shore Conservatory (SSC) knows a lot about passion!  More than 40 years after starting Eldred Wheeler (EW), Bill Wheeler has donated one of his personal EW pieces, a tiger maple bonnet top secretary created especially for him, to support South Shore Conservatory’s passion for providing access to education in the arts for all. According to Bill, when he and Emmet began to expand Eldred Wheeler, they brought in many young people, who grew and developed in the art of furniture making.  As he learned more about SSC and the programs that serve the entire South Shore, Bill said, “I loved learning about how the students develop under the guidance of the exceptional faculty and develop their skills, beyond just their musicianship, to become global citizens of our community.”

After Bill, a Duxbury resident, attended SSC’s Duxbury Music Festival, he asked to learn more about SSC and the role it plays in the lives of many throughout the year, not just in the summer.  He learned about how our Tuition Assistance provides support for those who might not otherwise be able to afford lessons, how our ImagineARTS program provides an arts-based literacy curriculum for kindergarten students in Brockton, and how SSC offers extraordinary free and low-cost performances in Hingham, Duxbury, and throughout the South Shore.  In short, Bill learned there is so much more going on than he could have imagined.

As SSC prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, Bill wanted to be sure to be part of the lasting legacy of the organization.  Initially, he had planned to leave this piece to SSC through the Encore Society as part of his estate plans.  Last summer, however, he decided that he wanted to find a new way to ensure his donation would have the biggest impact on the needs of the largest community arts-school in Massachusetts.

This spring, Bill introduced SSC to Peter Smith of The Plymouth Exchange and Paul Dobson of The Sandwich Antiques Center.  Peter and Paul, co-hosts of WATD 95.9’s number one hit show, The Antiques Airshow, joined Bill in creating a path for donors to support SSC in new ways.  These new friendships resulted in the establishment of SSC’s “Special Gifts Program,” an exciting new opportunity for individuals to donate items of value, to be appraised and sold by, with proceeds supporting the programs of South Shore Conservatory.  Through their extensive networks, Peter and Paul will provide a resource for those friends of SSC who wish to find new ways for Making Music Changing Lives.

Learn more about creative ways to give to SSC, visit

Laura Hay is South Shore Conservatory’s Director, Capital Campaign and Major Gifts.

Connection and understanding through the arts

Kid's drama class.JPG

By Su D’Ambrosio

As a person who grew up in an Italian immigrant family in “The Lake” section of Newton, an area populated almost entirely with Italian immigrants, the words “send her back” makes me think of my childhood. They remind me of a time when I was immersed in a community of people searching for a new life in a foreign land, encountering obstacles at every turn. It makes me wonder why some communities are able to accept and adapt to their new foreign neighbors, while others aren’t. Focusing on the things that make us the same versus those that make us different is one way people find connection. The arts, for example, offer common ground and personal connection.

Every nationality has its own representative elements of music, dance, drama and visual art. This fact alone provides something in common to appreciate. The arts can also serve as a means of communication, with music often called a “universal language.” No matter your native tongue, we can all hear a song or melody and understand it as music. Sinichi Suzuki developed a method for teaching very young children to play violin.  He called it the Mother Tongue Method, in part to emphasize the connection between music and language. When I saw my first opera, La Traviata, I couldn’t understand any of the words, but the sound of the music and the dramatic action of the performers translated for me. Many people have seen The Nutcracker ballet, which tells a beautiful, magical story with no words at all.  This is one reason why it is so important for our young people to learn how to be expressive in the arts.

Many important outcomes result from learning in the arts. Perhaps the most important is self-discovery and finding your own voice to express thoughts, feelings and ideas in a way that others can understand and appreciate. While people tend to filter out insults and shouts of anger, they might pause to listen to a protest song or look at a painting or a statue. There are countless examples of plays, movies and TV shows about difficult subjects that encourage us to think. Creating art is an act of sharing and giving of yourself, which is a quality we wish to cultivate in our children. When we are consumers of art, we are in a position to pay attention to what someone else is trying to say and we develop empathy. And the arts are often designed to bring people together as a community to create and appreciate in a way that helps us see our similarities versus our differences.

At South Shore Conservatory, we offer inspiration and connection through music, dance and drama for people of all ages and abilities.  Our fall session starts the week of September 9. Take a ukulele class, sing in a non-traditional chorus, or find the perfect music, dance or drama class for your child by visiting or calling 781-749-7565 x10.  You can also find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

Su D’Ambrosio is Director of Education at South Shore Conservatory.  She lives in Plymouth with her daughters Maria and Rosa, and her dog Bernie, who sings at the moon and dances around the living room, proving that all creatures can connect through the arts.

Come see our student camp performances this week!

Our students have been working hard at our summer camps! Come support them at the following end-of-camp performances this week:

  • Summer Vocal Institute Canto Solo Performances: Thursday, August 8, 6 pm, One Conservatory Drive, Hingham, MA 02043
  • Summer Vocal Institute Full Camp Performance: Friday, August 9, 3 pm, One Conservatory Drive, Hingham, MA 02043
  • Let’s Put On a Show Performance: Friday, August 9, 1 pm, 64 St. George Street, Duxbury, MA 02331

Teens performing a musical dance number.

Children performing in a play.

Rusty Skippers perform at South Shore Conservatory: August 10


Join SSC adult flute student Chris Oddleifson and the Rusty Skippers and they present a free concert in South Shore Conservatory’s Jane C. Carr Amphitheater, at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham, on Saturday, August 10 at 4 pm.

The Rusty Skipper Band (RSB) is an adult community band comprised of about 40 musicians from throughout the South Shore of Boston.  The band focuses on the joy of making music and  sharing it.  Steve Biagini, former band director at Cohasset’s Deer Hill School, has led the band since 1996.parade-pics-1_orig

Rusty Skipper musicians range in age from college to their 80’s. It is a diverse group;   -lawyers, a retired postal clerk, one minister, current and retired teachers, a bank president, several doctors and hospital administrators, homemakers, an antique dealer, coaches, scout leaders, volunteers and more.

The Skippers feel that the Carr Amphitheater makes the band sound its very best, so come and hear this very special band in this very special performance venue!

More about RSB at


A case of flute envy!


Throughout the year, South Shore Conservatory invites students to come and try out an instrument before signing up for lessons or classes

By Su D’Ambrosio
When I was first learning the clarinet, I had a bit of instrument envy. I looked at the saxophone and bassoon with hundreds of keys, and wished I could play a more challenging instrument. I watched my pianist friends manage all the keys of the piano and play complicated classical pieces from memory, while my drum set friends played four different parts, one with each hand and foot, and was amazed at what they could do. And I was jealous of my brass playing friends who could take their instruments out and play without fussing over reeds.

But, most of all, I wanted to play the flute. Flute had elements of all the things I wished for. It was small and easy to transport, there were no reeds to worry about, and it was fairly complex, with many keys and odd fingerings. Plus, it seemed all the girls who played the flute were attractive and caught the attention of all the cute brass, saxophone and drum players.  Finally, in college, I received my golden opportunity.

To earn my music education credentials, I had to learn how to play all the instruments – brass, strings, percussion and woodwinds. I even learned a little piano! However, I was most excited to learn the flute. I took my student flute out of the case, put it together, learned how to hold it properly, and began to blow. Anticipating beautiful, light, flute tones, I was quite dismayed when nothing came out.  Nothing.  Just air. I blew harder. More air. I adjusted the head joint. Nothing. I was devastated. How could this be? I had no trouble with any of the other instruments.

After trying my best, I went to my first lesson and, with the guidance of a seasoned educator, learned what I was doing wrong, and in no time started playing beautiful music. This experience taught me one of the most important lessons I could learn as a budding music educator: what it feels like to want to play an instrument that may not be a natural fit. I found myself in the shoes of my future students who might struggle with some challenges before putting it all together to succeed.

At South Shore Conservatory (SSC) parents ask me which instrument is the best to start on all the time. My answer is always that it depends on many factors. First, it’s important the student enjoys the sound of the instrument, which will foster practicing. And second, it’s equally important to make sure the instrument is a good physical fit. For example, a small student will have a difficult time holding and managing a large instrument.

With many instruments, it is tough to know how easy or challenging it might be until you try it. To help students figure this out we are offering Instrument Exploration opportunities throughout the year. These sessions give students and parents a chance to try a variety of instruments, hear what they sound like, and learn about all the factors to consider before making a choice. This sets the student up for maximum success.

Learn more about South Shore Conservatory’s Instrument Exploration schedule at, call 781-749-7565 x10, or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

Su D’Ambrosio is Director of Education at South Shore Conservatory.  She lives in Plymouth with her daughters Maria and Rosa, and her dog Bernie, who was very sad to learn that violin would not be a good fit for a dog.

South Shore Art Center on our walls

Peters - meanderings.jpeg

By Elaine Sorrentino
I will never forget walking through South Shore Conservatory (SSC) the day South Shore Art Center’s fiber artist exhibit opened in 2006. It was magical! Spanning the wall that spans two floors, was the most beautiful, intricately handstitched quilt I have ever seen.  Virginia Holloway was its creator. As I moved in to get a closer look, I realized that some of the squares in the pattern were as tiny as one half inch wide.  My open-mouth stare said it all – I was a fan!

South Shore Art Center (SSAC) artists’ work has hung in our art galleries for years.  With our 2004 renovation, we are able to provide more expansive exhibition space for these gifted visual artists.  In our new space – South Shore Music Circus Gallery on the first floor, and Robert & Dorothy Palmer Gallery on the second floor – we have had the pleasure of displaying (for sale) everything from Marshfield photographer Mike Sleeper and his stunning landscapes, to botanical artists Kay Kopper, Julie Sims Messenger, Sarah Roche and Ruth Ann Wetherby Frattasio, to the passionate artwork of husband/wife artists Liz Haywood-Sullivan and J. Michael Sullivan.  We are grateful that this partnership both allows us to enjoy stunning local art, and providing SSAC artists with exposure to new potential buyers.

I recently had a lively conversation with South Shore Art Center Executive Director Patrice Maye, who is also the parent of a South Shore Conservatory percussion student.  A founding member of the Scituate Harbor Cultural Council, Patrice is always delighted to see collaboration between the arts.  She said that her gallery artists, who are juried in, are always seeking ways to connect with new audiences, which is something the Conservatory galleries provide for them.  All SSAC members have the opportunity to exhibit at two member shows per year, but it’s only the 180 gallery artists who are invited to show their work at satellite locations such as SSC and the Paul Pratt Library in Cohasset.

In conceptualizing SSC shows, which change every three or four months, Patrice sometimes puts together a theme, then sends an “all call” to her artists.  For example, past themes or titles have included Parsing Imagination, where the artist took you on a mind journey with abstract pieces.  Sometimes three or four artists will present a show with a common focus, such as the botanical artists. Other times shows have been seasonal, or all watercolors, all oils, or all photography.  Patrice is looking in a new direction for upcoming shows, thinking that perhaps a concept-themed exhibition might be exciting.

One of the pieces that received the most buzz in recent years, was a piece called Disco Deer by Stephen (Stucky) Jiranek.  As people headed up the stairs to the Palmer gallery, they were greeted by this fabulous deer head, made up of mirrored tiles.  Disco Deer had parents and students chuckling to themselves on their way to lessons on the second floor.  We enjoyed it so much we asked and were given permission to keep it on our walls beyond the duration of the show.  We were sad to see it mosey on to its next home.

I invite you to stop by and check out these South Shore Art Center artists.  I guarantee you’ll be impressed. During the school year, South Shore Conservatory’s Robert & Dorothy Palmer Gallery and South Shore Music Circus Gallery are open Monday through Friday, 9 am to 6 pm, Saturday, 9 am to 2 pm, and during scheduled concerts. There is no admission charge.  South Shore Conservatory is located at One Conservatory Drive, Hingham.

To learn more about SSC’s art galleries, visit or “like” South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

Elaine Sorrentino is South Shore Conservatory’s Communications Director.

Lots of familiar faces at Radio Days Classics

Radio Days - Big Band Era

By Elaine Sorrentino 

Last fall, when our Jazz/Rock/Pop (JRP) department presented its first JRP Series concert of the season, they decided that a “little big band” concert, featuring popular tunes from the 30s and 40s, might be a fun way to showcase a little variety.  People loved it! The concert was a huge hit, and the audience left begging for more.

The good news is, there IS more!  On Saturday, July 27, South Shore Conservatory’s Evenings Under the Stars concert series presents Radio Days Classic:  Music of the Big Band Era! in the Carr Amphitheater.  Although the musicians are presenting big band music, their ensemble is actually a much smaller version of those traditional big bands, which could have upwards toward 20 plus musicians.  The composition was often six saxophones, four trombones, four trumpets, guitar, bass, piano, drums, plus male and female vocalists.  This smaller “little big band” formation is comprised of ten or fewer musicians playing music designed to create a bigger sound.  It’s really quite something to hear.

In addition to hearing familiar Ellington and Basie tunes, I’m very excited about welcoming back the musicians, who are excited about capturing the essence of the big band era and sharing it with the audience.  Many of them are former Summer Music Festival (SMF) faculty and alumni, and some of them are local educators.  How much fun will it be for their students to see their jazz ensemble conductor performing in a jazz ensemble?

Here’s who’s playing: on sax we’ve got former SMF faculty member Kenny Reid, and SSC JRP faculty members John Vanderpool and Nick Biagini (also former SMF alum); Hanover High School music educator Matt Harden, and Rockland High School music educator John Piazza on trumpet; on trombone we’ve got Foxboro High School adjunct faculty member and former SMF student John Mitchell; SSC’s Jeff Williams on piano; we’ve got SSC’s Carlos Sulbarán on bass; SSC faculty member, former SMF student and adjunct Berklee College of Music faculty member Kevin Scollins on guitar; and SSC/SMF faculty members Willis Edmundson and Ed Sorrentino on percussion/drums.  SSC’s voice department chair Emily Browder Melville will do vocals.

Matt Harden, who also performed in the fall big band concert, recently said he’s excited for the opportunity to be “on the other side” of a jazz ensemble, and to perform again with great musicians. Matt feels there’s nothing like communicating and expressing yourself through the language of jazz.  It informs his teaching and inspires him to be a better musician.

For Nick Biagini, one of our newer faculty members, he’s excited to collaborate with musicians who mentored him way back when he was a student at Summer Music Festival, and the peers he grew up with at SSC. He still looks up to these musicians, and is honored to play this music with them. He has so many defining memories of the Jane Carr Amphitheater – the place where he fell in love with music – that he welcomes the experience of playing on the stage where he began his musical journey over a decade ago.

Hingham native Willis Edmundson is excited for the opportunity to return to all the music he has known since high school, when he initially got interested in jazz. Although he listens to these songs often, he rarely has an opportunity to perform them, especially in a (small) big band setting. Willis feels it will be an exercise in creativity to bring these songs to life, and is truly looking forward to it.

Join us as South Shore Conservatory’s Evenings Under the Stars concert series presents Radio Days Classic:  Music of the Big Band Era! on Saturday, July 27, 7 pm in the Jane Carr Amphitheater, One Conservatory Drive, Hingham.  Tickets at

Elaine Sorrentino is South Shore Conservatory’s Communications Director.

Karen K & the Jitterbugs rocked the stage this morning!

We had a great time hosting Karen K & the Jitterbugs this morning at our second of four Wacky Wednesdays summer concerts. There were bubbles, beach balls, and a kiddie mosh pit (pictured below)! Kids loved dancing and singing along to tunes including “Pancakes for Dinner” and “I Wanna Be a Jitterbug”! We hope you can join us for our next Wacky Wednesdays family concert on Wednesday, July 24, from 10-11 am in the Jane Carr Amphitheater at our Hingham campus!