Classical music will never go out of style

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Dave Green photography

By Jennifer Boyd
Ask a classical musician to name some of her favorite composers and you may hear such names as Beethoven, Chopin, and Mozart. Even those largely unfamiliar with the realm of classical music have likely heard these names. It’s no coincidence that these composers and the entire genre they represent are esteemed so highly centuries after their living careers concluded.

The musical landscape has evolved unfathomably since the birth of the classical genre. Long before the age of Beyoncé was the age of Bach. So, why is it that even in today’s world of engineered sound and synthesized beats that we still revere the genius of classical music?

Classical pieces are cultural relics, optics for clarity and the renaissance of times we never experienced firsthand. The human spirit is never satisfied with only that which lies directly in front of us. Feeling a kinship with our predecessors, we seek to understand our past.

Culture never comes without context. Music, like art and literature, creates a connection to our human past, our history. Through classical music, we understand and experience the zeitgeist of past eras. The studied carelessness, punctuated by syncopations and glissandos, of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue captures the cosmopolitan spirit of the 1920’s. Listening to the brilliant ornamentations and modulations in a Bach toccata, one can envision the swirling gowns and sky-high wigs that filled ballrooms in 1700’s Germany. To quote Jay Gatsby, “Can’t repeat the past? Why, of course you can!” These scenes, created by the cultural artifacts otherwise known as classical pieces, add sentiment and value to our lives that we cannot procure elsewhere.

We look to the music of Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger to better comprehend the revolutionary spirit of the 1960’s. The golden age of classical music spans incalculable centuries, social and intellectual movements, wars, and dynasties. A rich source of knowledge, classical music adds layers to our understanding of the fabric of our cultural DNA. The genre is integral to our social narrative, and it will forever contribute to the long arc of history.

But, the role that classical music plays in uniting us with our past in no way invalidates its modern relevance. These works – Beethoven’s concerti, Bach’s chorales, Liszt’s rhapsodies – they still engross us. These kernels for captivating ruminations resonate with us on a visceral level for the narratives they embody. One feels the rapture and excitement of Ravel’s “Ondine” in its melodic development. One experiences the cathartic release when the piece cascades into post-climax chaos. The solace when the piece returns to shimmering, mellow harmonies is palpable. Classical pieces tell stories that are galvanic and rich in their vividness. The use of language is unnecessary because the themes conveyed are done so by lyrical melodies, haunting harmonies, and intricate phrasings – all which coalesce to construct a unique musical “tone.” This is why we go to operas performed in languages we don’t speak!

Classical music will always speak to us, so we’ll continue playing it in our conservatories. We’ll always attend operas and symphonies. Beautifully complex, the emotional character of the classical genre is hard to replicate. Its sheer genius will enthrall us as long as we continue to look to music for emotional intimacy.

Contrary to the adage “Out with the old and in with the new,” classical music is here to stay. Sociocultural revolutions will occur time and time again, and the musical landscape will follow. But, we’ll always treasure the gems produced by maestros of centuries past, securing their longevity. For the indelible impact and value it provides, classical music will survive.


The power of live performance

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Denise Maccaferri photo

By Elaine Sorrentino
For the past two years, I have been working on a project with my cousin who lives in Washington state.  After many years apart, we discovered we shared many of the same life experiences, just on different coasts.  If you needed to give it a name, you could call our project a shared memoir – she writes about a topic from her point of view using prose, and I write a poem about the same topic.  Together we have written and edited nearly 20 chapters of our book… all through email.

The title piece of our in-process book, called The Girl Scout and the Hitchhiker, published in a journal called Minerva Rising last summer, so we knew our project had relevance and relatability. It received rave reviews from supportive friends and family members who read the piece and commented on how it brought them back to a similar awkward moment in their childhood, but no one said it made them emotional.  It was not until we were both in the same room, for the first time in 40 years, reading aloud for other writers at a retreat, that we realized the power of our combined voices in live performance.  As we read our final lines and lifted our heads for critique, we were moved to see our writer “audience” in tears.  Clearly our words, spoken aloud in our distinctive voices, touched them deeply.

As I watch audience members at South Shore Conservatory (SSC) live performances, I notice this same type of emotional reaction  For that short moment in time, as they listen to a beautiful concerto, familiar rock tune, humorous opera excerpt, or moving monologue, they are transported away from the rhythm of their everyday lives, into the performer’s world.  In that moment they surrender themselves to the emotion that comes from watching the singer, dancer, musician, thespian present their craft in a most authentic fashion.  It’s quite powerful.

In this technologically-focused time, live performance refuels our basic desire to connect with others through the arts. Few people attend concerts by themselves; almost always arriving with a friend or family member to share this occasion.  Individually, we internalize each word, each chord, noting how it relates to our own personal lives.  Collectively, though, live performance is an exciting shared experience.

This summer, SSC offers an abundance of live performances, in the Jane Carr Amphitheater, for everyone to enjoy.  From the Jazz/Rock/Pop department’s JRP Spotlight Festival, a free performance where every student has his/her special moment in the spotlight, to Berklee Bob Marley Ensemble’s infectious reggae, to Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys who always manage to drive the entire audience to their feet clapping and singing along, to SSC’s Summer Music Festival jazz ensembles with incredibly talented musicians who make you forget you’re listening to student performers…and the list goes on…everyone can find a performance that speaks to them personally.

We invite you to lose yourself in live performance at South Shore Conservatory this summer.  The best part is, you don’t need to travel very far!

To learn more about SSC’s summer of performances and programs, visit or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook or call
781-749-7565, x10.  South Shore Conservatory’s Jane Carr Amphitheater is located at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.

Elaine Sorrentino is Communications Director at South Shore Conservatory.




Reflections from an SSC graduate


Michael Dempsey photo

by Jenny Boyd
Last Friday I played in my last studio recital as a piano student of Mark Goodman. The experience was just as exciting as any other performance, but it was tinged with bitter-sweetness. I was one of two recent high school graduates performing in the recital.

It was my turn to play. As I struck the last chord of Lecuona’s “Malaguena,” I listened to it reverberate, and I never wanted it to end.

I started taking piano lessons at South Shore Conservatory when I was eight years old. Now 17, I recognize the formative role SSC has played in my life. After three teachers, one chamber group, one music theory class, one summer festival, countless competitions, and even more recitals, here I am.

So, what did I learn? I learned how to properly execute a killer passage in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, and I learned the fine line between “too much” pedal and “not enough” in a Chopin ballade.

But these things, while important, are not nearly as significant as the major lessons SSC imparted to me. SSC helped me discover what makes me tick, what makes me excited to get up in the morning: music. How did they do it? Not through any masterclass or rehearsal, but through two values: mentorship and collaboration.

At SSC, I learned the value of mentorship. My piano teachers showed me endless support. Mark often held additional lessons for me as a competition neared. He even came to cheer me on at a performance I did at Carnegie Hall! He went out of his way to help me achieve my personal goals. I’ll always be thankful for his dedication to helping me succeed.

But, he wasn’t the only one who supported me along the way. I truly felt that everyone at SSC, even teachers from different departments, share his passion for helping students reach their personal best. I found inspiration in these faculty members who dedicate their lives to their craft, these musicians who hold an unparalleled commitment to helping others maximize their talents. The spirit of giving back is tangible at SSC. In these faculty members I found not only teachers, but role models.

In my opinion, an SSC education doesn’t end with the faculty members; it begins with them. At SSC, I learned just as much from my peers. I learned the value of collaboration.

In my chamber group, we always sought the perfect, euphonious blend of voices among us: piano, violin, and cello. We identified our strengths as a group, sought to improve our weaknesses, and enjoyed the victory of every successful performance together. We were a team.

But all those times I stayed after my lesson so that Mark’s next student and I could peer-perform for one another? All those times I’d celebrate the wins of my fellow students at a competition? All those times I’d cheer for a friend after a brilliant performance? Those were instances of collaboration, too.

While we may have played different instruments, studied with different teachers, or even been different ages, I shared a common denominator with my fellow SSC students: a love of music. We sought to help each other achieve our personal goals. We empathized and celebrated with one another. Music brought us together.

But, it wasn’t just music that unified us. It was SSC.

So, thank you, SSC. Thank you for supporting me along every step of my personal journey. Thank you for teaching me empathy and compassion. Thank you for helping me become not only a better musician, but a better human.

Showcasing our jazz, rock, pop student musicians

vocalist for JRP Spotlight Festival flyer

Dave Green photography

By Jimmy Craven
As a teacher at South Shore Conservatory, I’ve watched beads of sweat form on the foreheads of student musicians preparing for competition, and often thought how nice it would be, to instead allow students who wish to showcase their talents in a public, fun way, to achieve this without the added pressure of being judged.  I know I am a more relaxed and expressive musician when I remove the judgment element and just simply let myself jam out.

With this in mind, our Jazz/Rock/Pop (JRP) department created the JRP Spotlight Festival, a year-end concert for JRP students – our unique version of the ‘competitions’ other departments have – to provide support rather than judgment.  Our faculty members agreed that jazz, rock and pop are not always subject to the same measurable technical requirements that classical music generally is. So, we created a festival instead of a competition!

Now in its sixth year, the festival is a variety of solo, duo, and full-band performances, with at least one band member being an SSC student. Each act, which has been polished and ready to present, performs one song, and a panel of JRP faculty members all provide written supportive feedback, and suggestions for improvement on various aspects of the performance. At the end of the performance, one faculty panelist (we take turns doing this) follows the artist(s) backstage with the written comments, and shares any verbal suggestions they may have.  We have received tremendous positive response from students, faculty members and parents alike.  In fact, it’s our most popular concert!

The original goals of the JRP Spotlight Festival were to give students a chance to perform on The Big Stage in front of a large and welcoming audience, and to have them receive valuable input from faculty members other than their regular teacher.  This event provides them a performance that sums up their entire year of hard work.  The bonus benefit is that our students are exposed to what all the other JRP students are doing.   The parents enjoy hearing what other kids are playing as well. It’s like a family party!

The Jane Carr Amphitheater, with its big stage, awesome sound and lighting, definitely adds a ‘rock star’ quality to the show.  For me personally, it’s especially fun because I’m the emcee! It’s great to be onstage hamming it up and participating. And it’s also fun because the format is a unique JRP creation: no other department does anything quite like it.  The spotlight festival is an event where the crowd can get a little rowdy in their appreciation!!! Hooting and hollering, and even clapping along, are encouraged!

The JRP Spotlight Festival is a great night out.  The evening air is beautiful in mid-June, and you will be blown away by the high level of performance these kids achieve.

South Shore Conservatory’s JRP Spotlight Festival, on June 14 at 6 pm, is part of SSC’s Jazz/Rock/Pop Series offerings, and is free and open to the public.  South Shore Conservatory is located at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  To learn more about SSC’s JRP department, visit, call 781-749-7565, x10, or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

South Shore Conservatory pianist, guitarist and synthesist Jimmy Craven has been with SSC since 2009.

Exciting culinary adventures at Summer Spotlight

EUS Celtic -foodBy Beth MacLeod Largent
Budding trees. Pollen-covered cars. Daylight remains at 7 pm.  It’s beginning to look a lot like springtime!  This means summer isn’t far away, and South Shore Conservatory’s (SSC) outdoor summer concerts are right around the corner!  We began planning this summer of music last fall when the leaves started to turn, and lessons learned during the previous summer of concerts were still fresh in our minds.  Over coffee and Danish we sat and reflected. What worked really well?  Don’t change it!  What could use some freshening up?  What type of new experiences do we want to bring to SSC?  And, most importantly, what will make the Summer Spotlight adventure that much more memorable for our beloved audiences?

Over the years we’ve gotten to know our growing audience pretty well, and we select the music accordingly. So, when our marketing team sat around the table to brainstorm, we wondered, how can we make the overall experience even better for concertgoers? We talked, and we laughed, and we threw some spaghetti on the wall to see what would stick.

We started with Evenings Under the Stars (EUS) preconcert receptions, which have always provided an exhilarating place to meet friends, enjoy a light bite before the concert, and park onsite instead of taking the shuttle. What could make them even more special? Live music would certainly liven up the party.  And, what if we had craft beer supplied by a hot new brewery, such as Barrel House Z?  More fun! How about moving the party into Cox Hall where guest could sit if they wanted, nibble on creative bites, listen to great music, and start their evening off with a bang. Yes!  Our new Sip! receptions are snappy, and included in the price is the coveted, not-to-be-purchased-separately, onsite parking pass!

Next we critiqued concessions. We LOVE our hotdogs concession, but wondered, is there something else, something more that could make the concerts a little more festive and offer variety? Food trucks are everywhere these days.  They offer a great selection of foods, and they are so much fun; so why not have one or two here at SSC?  South Shore Food Truck Association hooked us up.  We are happy to announce that there will be one or two food trucks at each summer concert, offering delectable nuggets such as gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, cupcakes, breakfast foods.  It will be a smorgasbord of deliciousness!  I’m saving myself for a Sadie Mae’s cupcake.  Have you tried one?? Amazing!

Our Summer Spotlight concerts this year are going to be so much fun.  EUS starts on July 7 with the Evenings Under the Stars Festival Orchestra’s Opera and Musical Theatre Gala with Hingham native son Nicholas Palmer conducting. This concert honors Nick’s mother Dorothy Palmer, for her extraordinary support of the Summer Spotlight series, and promises to be special. For a full schedule of EUS concerts, visit Our Wacky Wednesdays family concerts start on July 11 with Karen K & the Jitterbugs, and promises fun food truck fare as well.  For a full schedule of Wacky Wednesdays performances, visit

Hope to see you at the Jane Carr Amphitheater at One Conservatory Drive this summer.  If I have a tiny bit of frosting on my face, you’ll know why!

Mezzo soprano Beth MacLeod Largent is South Shore Conservatory’s Director of Performance.

Family Yoga Day – summer fun for children with special needs

Macy and GitaBy Gita Brown
Kicking off summer with special outdoor events is a familiar pastime to many families. I love when my yoga students share stories of their summer adventures with me. However, to families who have children with special needs, new activities and events come with complicated logistics and accessibility challenges.

At South Shore Conservatory (SSC), we believe these families deserve opportunities for fun and novel activities that the whole family can enjoy together. With this in mind, our Creative Arts Therapies department has introduced Family Yoga Day, a fun and relaxed Saturday morning event designed for children ages 3-14 with special needs and their families. Often, our unique families may find events challenging due to stress created by large crowds, unpredictable schedules and noisy environments. We’ve designed this day with their whole family in mind; they’ll find a relaxing and accepting setting to kick off their own special summer fun.

Family Yoga Day features Yoga for the Special Child® activities, live music, snacks and socializing. Our special-needs-friendly event has taken all of their needs into consideration. The space is modified that that everyone will be able to enjoy our campus and its natural beauty as they enter a relaxed atmosphere. Kids are welcome to move around, make noise, and be themselves. We’ll also have a calming room in the main building in case any child wants a quiet break, and our fully-accessible outdoor and indoor spaces allow guests with mobility challenges, or those using wheelchairs, easy access to all our events. Throughout our fun and relaxing sessions, we’ll have a music therapist on hand to provide fun live music, and licensed Yoga for the Special Child® practitioners to teach accessible and simple movements that invite the whole family to play.

Kids will feel right at home with our special guest facilitator this year, Miss Macy Gilbert. Macy is twelve years old, is joyful and loving, and happens to also have Down Syndrome. Macy has spent seven years studying Yoga for the Special Child® and has been busy preparing to help share her joy and skill in yoga with all! On-hand throughout the entire event, she is available to teachers and students, ensuring all have fun and relax during the yoga activity. We are thrilled to have her join our team for this joyful event.

To make the day even more accessible, we’ve created a special webpage at where you’ll find a full schedule to help plan your day. You’ll also find a social story complete with pictures and clear descriptions of our campus, what you’ll find at the event, pictures of our teachers, and a visual schedule. If you’re looking for a fun, low cost and low stress Saturday morning, come join us for Family Yoga Day!

South Shore Conservatory’s Family Yoga Day is Saturday, June 16 from 10 am to 12 pm, in the Jane Carr Amphitheater, One Conservatory Drive in Hingham. The cost is $5 per person, or $10 per family. Those who enroll for Accessible Yoga on the day of the event will have the price of their ticket credited to their tuition.  Pre-registration is encouraged to ensure adequate space, food and inclusivity.  For more information or to register, visit or contact Gita Brown at or leave a message at 781-749-7565, ext. 49.

Yoga for the Special Child® Practitioner Gita Brown is the Accessible Yoga Program Coordinator of South Shore Conservatory’s Creative Arts Therapies department.

10,000 books: an incredible milestone!

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Children in Dawn Miller’s kindergarten class, at the Manthala George School  in Brockton, pose with their books after their 45-minute class with SSC Arts Specialist, Holly Jennings.

We are so excited to be celebrating six years of partnership with the Brockton Public Schools by handing out our 10,000th children’s book to kindergarteners through our ImagineARTS program!

Developed in partnership with Brockton teachers, ImagineARTS, SSC’s arts-integrated literacy program, is our flagship community partnership program, serving over 4,000 preschool and kindergarten children since 2012.   Every week, SSC arts specialists provide arts-integrated literacy instruction using music, drama, dance and stories to promote important pre-reading skills. Classes are story-based: lessons focus on a picture book through which specific letters, vocabulary words, and literacy concepts are explored.

To help bridge the gap between school and home, SSC annually provides each kindergartener at its five partner schools (Arnone, Angelo, Baker, George, and Gilmore) four books from its core curriculum.  This week, 720 students received their own copy of Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema.  During their ImagineARTS class, children learned the African folk tune Funga Alafia in English and Swahili, acted out action words in the story by floating like feathers and flying like eagles, and sang the rhyming song. Parents receive a newsletter outlining these activities and offering suggestions for things to try at home.

Dawn Miller, an ImagineARTS Partner Teacher at the George School says, “My students (and their parents) are so very thrilled to get the great books from ImagineARTS!  The students love that they know the story from their class with Miss Holly and they are so proud to show off their knowledge to their parents.  The books are an important part of our curriculum.  The stories are familiar and easy to build units around.  Some rhyme, some have great characters, some are just fun to read.  The students respond very well to them.”

ImagineARTS is provided free of charge to our partner schools through the generosity of local friends, business sponsors and the MA Cultural Council.   For more information, contact Anne Smith, SSC Director of Community Engagement ,

Time to apply for Jodka rock scholarship

ToastBy Elaine Sorrentino
One of the most exciting bands at South Shore Conservatory today is called Toast.  SSC’s only auditioned rock band, Toast is underwritten by the Dave Jodka Scholarship for Future Rockers, funded by proceeds from the Mad Love Music Festival.  High school students accepted into this rock band commit to more than one year of weekly ensemble coaching, and learn about everything from recording sessions, songwriting and composition practice, to creation and distribution of merchandise, to booking venues and gigs. And, of course, they are always one of the featured bands at Mad Love. The members of Toast, both past and present, are driven and passionate about learning about all elements of being a professional musician.

During the time these musicians are with Toast, they will have an abundance of performance opportunities.  Among the venues at which they have performed are The New World Tavern in Plymouth, Heritage Days in Scituate, and the Middle East in Cambridge.  The level at which these musicians play is advanced because of the coaching they receive from SSC’s performing educators.  It’s a great opportunity!

High school musicians interested in auditioning for the Dave Jodka Scholarship for Future Rockers and joining Toast should complete the form at, and return it to SSC with a guardian’s signature.  Students should also submit a two-minute performance video playing their instrument(s) and/or singing to  All application materials are due by June 18, 2018.

Elaine Sorrentino is South Shore Conservatory’s Communications Director.

Partnering with The Hangout at Union Point

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We are giddy with excitement about our new partnership with ‘The Hangout’ at Union Point in Weymouth!

Starting Memorial Day weekend, SSC will provide a summer of performances and music activities at this new a pop-up retail village located outside of the property’s historic hangar. The first performance/activity, on Saturday,
May 26 at 11:30 am, is a family singalong with our own “Miss Su” (D’Ambrosio) and Music Together teacher Jana Kahn.  At 3:30, SSC student blues/funk band Something Good, takes the stage.

Other performances include father/daughter string duo Headin’ Home playing Irish traditional and New England folk music on fiddle and guitar on Sunday, May 27, acoustic guitarist Peter Mundt on Friday, June 1, Musical Storytime on Saturday, June 2, and Bengisu Onal and the Bengisu Band presenting Music of the 80’s and 90’s dance party! and Showstoppers! Music from Broadway and Beyond with Donald Zook, flute and Sarah Troxler, piano on Sunday, June 10.

“We are excited to partner with Union Point as they launch their newest community gathering site,” says SSC President Kathy Czerny. “Our incredible faculty and talented students are looking forward to livening up the weekends throughout the summer at ‘The Hangout’”

“The Hangout,” located at 209 Houghton Road, South Weymouth, features retailers operating out of retrofitted storage containers, outdoor gathering spaces, art installations, food trucks, fitness, music, lawn games, daily programming and more.

More at

Relief for memory patient caregivers

Memory Cafe possible 2018By Laura Hay
I am fortunate to still have my active and vibrant mother with me, enjoying all the richness that life has to offer.  But as I look around at my friends, I am noticing more and more of them are dealing with a new stage in their lives – parenting their parents.  The Alzheimer’s Association cites an alarming statistic that there is a new Alzheimer’s diagnosis every 65 seconds. The reality is that we will all be touched by this disease, whether it is caring for a parent, a partner, a friend, or being the one needing care.

It’s daunting to know that in 2018, there will be 130,000 people living with Alzheimer’s in Massachusetts alone. That number is expected to grow by more than 15% in 2025.  It is estimated that family members and other unpaid care partners provide more than 384 million hours in care, placing them under incredibly high levels of stress.

One friend shared that, “as a caregiver for a parent, I find it comforting to talk with others who have parents with the same memory issues.  It’s indescribably disheartening to see your once-vibrant parent become a shell of their former self.  Learning how others have dealt, or are still dealing with memory issues, provides advice and coping skills for communicating and providing joyful interaction. It also reinforces that, while it feel isolating, I’m not alone.”

Utilizing the incredible team of South Shore Conservatory (SSC) music therapists, the SSC Memory Café serves two important constituents: the Alzheimer’s patient and the care partner.  The programming is designed to provide patient and care partner with social engagement, space for expression, and connections. The need for opportunities like this continues to grow.

When Joan Middleton and I began conversations about the launch of the SSC Memory Café at our Hingham campus, she told me that one of her main goals was to create an opportunity she wished she had while caring for her late husband, Mike.  Joan, like so many other care partners, wanted Mike to remain at home for as long as possible, but that meant finding activities that would be suitable to his changing needs.

SSC Memory Cafés provide activities for the patient, but also support for the care partner.  It is a time when couples can reconnect by sharing in activities they both enjoy.  But it is also a safe space where care partners can connect with one another, providing the information and understanding that can only come from someone who “gets it.”  The program is also designed to help bring in special guests to address the needs of the care partner, ranging from help with insurance, understanding next steps, and managing self-care.

I am grateful for the support of Joan Middleton and her family for making the Hingham SSC Memory Café a reality and removing any financial barriers to participation.  I am equally thrilled that the Harry C. and Mary Elizabeth Grafton Memorial Fund has underwritten a new Memory Café at SSC’s Ellison Center for the Arts in Duxbury.

The SSC Memory Café in Hingham meets the third Thursday of each month, from 12:30 – 2:30 pm.  The SSC Memory Café in Duxbury meets the first Tuesday of each month from 10:30 am – 12:30 pm.  Participants are encouraged attend both of these free cafés each month.

To register for these free cafes, please contact Eve Montague, Director of CAT, at
781-934-2731, x20, or

Laura Hay is South Shore Conservatory’s Director of Major Gifts.