Blog

Dylan from Auburn, Age 12.  Violin

This month’s student spotlight features Dylan Burke, a 6th grade violinist from Auburn.  Dylan has been  enrolled with Pakachoag for over 10 years, first as a Music Together student, and then 7 years ago, as a Suzuki Violin student.  Dylan believes’ learning new songs is really cool!’

Dylan has great words for his teacher who helps him learn new songs. She eases him into the learning by making him practice the harder parts of the song first, so other parts of the song then seem easier.

Dylan has been taking his lessons online for the current school year.   Dylan’s mom, Ruby, believes that the music lessons have not only helped Dylan make beautiful music but have also helped him improve his focus in traditional school settings.

The family had to make some adjustments to their schedule while transitioning to the online lessons. It was not very easy in the beginning, Ruby admits. The children in the family had to adjust to remote school along with online music lessons, while both parents were also adjusting to remote full-time work. But once the family found a rhythm, they adapted well to this new “online” way of learning.

When asked if anyone provides him extra inspiration, Dylan comments:  “Rob Landes is really good at playing the violin and he plays video game soundtracks on his youtube channel that I like to watch.”

Dylan is yet another success story of how online lessons at Pakachoag have helped students continue their music journeys during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s difficult but rewarding so keep on going, don’t give up,” Dylan recommends for current and future students.

During this year plus of COVID-19, now the school year of 2020-2021, school friend Gail Morgan agreed to help us out as a door greeter on Saturdays once or twice a month, a time when some students have been visiting for in-person.  We appreciate Gail’s support.  We thought it would be fun to find out a bit more about why Gail has chosen to volunteer.

Full disclosure:  No goods or services (or bribes) were offered in exchange for Gail’s responses, below.  We appreciate her kind words.

Pakachoag Office and Development Assistant Jacob Walz asked Gail what made her want to help out.  Here’s the full conversation.

Jacob:  Can you Sum up what Pakachoag has meant to you over your years of involvement with us?

Gail: Having witnessed the quality of the student/faculty performances and knowing the fortitude it has taken the school to pursue this excellence has endeared the institution to me. The passion for music has been spread throughout families from all of Worcester County.

Jacob:  What has been the one consistent thing about Pakachoag that has kept you connected with the School?

Gail:  Quality in teachers, programs, outreach and administration.  Pakachoag Music both preaches and practices a quality program and that is reflected in the quality students who graduate and go on to pursue other musical endeavors.  Only one class experience can set a great example and begin the appreciation of music.

Jacob:  As you reflect back over the years that you have “known” Pakachoag, what is your fondest memory of the school?

Gail:  Sarah Smongeski. Sarah’s commitment to music, the school, staff, teachers, students and families is steadfast.  She represents the school with her own discipline, passion and wonderful personality.  She is creative in her fundraising, events and strategic planning, reacting well to the hills and valleys of running a non-profit.  I consider Sarah a friend and she is also an incredible role model.

A Note from Sarah:  Thank you, Gail, for believing in Pakachoag Music School.  I think you first became a friend of the School back in 2008, although I expect your connection may stretch back further.  We also appreciate your steadfastness in support.  What we accomplish each and every year is ONLY possible because of the many friends who stand with us – whether as volunteer, as family similarly committed to supporting excellence in teaching and learning;  or as annual donor.  You watched carefully as we juggled the decisions about our move into Worcester.  Your care, support, advice and time as volunteer is appreciated.

21 Ways to Harmony Feature 3

Lost But Not Forgotten: Music of War & Remembrance

A Memorial Day Special Event

Join Pakachoag Music School online for a Memorial Day special event, Lost But Not Forgotten.    This third feature of seven, part of the 21 Ways to Harmony in 2021 series, will explore, through conversation and music, how composers speak to us, through music, about conflict and loss.

Select School faculty and guests will share experiences around conflict and loss.  We’ll also explore some specific works by Ralph Vaugh Williams, Durufle, Haydn and Stravinsky as we individually contemplate common feelings, themes or inner experiences we draw from music during times of turbulence and uncertainty.

We dedicate this feature in memory of all who have served and sacrificed.

  • Date: Memorial Day, Monday May 31st (Premiering)
  • Time: 6:30 PM
  • Place: Facebook/YouTube (Prerecorded)
  • Special guests: Pakachoag Faculty
  • Hosted by Pakachoag Program Director Kristjon Imperio

Visit this post here on May 31st to find a link to our event.  Or follow us on Facebook.

Can’t join us on 5/31?  Our premiere presentation will remain on YouTube to view anytime thereafter.

More About Lost But Not Forgotten

For decades and centuries, the arts have helped us memorialize those who have given their lives in service to country. But how do composers and gifted artists speak to us, through music, about memories, death, destruction and conflict?

As we pause for Memorial Day 2021, Pakachoag teachers will share thoughts on how music written or performed during times of global conflict has informed, allowed purposeful reflection, or perhaps transformed, their own understanding of the sacrifices made.

About 21 Ways to Harmony in 2021

Pakachoag Music School entered 2021 with a refreshed commitment to building harmony as part of community – both within and without.

During a difficult 2020, where conflict surfaced all around us – locally and nationally – the School began to receive a different kind of feedback from parents and adult students about the importance of music-making in life and especially for mental health.

The repeated thanks and appreciation coming from School families around the importance of music stood in deep contrast to the divisiveness that was going on externally.

Conversations host and Pakachoag Program Director Kristjon Imperio writes:  “In conversations among our staff and board members surrounding the challenges in our community and nation, we realize that these common ‘music messages’ stand as lasting principles, extending beyond popular and passing narratives.”

Throughout the year, Mr. Imperio will lead seven conversations, sometimes accompanied by music.  With an array of varied conversational partners planned, we will be looking to uncover – perhaps even create — multiple “resolutions” as part of each conversation that can help each of us become aware of commonalities within our human experience we might not have considered previously.

We’ll encourage reflection on how we use those commonalities to create harmony in life, and along the way provide a little inspiration for what it means to make music locally.  We often hear that music is the common language.  We plan to dig deeper to uncover, in a different way, what those commonalities CAN be, for 2021 and beyond.

21 Ways to Harmony Feature Schedule

No. 1 – Saturday, February 27th –From Music Lessons to Life in the Sciences: Parallels Beyond the Studio

No. 2 – Wednesday, March 17th – Chasing Dreams to American Shores:  A St. Patrick’s Day Special Event

No. 3 – Monday, May 31st – Lost But Not Forgotten: Music of War and Remembrance

No. 4 – Sunday, June 20th – Solstice Inspirations:  Dreaming on a Midsummer’s Night

No. 5 – Friday, August 13th – The Reality of Fear: Resolving Music Stereotypes

No. 6 – Monday, October 25 – International Artist’s Day: Contouring Melodies & Masterpieces

No. 7 – Friday, December 31 – 21 to 22. Ways Forward

Pakachoag Music School’s Kristjon Imperio, Program Director, is going live on Facebook.

Director of Programs & Outreach Kristjon Imperio during a 2019 (pre-pandemic) piano lesson.

Up Next:

  • Monday April 19, 7:00 pm – Focus on Adult Learners but all welcome.  Marathon Day.

For fun, Kristjon will share a few thoughts about how the path to becoming a musician can be like a marathon (if you want it to be) 🙂


  • Wednesday, May 5, 4 PM – All Welcome.
    Because Friday, May 7th is National Space Day…

We’ll be answering any questions you might have about our programs. And, as it is also National Space Day on Friday, Kristjon will share a few interesting tid-bits about music in space.

  • Friday May 28,  12:30 PM


If you would like an opportunity to meet a specific teacher or teachers by zoom, feel free to email us at info@pakmusic.org and we can arrange a remote chat.

What to Expect

Visit Pakachoag Music School on Facebook, look for our live event, and type in your questions.   Kristjon will be available to answer your questions in real time.   This will be a great time to ask questions about…

  • Summer options,
  • In-person vs. remote,
  • How to apply for financial aid, or
  • Anything else you’d like to know about Pakachoag and the programs we offer.

Prefer to Ask Anonymously?

If you prefer to remain anonymous, feel free to email Kristjon@pakmusic.org with your question at least 2 hours ahead of the scheduled Q&A and we will add your question to the list.  If emailing more than 24 hours ahead, please confirm which session you will join.  Thank you!!

Scheduled Q&A’s

Join us for any of the following dates and times:

  • Monday, March 29 at 4:00 pm

  • Monday April 19, 7:00 pm – Focus on Adult Learners but all welcome.

  • Wednesday May 5, 4 PM

  • Friday May 28 12:30 PM

No advance sign-up needed.  Just find us on Facebook and add your question as a comment.

On Facebook, search for Pakachoag Music School Worcester

Or click here.

Year One, Ainsley as beginner. Teacher Alice works on hand position, posture, and embouchure /blowing position. It was a busy day, so we scheduled the lesson in the office!

This month we shine our spotlight on Ainsley, an 8th-grade student from Worcester, who has an admirable amount of passion and dedication for her instrument of choice, the flute.  2021 is Ainsley’s fifth year of lessons.

Ainsley really enjoys her lessons with her teacher Alice Daugherty every week. She appreciates the different techniques that Alice offers for improvement during their lessons and the fact that Alice has taught her how to read music.

Ainsley is interested in attending an arts-focused high school, so she wanted to continue her lessons during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Her parents have provided continued support for her desire to play the flute.

Ainsley’s elementary/middle school does not have a music program, so Ainsley’s parents wanted to introduce Ainsley and her brother to music and encourage them to develop a love of the arts. Additionally, they wanted their children to learn the fundamentals of reading music.  Ainsley’s parents envision that long after their lives become too busy for sports or other activities they pursue in school, music will always serve as a touchstone in their lives.

Her parents are most proud of Ainsley’s perseverance as she continues to enjoy lessons and performances even when it is very challenging.

More recently, pre-pandemic 2019, Ainsley is energized following a performance class with her brother.

The transition to online learning with Pakachoag Connect has been seamless. They became so used to remote learning in the spring that this was not a major transition for them at all. Ainsley says that in some ways it is easier than in-person lessons. She appreciates the fact that she is not rushing from one activity to another and that she can complete her homework at home before her lesson. Also, she is happy that she doesn’t have to wear a mask or stand behind plexiglass in order to have her lesson.

Ainsley’s biggest sense of accomplishment and pride to date is being able to play scales on her flute. Her biggest musical inspiration is singer/songwriter Hayley Williams.  Hayley not only enjoys her music, but Ainsley also considers her to be a good role model for young girls like herself.

We leave you with one single piece of advice from Ainsley: “Don’t give up and practice as much as you can!”

 

21 Ways to Harmony:  Chasing Dreams to American Shores

A St. Patrick’s Day [Week] Special Event

Chasing Dreams to American Shores, Feature No. 2 of 7 for 21 Ways to Harmony in 2021, will explore commonalities of the immigrant experience, using Irish fiddle music and poetry as our launching pad.

View Here
  • Date: St. Patrick’s Day, Wednesday, March 17 (Premiering)
  • Time: 6:30 PM
  • Place: Facebook/YouTube (Prerecorded)
  • Special guest: Worcester County Poetry Association poet Curt G. Curtin
  • Featuring Irish Folk Music with Pakachoag faculty and fiddle students.

Visit this post here on March 17th to find a link to our event.  Or follow us on Facebook.

Can’t join us on 3/17?  Our premiere presentation will remain on YouTube to view anytime thereafter.

More About Chasing Dreams to American Shores

Join Pakachoag Music School for a St. Patrick’s Day special event: Chasing Dreams to American Shores. Through conversation, poetry and music, we will explore commonalities of the immigrant experience, using Irish folk music and poetry as our launching pad.

Our special guest is Mr. Curt G. Curtin with the Worcester County Poetry Association.  Mr. Curtin, a life-long poet, will read from his newest publication, Kerry Dancers.  Fellow poet Susan-Roney O’Brien describes Kerry Dancers as “a place where Curt steps into and out of family memory, where ‘Love is a heartbeat keeping time’, pulling the listener into the dance”.

As we consider the immigrant experience, we’ll pause to enjoy Irish folk music performed by Pakachoag student fiddlers and faculty.  The conversation is hosted by Pakachoag Director of Programs and Outreach, Kristjon Imperio.

About Curt Curtin

Worcester poet Curt Curtin is a lifelong poet.  Curtin’s parents were from Ireland and he grew up in Boston. He has published three chapbooks, a variety of individual poems in journals and anthologies, and more recently, two full-length collections.  In 2010, he was the first recipient of the Worcester County Poetry Association’s Frank O’Hara award for poetry and in 2019 won second place in the annual contest of the Connecticut Poetry Society.  For 20 years, Mr. Curtin taught English and creative writing at Westfield State University.  Now, at the age of 90 and legally blind, he uses audio recordings to support his readings.

Mr. Curtin will read from his newest publication, Kerry Dancers.  Fellow poet Susan-Roney O’Brien describes Kerry Dancers as “a place where Curt steps into and out of family memory, where ‘Love is a heartbeat keeping time’, pulling the listener into the dance”.

About 21 Ways to Harmony in 2021

Pakachoag Music School is entering 2021 with a refreshed commitment to building harmony as part of community – both within and without.

During a difficult 2020, where conflict surfaced all around us – locally and nationally – the School began to receive a different kind of feedback from parents and adult students about the importance of music-making in life and especially for mental health.

The repeated thanks and appreciation coming from School families around the importance of music stood in deep contrast to the divisiveness that was going on externally.

Conversations host and Pakachoag Program Director Kristjon Imperio writes:  “In conversations amongst our staff and board members surrounding the challenges in our community and nation, we realize that these common ‘music messages’ stand as lasting principles, extending beyond popular and passing narratives.”

Throughout the year, Mr. Imperio will lead seven conversations, accompanied by student and faculty music.  With an array of varied conversational partners planned, we will be looking to uncover – perhaps even create — multiple “resolutions” as part of each conversation that can help each of us become aware of commonalities we might not have considered previously.

We’ll encourage reflection on how we use those commonalities to create harmony in life, and provide a little inspiration for what it means to make music locally.  We often hear that music is the common language.  We plan to dig deeper to uncover, in a different way, what those commonalities CAN be, for 2021 and beyond.

 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021
12:30 PM ET
Free, Open to the Public
Online, From Home

Live from Kenya, with Pakachoag and Music Together Worldwide

 

Register for Mpala Field Trip

On March 3, 2021 we’ll be visiting with the Elephants at the Mpala Living Laboratory.

This winter, Pakachoag’s RK class  and other Rhythm Kids classes around the world are drumming and jamming along to rhythms inspired by elephants.

So, thanks to Music Together Worldwide, on Wednesday, March 3, at 12:30 PM ET, we’re going on a virtual field trip to see these amazing animals in their natural habitat . . . at the world-renowned Mpala Research Centre in Nanyuki, Kenya.

While showing us around, Mpala Executive Director Dr. Dino Martins

  • will share elephant facts kids will love,
  • talk about the role families everywhere can play in conservation, and
  • swap musical stories with Rhythm Kids creator Tom Foote.

Bring your children’s elephant questions and something to drum on . . .  we’ll be making music, too!

This Event is Free

Everyone is welcome to attend this free event.  Children of all ages welcome.

Register for Mpala Field Trip
We’re going on a virtual field trip to Mpala Live with Music Together Worldwide to see some amazing animals in their natural habitat.

Join the Fun – just click the button above to submit a quick registration sign-up and Music Together worldwide will send you the event link.

Overview

Join Pakachoag Music School via YouTube for 21 Ways to Harmony, a set of seven conversations accompanied by music, airing throughout 2021.  The School’s first conversation explored

From Music Lessons to Life in the Sciences: Parallels Beyond the Studio

Feature No. 1 with music school alumna Julia Nguyen, Ph.D., Chemistry.

Click Here to Find Feature 1

Enjoy a little music featuring student musicians.  We will also challenge you, through conversation, to think more deeply than usual about the role of music in life.  Our focus is on creating and uncovering harmony and commonality in music and in life.

Each conversation is hosted by Pakachoag Director of Programs and Outreach, Kristjon Imperio.

Watch for announcements and links for future installments.

February Feature No. 1

From Music Lessons to Life in the Sciences:
Parallels Beyond the Studio

  • Date: Saturday, February 27, 2021
  • Time: 6:30 pm
  • Platform:  Facebook/You Tube
  • Special guest:   Julia Nguyen, Pakachoag Alumna
    • Ph.D. Chemistry, University of Washington; Bachelor’s Degree, Williams College.

Details

Pakachoag Music School is entering 2021 with a refreshed commitment to building harmony as part of community – both within and without.

During a difficult 2020, where conflict surfaced all around us – locally and nationally – the School began to receive a different kind of feedback from parents and adult students about the importance of music-making in life and especially for mental health.

The repeated thanks and appreciation coming from School families around the importance of music stood in deep contrast to the divisiveness that was going on externally.

Conversations host and Pakachoag Program Director Kristjon Imperio writes:  “In conversations amongst our staff and board members surrounding the challenges in our community and nation, we realize that these common ‘music messages’ stand as lasting principles, extending beyond popular and passing narratives.”

“My favorite college course was ‘Arts & Ideas’.  I love how the arts draw from a huge ‘library’ of culture and ideas, spanning time, circumstance and geography,” adds Sarah Smongeski, Executive Director.  “One can find so many commonalities among the arts over the centuries.  Differences bump up against each other but commonality is also present everywhere, no matter the musical genre or style; or artistic medium.   Our goal for Community Conversations is to peel away layers of stereotypes, differences and structures, using the framework of music to inform our understanding of cultural commonality,” says Executive Director Sarah Smongeski.

Throughout the year, Mr. Imperio will lead seven conversations, accompanied by student and faculty music.  With an array of varied conversational partners planned, we will be looking to uncover – perhaps even create — multiple “resolutions” as part of each conversation that can help each of us become aware of commonalities we might not have considered previously.  We want to encourage reflection on how we use those commonalities to create harmony in life, and provide a little inspiration for what it means to make music locally.  We often hear that music is the common language.  We plan to dig deeper to uncover what those commonalities CAN be, for 2021 and beyond.

21 Ways to Harmony:  Feature 2

Chasing Dreams to American Shores

Feature 2 explored the commonality of the immigrant experience, using Irish fiddle music and poetry as our launching pad.

  • Premiere Date: St. Patrick’s Day, Wednesday, March 17
  • Time: 6:30 PM
  • Place: Facebook/YouTube (Prerecorded)
  • Special guest: Worcester poet Curt G. Curtin
  • Featuring Irish Fiddle Music with Pakachoag faculty and students.

 

We’re Online Having Lots of Fun & Learning, Too!

Rhythm and Drumming for KidsYou’re invited to sign up for a demo class offered on  March 12th.

Submit the form below to request a space.

Our Rhythm Kids classes meet:

  • 8 or 10  weeks, starting January and late March.
  • 4:15 to 5:00 with Julie Holston
  • For k, Grades 1 and 2*
  • Space limited.  First come/first served.
  • If registering, Tuition is $170.  Includes Song Book and CD.
  • Financial Aid available for families of low income or who have lost a job.  Email Kristjon@pakmusic.org.
  • To register for a full session, click here.

*We’ll accept a younger sibling between 4.9 and 5.5 when attending with older sibling(s).

You can LEARN MORE about Rhythm kids here.

Scroll down to sign up for a free drop in class.

Did you know that all children are musical?

Have you ever wondered what you can do to nurture the musical growth of your child, regardless of your own musical ability?  Singing and rhythm games are the foundation for music success.  Birth through age 6 is THE critical window to develop and fine-tune these foundational skills.

      • Classes are interactive and active.
      • Come ready to bounce, jump, dance and sing.
      • Each child will need some kind of drum.  A box or plastic bin can work.
      • Our free drop in class is offered via Zoom.

Request a Free Drop In

To request a free drop-in class, please submit the form below at least 48 hours in advance.  We’ll confirm if space remains available once we receive your sign-up form.

After confirming, we’ll send you a zoom link.  Your teacher will admit you via the remote waiting room which helps us ensure we’re safe for those participating.

When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, we flipped all lessons to remote and cancelled our spring recitals.  This year of 2021, spring recitals are also cancelled although we are hosting remote performance classes for most of the winter/spring season.

The disruptions of COVID-19 meant that we never found an opportunity to recognize and congratulate our five and ten year students in 2020 and will again miss this traditional recognition for milestone certificates and graduates this spring of 2021.

I wanted to provide here a little background on why we award milestone certificates.  I usually mention this when we are together at an event and award certificates.  Also to ask for your ideas for celebrating this spring.

Why Milestone Certificates?

Certainly, talent can be found.  Just like an Olympic swimmer benefits from big feet, musicians also benefit from physical and mental characteristics like large hands for pianists, structure of the palette for vocalists and flute players, lung capacity, perfect pitch, etc. etc.  But while some of these traits occur naturally, many of these physical and mental attributes can be developed over time.

Much more important to achieving success in music is hard work.  That includes practice in combination with guidance from a knowledgeable and skilled instructor.

Work ethic, time and time again, is huge in how we progress in our learning and work lives.  Further, it would never be appropriate for us to judge a student’s “talent”.  Talent may not be seen immediately or may reveal itself at different ages.  Every student is unique.  For all of these reasons, this is why we celebrate milestone years (rather than level of achievement) on the journey to becoming a musician.

Becoming a musician does not happen overnight; nor even during the course of one school year (although you can learn a lot in one year).  Becoming a musician takes sustained effort over many years.

In the life of the music school, we celebrate when students have been taking five years of lessons.  That sustained effort is huge!  I am always known to say in advance of handing out a certificate for achieving the five year milestone:  “Congratulations!  There is NO going back now.  You are in this and must continue.”  Occasionally, our five year students don’t continue through the end of high school, sometimes narrowing their focus in other directions, but most of our five year students keep going through the end of high school.

Even more exciting is when we can celebrate the Ten Year Milestone.  Students obviously need to start young to reach 10 years of private lessons by end of high school.  But each year, we usually have a few students that reach the ten year milestone.

How Can We Celebrate in 2021?

In Spring Spring 2021, we will not be together in-person.  I had hoped that we could do an in-person catch up to acknowledge last year’s milestones as well as this years.  Instead, we will be acknowledging our five and ten year students and graduates in our e-news and print news.

If you have an idea for how we can celebrate in some way that is meaningful, please let me know.

We could have a zoom ice cream party?  but are we so tired even ice cream over zoom feels fatiguing?  As parents, you may know better than I what would be most meaningful for your child.  Please let me know if you have ideas.

Thank you for making music available to your child – or if you are an adult, thanks for making it available for yourself!  Or, if you are a donor, thank you for making music available for our community!

Music is a gift that lasts a lifetime.  Seeing our students grow over time is the biggest thrill for myself and Kristjon.  It is what drives us to keep going!

Sincerely,  Sarah

(Executive Director)