21 Ways to Harmony Feature No. 5

The Reality of Fear: Resolving Music Stereotypes

Join Pakachoag Music School online for a “Friday the 13th” special event. This 21 Ways to Harmony in 2021 Feature No. 5 will explore the origins and history of music stereotypes, many of which have been built on assumptions and fears. We hope that this journey will transform what once was ‘music of your fears’ to music to your ears.

  • Friday, August 13, 2021 at 6:30 pm
  • Premiering on YouTube.  Check back here for a link on the 13th.
  • Hosted by Kristjon Imperio, Director of Programs & Outreach

What to Expect

Through conversation and music, Kristjon will explore assumptions we make about audiences and performers of different music genres. Where do these assumptions come from? and how have they become cultural stereotypes? Does any of this matter? or hold meaning for us as a community and individually? We’ll uncover some of the missed commonalities between/among genres as we continue to think more deeply about the role of music in life.

Additional Features Upcoming

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 is pleased to announce that two students have been selected for the 2021 Reinburg Award for Effort, Commitment and Attitude:  Mai Caslowitz, voice student, of Sturbridge and Ksheeraja Ramanujum, violin student, from Shrewsbury.

About Mai Caslowitz of Sturbridge

Mai Caslowitz, from Sturbridge, is a senior at Tantasqua High School.  Mai has been enrolled at Pakachoag for over 10 years, first starting at age two! Mai began her musical journey with Pakachoag in 2005 as a participant, with mom, in the School’s early childhood Music Together program.  Mai later enrolled in the School’s Suzuki Program as a violin student, and in 2018 narrowed her focus to private vocal studies.

Mai has excelled during her music studies, most notably being selected for the 2021 All Eastern Music Festival Chorus which draws vocalists from across the northeastern US.

Mai’s private voice teacher, Pakachoag faculty member Silvia Irving, formerly a professional vocalist with Boston’s Handel & Haydn Society, writes:  “These four years with Mai have been an inspirational journey with a blossoming young artist. From the beginning she has been an exceptionally self-motivated student, always being open to learn, explore and share new ideas and literature. Mai’s consistent focus and effort has allowed her to gain richness and flexibility in her vocal expression and to sing an impressive array of songs from classical to music theater.”

Mai will enter Ryder University in the fall pursuing a BFA in Musical Theatre.

About Ksheeraja Ramanujam of Shrewsbury

Ksheeraja Ramanujam, of Shrewsbury, the second recipient of this year’s Reinburg Award, studies violin at Pakachoag with Amy Matherly.  She has been enrolled for seven years and is currently completing her junior year at Shrewsbury High School where she plays in the school orchestra.

Teacher Amy Matherly comments, “Ksheeraja loves playing the violin and views it as a pleasure to be enjoyed. She listens to music with interest and sets goals for herself. A dedicated and enthusiastic student, she practices thoughtfully and comes to her lessons well prepared. I am pleased that she has received this award!”

In addition to her activities at Pakachoag, Ksheeraja participates in the Shrewsbury High School Orchestra and studies the Carnatic style of classical Indian violin at the Anubhava School of Music. She was also accepted into the 2021 MMEA Senior Orchestra.

Ksheeraja is interested in biochemistry and plans to pursue a career in that field.  She plans to continue playing the violin in college and would like to set up a multi-instrument fusion club where people from different backgrounds and cultures can come together to learn from each other and enjoy music.

About the Peggy Kelley Reinburg Award

The Peggy Kelley Reinburg Award for Effort, Commitment and Attitude, named after the School’s second director who strove to instill an appreciation for excellence among all School students, is awarded annually, each spring.  With the pandemic closures in Spring 2020, the School did not present an award last year and is thus happy to be able to acknowledge two very deserving students this spring of 2021.

Prior recipients of the PKR award, which dates back to 1992, include students who have gone on to excel in the sciences, law enforcement,  engineering, aviation, education (both k-12 and higher education), social work and professional careers in music performance, music education, and musical theater.

Harmonies From Home

As we wrap up the 2020-2021 pandemic School Year, here in office and families at home have had the pleasure of observing the progress of a number of students who chose, with teacher support, to submit videos for year-end performance classes.

Monthly performance classes (less formal than recitals) are a staple of the School’s private lesson program.  Teachers help students set goals and worith with them to polish special pieces so they are ready for public performance.

Congratulations to the over 50 students who participated in remote performance classes during the course of the current year.

Here, we present three classes.  Each features students of varying ages, instruments and levels.  The focus is on understanding how to present on-stage/in public.  ‘Polish’ is always our keyword for student performances, never ‘perfection’.

Many thanks to our skilled faculty who have invested effort in preparing students for performance; and Kristjon Imperio, Director of Programs & Outreach, whose tech savvy is bringing us together.

June Class No. 1

June Class No. 2

June Class No. 3

We encourage you to visit Pakachoag on YouTube AND click ‘subscribe’.

You can find a full array of videos, from special events to students in performance over many years, to early childhood Music Together class introductions.





21 Ways to Harmony Feature No. 4

Solstice Inspirations:  Dreaming on a Midsummer’s Night

Sunday, June 20th, 2021 at 6:30 pm

Premiering on YouTube

Solstice Inspirations

Hosted by Kristjon Imperio, Director of Programs & Outreach

What to Expect

Join Pakachoag Music School to celebrate the summer solstice.

The solstice, our longest day of the year, has been celebrated by people and cultures throughout the ages.

For this midsummer reverie, we will explore the works and musings of poets and composers within the western classical tradition as inspired by light and energy associated with summer and the solstice.

What significance does the summer solstice “hold” for you? Are you drawn to the iconic or the scientific; the spiritual or the physical? Consider your thoughts and practices surrounding this event and compare them alongside those whose imagination and creativity remain illuminated through words and art.

Additional Features Upcoming

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

About 21 Ways to Harmony

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’re digging deeper to uncover, in a different way, what those commonalities CAN be, for 2021 and beyond.

Sophia from Sutton, Voice and Guitar

This month’s student spotlight is Sophia Maloney.  Sophia takes voice lessons with Silvia Irving and guitar lessons with Jeff Dostal.

What Does Sophia Particularly Like about Lessons?

The thing that excites Sophia the most about her lessons is learning to play and sing the songs that she loves. Combining her guitar and voice skills she has acquired over the years, Sophia says it has been fun to learn songs by the many different artists she enjoys, from indie rock to musical theatre!

How Have you Grown with Music?

Sophie prepares to sing at a December 2014 performance class. Year 3 of lessons.

Sophia’s mom says, “Sophia has grown tremendously.”  During her first lessons, Sophia remembers feeling a bit overwhelmed, but also felt comfortable to ask questions and to try her best.   When she was in middle school, Sophie says “it felt like a pain” to practice.  More recently, as a high school student, through her perseverance, Sophie has developed a love and passion for music, and is consistently self-motivated, practicing almost every day now for a number of years.

On Remote Lessons During COVID…

In 2020, Sophie continued her musical education through remote lessons. One of her most memorable remote lessons was with her guitar teacher Jeff:  “Jeff and I were both trying to play a song together that I had brought in. We were able to time it out in a way that we were playing a song at the same time going around the lag on zoom. Although it was difficult it worked in the end!”

Sophie looks forward to moving back to in-person lessons.  She says online classes have their benefits, like not having to drive, but “nothing compares to being able to make music with someone in person”, and we couldn’t agree more, Sophie!

Is there anything you have learned in your lessons that helps you in other situations?

Student Recital 2019

One outstanding point that Sophie makes is that “a big part of music is advocating for yourself and and sharing your thoughts, and that has absolutely helped me to speak my mind in group settings”.

As of spring 2021, Sophie has been enrolled for 10 years!  Becoming a musician doesn’t happen overnight.  Along the way – no matter whether year 1 or year 10 – the lessons we learn last for life.  What a thrill that Sophie has been doing this long enough to be able to learn some of the more challenging lessons that transfer from music to other settings.  Congratulations Sophie!

Welcoming All

As we look ahead, beyond this very abnormal year, we’ve been busy planning for how we can welcome new students and others in the community to experience music with Pakachoag.

The new Faces of Pakachoag photo display adds splashes of color to the stairwell between the second and third floors at 10 Irving Street and greets visitors with a sampling of who we are today.

The display is one of several activities underway to create a greater sense of community for enrolled families.  Or, if you are not currently enrolled, we’re hoping the display will inspire you to consider Pakachoag as your home for music learning and enjoyment.

Are these faces ‘typical’ Pakachoag students?

Actually, there is no typical Pakachoag student – only someone who enjoys music and wants to learn, or for our younger early childhood children, families who wish to nurture their child’s natural music ability.

Because lessons and classes happen once each week, enrolled families, as well as visitors, do not always see the many faces of Pakachoag that rotate through our home site and satellites each week.

Our Faces of Pakachoag are every age – from baby to senior citizen.  We have different colors of skin, hair, eyes, and height; different instruments played; different stages of growth and levels of accomplishment (which you can sometimes see by how a student is ‘attached’ to their instrument).

Many thanks to Target of Worcester, Westborough and Millbury.  Together, those stores donated the frames and printing services needed to put the display in place.

If you do not currently come in for lessons, please feel free to email to arrange for a tour and you can see the display in-person!

Other Ways You can Get to Know Us

Other activities underway for getting to know us better include:

  • The new in 2019 Faculty Feature video series and
  • The Student Spotlight effort.

The videos and spotlights are posted roughly every month or two.

Where We’re Going With All This…

Wrapped within these efforts and our goal for growth is a commitment to finding ways to ease access to after-school music enrichment for all in the Greater Worcester community.

That commitment is in part because statistics show access to quality arts instruction is not equal, with disparities tied to income, race and ethnicity, and geography.  Search/google ‘Arts Equity 2020’, ‘Gaps in access to after-school high quality arts programming’, ‘Supporting student success in after-school programs’ and you’ll get the picture.

If you are an enrolled student in any program and would like to have your photo included in the display, please email and we’ll get you on the wait-list for when we begin to rotate some of the photos.  We’ll rotate roughly every 9 to 12 months.


Have some fun putting your creativity to work!

If you visit us sometime, feel free to bring your drawings and we’ll share on a bulletin board.  Or mail them in!  Let us know your name, age and which pieces of music you used for your drawings.

Michael Stubblefield is wrapping up school-year lessons and now preparing for summer lessons, remotely.  Come September, he’ll be entering his third year at Pakachoag teaching Guitar and Ukulele.  Michael has proven popular with his students who currently range in age from 10 to 21 – although Michael teaches younger and older students too.

We hope you’ll take a quick 2 minutes to get to know a little more about Michael from how he came to play the guitar to his favorite car.

If you would like more information about lessons remotely this summer or hybrid in Fall with Michael, send us an email at

We are fortunate to have a large roster of capable, skilled, and committed music faculty here at Pakachoag.

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.