Sarah’s Blog

Dear Music School Friends,

As a not-for-profit, Pakachoag Music School is called to fulfill our mission in a way that contributes to community. A number of emails have gone out in the last few days related to the current circumstances facing both our local community and the country as a whole. We would like to add briefly to that conversation as related to our mission.

Like so many of you, we at Pakachoag Music School are disturbed and upset by the murder of George Floyd. Injustice toward Black Americans continues today after decades of hurt and efforts to do better. We also understand that to put an end to the discrimination and victimization of our friends and neighbors of color, “systemic racism must be unveiled and dismantled.”

It is our desire that Pakachoag always be a place that is welcoming to all and where every voice can be valued and heard. We are working to listen and learn, as an organization and individually, from those who live with injustices.

If any within our community see a way for us to do better with our language and actions – we’re here to listen and learn. We stand together, as an organization, to create, through constructive action, a community, country, and world devoid of oppression and division.

May the music we make together bring us hope, inspire us to think deeply about how we can help create change, and be used as a tool for peace, understanding and kindness.

Sincerely,

Sarah Smongeski, Executive Director

Kallin Johnson, President of the Board

Can Music Help?

None of us at Pakachoag is licensed as a mental health care provider nor as a Music Therapist. Most of us are professional musicians (teaching artists) and/or educators. But we do know that for teens especially, anxiety can creep in – and sometimes it is hard for a young person to express what they are feeling.

For parents, it can be hard to understand what is happening. When parents occasionally confide with us, I am quick to share that anxiety or depression is much more common than we usually realize.

Sometimes, music lessons can help.  They offer a routine of daily practice, require focus and concentration, and bring a sense of accomplishment once a skill or piece is mastered.  Music can also offer an outlet for self-expression.  Sometimes the ability to express through music can happen quickly into the learning curve (depending on instrument and age); sometimes gradually, over time, as one becomes more adept.  We also know, through research, that engagement in the arts contributes to lifelong health and well-being.
The Mass. Cultural Council is currently working on a new grant program called CultureRX – specifically because care providers often write prescriptions for an arts activity when emotional support is needed. Research shows that engaging aging adults in the arts can also reduce health care costs.
We encourage you to consider whether music lessons or a class for a younger child could be a worthwhile investment at this time.  Depending on specific needs, we might recommend seeking out a music therapist who is trained to specifically work with those who have special learning needs or need therapeutic support.
At Pakachoag, we offer music lessons as a way of life.  Lessons require hard work, focus, sustained commitment, and daily practice.  If you or your child enjoy listening to music, learning to sing or to play an instrument can also bring happiness and satisfaction – not overnight, but over time.
For young children, birth to age five, we’re focused on providing a high quality foundation for all children to feel musical and to enjoy making music on day-by-day and weekly basis.  The skills learned through music and rhythm during the formative years of development transfer to skills needed for success in school and lead to greater success in learning to play an instrument once a child is school-aged.

March 14, 2020

  • Our Spring Session Music Together start date is delayed by two weeks.  We anticipate a start date of Saturday, April 4th.
  • Private music lessons will be on hold for the week of March 16th through March 21st.  Please prepare to Zoom starting March 23rd.  Watch for more information coming from Kristjon or Sarah.
  • Group classes:  Please watch for emails or check in with us at admin@pakmusic.org.
Dear Donors, Families and Friends.
I just wanted to be in touch to let you know that we have cancelled our March 21st Faculty concert. We hope to re-schedule at a later date.
We have been in communication with all enrolled students yesterday.
  • We are pausing all activities this coming week.
  • We have delayed the onset of our Spring Music Together Session by two weeks, with an anticipated start date of April 4th.
  • The office will be on an irregular schedule. We encourage emails. If you need to visit, please call ahead.
  • We continue to disinfect key surface areas at the school and piano keyboards between each lesson.
  • We have updated our Health Policy for Music Together classes where we also disinfect surfaces and all instruments being used after each class.
  • We’ll re-assess at the end of this week our plans for next week with regard to private lessons
  • We’re also asking private lesson parents to become familiar with Zoom (similar to Skype) as a back-up plan should remote teaching be needed. Our teachers will also be practicing zooming this week.
I admit that this morning I feel some anxiety about all that is swirling around us. Anita Walker, Executive Director of the Mass. Cultural Council said it best on Thursday:
…while we know that social isolation is prescribed as the best protective factor now, it is also true that the arts and culture are a powerful source of healing in these times of high stress and anxiety. We want to explore together alternative ways of delivering our essential services in the absence of the human touch and community that is so much a part of our work. …. In unprecedented times, creativity, and innovation lead. This is our superpower.”
This will be a disruptive time for all of us. Let’s keep making and listening to music – because we know Music is for Life! not just today and tomorrow.
As always, we thank you for your support.
Sincerely,
Sarah
Sarah Smongeski, Executive Director Kallin Johnson, President of the Board

Welcome to Pakachoag Music School and All Saints Church.  The school resides in the south wing of the church, on the 2nd and 3rd floors.  We are appreciative to have access to this architecturally stunning space for special events.  We are also appreciative to be able to present this concert with faculty AND friends – members of the All Saints Choirs and The Worcester Children’s Chorus.

  • Thank you to our program sponsor SEM, Security Engineered Machinery, for making this concert possible.
  • Thank you to all of the School’s donors and grantors whose annual gifts sustain our work from year to year.
  • Thank you to Mary Keefe, Worcester State Representative, for the concert’s Opening Welcome.

Why A Concert for MLK Day

Remarks by Sarah Smongeski, Executive Director

Pakachoag Music School, as a member of the National Guild for Community Arts Education, is built upon a mission that includes a commitment to quality in arts education AND a commitment to access.  For Pakachoag, as a not-for-profit, access  is tied to our financial aid program (we’re typically awarding around $30,000 right now in tuition support); access also means doing our work in ways that ensure we are connecting, embracing and welcoming the larger Greater Worcester community we serve.

Today’s program is part of a larger vision within the National Guild:  ensuring equal access to the arts for persons of all backgrounds.  Equal access is not yet fulfilled in this country – or in this world – – but its a dream we all need to hold on to.

Today, what better way to be thoughtful about how we achieve that vision of equal access to the arts than to acknowledge similar inspiring themes, through music; themes that defined the work of Martin Luther King, Jr.:  Social Justice, Equity, Civil Rights, achieved through love and non-violence.

About the Music

Much of the music you will hear today is written within the context of religious themes.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was of course a Baptist pastor; plus, the distinct genre of spirituals – a uniquely African American folk music — express very personally and deeply the  African American experience during slavery and its very long aftermath.  And so, while we are not a religious organization, we musicians well know that our western musical heritage grew first from within the church.  Musicians and composers – whether informal folk musicians or composers formed through the classical traditions –  so many have always been and continue to be inspired by themes that link to both humanity and spirituality.

Today, we present this concert as an expression of the dreams that we share as a community; dreams that have the potential to touch and change every person, in our community and around the world, regardless of faith background or ‘no faith’ background –   dreams for peace, equality, justice; dreams of harmony.

Music Selections for Dreams of Harmony, January 20, 2020

Precious Lord, Take my Hand            Thomas Dorsey
You’re Tired, Chile Spiritual / arr. Roland Hayes
Deep River Spiritual / arr. Mark Hayes
Chris Carney, Tenor & Kristjon Imperio, Piano

I’m So Glad Trouble Don’t Last Alway R.  – Nathaniel Dett
Adoration for Organ  – Florence B. Price
My Lord, What a Morning  – arr. H.T. Burleigh
Members of the All Saints Choirs, Graeme McCoullough, Director / Organist

 Cantata for voice and piano John Carter:  Composed 1964; 1932-1981

  1. Prelude
  2. Rondo: Peter Go Ring dem Bells
  3. Recitative: Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
  4. Air: Let Us Break Bread Together
  5. Toccata: Ride on King Jesus

Chris & Kristjon

This Little Light of Mine –  Trad / arr. Ken Berg
Sisi ni Moja (We are One)  – Jacob Narverud
The Worcester Children’s Chorus —Pamela Mindell, Conductor

Make Them Hear You Music by Stephen Flaherty
from the musical Ragtime Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Chris & Kristjon

**

Many thanks to all who turned out to enjoy the music and celebrate the Dream.

Heather MacFarlane can often be found in the office during the quieter morning hours, working diligently on maintaining donor communications and managing our Business Sponsorships.
This Fall, Heather will begin to play a more integral role as part of our leadership team as we work to connect in new ways with the local community and build the financial aid program – all part of our Barr/GWCF Creative Engagement initiative.
If you have a skill or idea to share related to fund development efforts, would like to volunteer for a committee or working group connected with the School’s board, or are looking for ways to make your business more visible, while also supporting the arts, feel free to email heather@pakmusic.org.
Heather joined the School in September 2016.  Prior to her work with Pakachoag, she has served as Senior Associate Director for Advancement Events & Programs at Clark University; Director of Alumni Relations at Anna Maria College and Associate Director of Annual Giving at Assumption College.  Heather holds an MBA from Assumption; and BA from Wheaton College in Norton.  We extend thanks to Heather for steering our development work with a steady hand during the very busy years leading into the School’s move in 2017 and 2018.
Thank you for helping us name the new studios at All Saints – 2nd and 3rd floors.
AND The Winners are:
Studio No. 1:  Antonio Vivaldi  (received a full 50% of the vote; Bach was the runner up)
Studio No. 2:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (38% percent of the vote; Beethoven was the runner up)
Studio No. 3:  Frederic Chopin (38% of the vote; with Brahms as runner up)
Studio No. 4:  Claude Debussy (34% of the vote; Amy Beach, runner up)
Studio No. 5:  Leonard Bernstein (45%; Gershwin runner up)
Studio No. 6 – This one will be different.  Watch for how studio No. 6 unfolds in the coming months.
We’ll be working soon to decorate the new studios and new family waiting room, thanks to generous gifts from our On the Move grantors and donors.
If you would be interested in assisting with studio decoration or would like more information about the move and our goals – space needs and fiscal goals (we still have additional dollars to raise in order to complete the move), please email Sarah@pakmusic.org.

The Lefferts Family. Back Row, L to R: Esther Mintzer (Lefferts), Peter, Daniel, Ben, Claire and dad John. Front Row L to R: Jeffrey, Emily, Leah, Andrew, and mom Gail.

In May 2018, Andrew Lefferts performed in his final Pakachoag recital before heading off to music school in September.  While we celebrate and acknowledge all of our graduating seniors each year, this particular performance also marked the end of an era.  Eight siblings, all pianists, have been enrolled at Pakachoag Music School since 1996, a full 22 years.  Gail Lefferts, mom, asked if she could end our recital weekend on Sunday, May 20th by sharing some thoughts surrounding the impact of Pakachoag on her family.

Gail’s story is not the typical short 2018 web snippet, but we wanted to share in full.  Her story reminded us that our mission and promise to make Music for Life lives strong among students and families of the past, the present, and the future. 

We invite everyone to be part of our Pakachoag family, where we make Music for Life.  

A Generation of Pianists:

Twenty-two years ago on the suggestion of a neighbor, I called Pakachoag Community Music School to inquire about piano lessons.  I can still hear Sarah’s lovely English voice as she explained to me the workings of the school.  Within the week my three oldest children were taking piano lessons with Inna Muravnik, the teacher assigned to us.  At that time Pakachoag was located in a little church up the street from the Pakachoag Church where they have resided until this year.  The room was small and I vividly remember cramming into the space with a baby grand piano, Inna, two children seated in chairs, a third child on the piano bench, my three year old son playing quietly under the piano and my infant son sleeping in the corner in his car seat. That was our beginning at Pakachoag.

Shortly after, the school moved to the Pakachoag Church. Everyone had a little more room and as each of our eight children came of age s/he began his or her piano study. There was music in our home all day as each one took a turn to practice.  I was able to tell from a distance who was playing by what they were playing.  Even I took piano lessons for a year.  Thursday was piano day and we spent a good many hours here.

In addition to piano, the school offered us many other excellent moments for musical and personal growth. Throughout the years we had a few children who wanted to expand by adding violin, trumpet, guitar, voice or music theory to their study. Through their musical endeavors they acquired tools necessary to succeed not only in music but in life – skills like perseverance, diligence, and goal planning and execution.  They learned to enjoy success, to cope with disappointment and to view mistakes as learning opportunities.  These benefits now extend beyond Pakachoag to their everyday adult lives. Music also continues to be a source of personal enrichment.  Whether it’s a band of friends making music on Wednesday nights or an actor playing Mozart who has a better understanding of the character he plays or just a group of siblings playing with rhythms and tunes, their musical foundation plays a role.  It has been such an ongoing joy for me to notice that whenever an adult child is home, the visit always includes time at the piano.

My children have also learned that performing music is not just personally satisfying but is also a gift that enhances the lives of others.  Throughout our years at Pakachoag the school has offered our children chances to share their music with other musicians, with the elderly, with children and with the community – at nursing homes, Afternoon Tunes, Christmas events, First Night celebrations, and even performances in Mechanics Hall.  They have learned that music adds to the lives of both the performer and listener alike.

Pakachoag has gifted our family with a community of fellow musicians and friends. It was “chance” that paired us with Inna Muravnik, but our good fortune to have her as our piano instructor has blessed each member of our family.  Although she connected better with some of our children than others, she truly taught each child to appreciate music and to work hard for their goals.  Our lessons sometimes included anecdotes from Inna’s life that, though sometimes off topic, always broadened our view of culture and life.  Always willing  to help, Inna invited us to her home many times for extra attention if a child needed a bit more before an audition or performance.  Over twenty-two years our relationship with Inna developed beyond teacher and student to family friend.

We also cherish our relationship with Sarah who has supported us beyond the role of school director by taking an interest in each child and encouraging them in their individual musical endeavors.  She has offered them many opportunities to share their music with the community, helped and encouraged them with personal struggles, and assisted with the college application process.  She also was a friend to me with whom I enjoyed discussing all things musical…and not.

In addition to Inna and Sarah, we have come to know and be blessed by other faculty members like Janeen Baker who has taken an interest in our children even though they weren’t her students.  Always with a kind word of encouragement or helpful word of advice, Janeen took the time to reach out after every recital.  In addition to the Pakachoag faculty who touched our lives both musically and personally, our family has been enriched by many other families with whom we have not only shared music but also play dates and parties and family functions.  Pakachoag is truly a community music school not only because it brings music to the community but also because within it is a strong, loving community of families that support each other.

Andrew is our last child to study here at the music school and this spring brings us to the conclusion of our weekly treks to Pakachoag.   I am pleased that he had a chance to perform here at All Saints so that we can say we were part of the school in all three of its home locations.  I have only given highlights of the many blessings our family has enjoyed by being a part of the Pakachoag community. I’d like to thank Sarah, Inna, and the wonderful faculty and families of Pakachoag.   I am so glad that when I was simply looking for piano lessons all those years ago that I was led to this school which proved to be so much more than just a place to learn to play the piano.

Pakachoag Music School is On the Move!

We’re excited to announce that Pakachoag Music School is expanding its footprint into Worcester.  We’ll be moving our offices on December 18 and 19th to All Saints Church, at the corner of Irving and Pleasant Streets.    Private lessons and related programming will gradually transfer to All Saints starting in January, 2018 and continuing through June.

We’d like you to know how to find us!!

  • Our offices move December 18 and 19, 2917
  • Music Together classes will continue as previously scheduled, at the five locations currently offered.
  • Private Lessons and related programming will transfer into Worcester starting in January and continuing through June.
  • Auburn lessons and classes will begin to function as satellite programs as of next week.
  • Our West Boylston lessons and classes will continue as a satellite program.

Our new address:  10 Irving Street, Worcester, MA 01609 at All Saints Church, corner of Irving and Pleasant Streets.

For more complete information on how to find us, parking, and office hours visit our Office/Staff page.

We’re excited to be celebrating our 35th anniversary year by moving forward in new ways.  As we begin our journey to anchor in Worcester during 2018, we hope you’ll join us along the way – for lessons, classes, and concerts.

Why the Move?

The School’s move into Worcester responds to long-term strategic needs, along with changes underway at Pakachoag Church.

We’re excited to link more closely with Worcester’s cultural community, to be able to position ourselves for future growth, and to build on pre-existing partnerships with All Saints Church and The Hanover Theater.

Many thanks to All Saints Church, known for its long standing-commitment to excellence in music, for the warm welcome.

We extend our thanks to Pakachoag Church, the School’s founder,  who has been generous over many years through the provision of space at reduced rental rates.

If you would like more information about the School’s move and associated strategic planning, please e-mail Executive Director Sarah Smongeski at Sarah@pakmusic.org.

Sincerely,

Sarah Smongeski, Executive Director
Pakachoag Music School

At Pakachoag, our Music for Life promise centers around the recognition that students can learn a lot when they take risks; and learn even more, when they learn how to recover from failure.  Those hard lessons do more to develop confidence than lessons learned, or successes achieved, easily.

A recent article from ArtsHub, based in Australia, talks more specifically about the importance of a “growth mindset” vs. a “fixed mindset”.  A huge part of what we do at Pakachoag is to foster the “growth mindset” (centered around a love for music).

Arts Hub Researchers note that learners often fall into two camps in terms of their approach to education: a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. The former is characterized by a belief that putting in the effort, and learning from failure, will lead to better results and improved skills. The latter perspective, however, holds that individuals have a certain skill level or ability, and the learning process will not necessarily allow one to move past that. A recent article in ArtsHub spoke to educators in Australia to get a sense for how they see arts education as a critical component of developing a growth mindset.

Read the Full Article

 

How do we feel about recitals?  As a performer?  As an audience member?  As a collective community?

We asked everyone attending our November 12th student recital to find one word (or a couple ok too) to jot down on their yellow sticky note before we began.  No right/wrong answers.  No names.  Just a quick, private moment to reflect.

Then, when we finished, we asked everyone to write down (on their blue sticky note) how they were feeling.

We invited everyone to share their sticky notes in the back of the hall – no names.  Just an array of reflections.

Lots of nifty responses.  Everyone ended the day on a positive note.  And, I, Sarah,was a little surprised to learn that so many of our students and families were excited, proud, and happy as they waited for us to begin the concert.  I would have thought maybe we’d see a few more notes of anxiety and fear; but am delighted that so many students feel so positive about the performing experience; and for those who did feel less than positive – that’s ok too.   Performing is part of being a musician- how we feel about performing and approach performing is part of our learning and growth.

Here’s a list of our Saturday reflections.  Mostly, we thank students for working hard to prepare, for your participation, and for everyone’s support as engaged, attentive audience.

Side note:  No correlation necessarily between “before” and “after” words – everything just listed alphabetically and otherwise, randomly.

Before -alphabetically After – alphabetically
Alaia amazed
annoyed awesome
anticipation calm
anticipation content
anticipation elated
anxious enchanted
beautiful entertained
content glad these kids have this confidence
cornered grateful
eager happiness
embarassed happy
enjoyment happy
excited happy
excited happy
excited happy
excited happy
excited happy
excited happy
excited happy and impressed
excitement happy for all the performers
good hopeful
happiness impressed
happy impressed
happy joy
happy joyful
impatient joyful
joy medium
nervous overjoyed
nervous proud
nervous proud
passion proud
peace proud
peaceful proud
pleased proud
proud prouder
proud relaxed
proud relief
proud relieved
proud relieved
sad – happy relieved
scared satisfied
serene thankful
tired wonderful