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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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|
|content||glad these kids have this confidence|
|excited||happy and impressed|
|excitement||happy for all the performers|
|sad – happy||relieved|