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Arts for all: South Shore seniors enjoy learning through the arts


By Anne Smith

adult uke

Hingham’s Linda Hurley finds a creative outlet in her new-found skills playing the ukulele.

When was the last time you learned something new – when you opened yourself up to the struggle and excitement of being a beginner?  One of the perks of adulthood is that we get to focus on the things at which we excel.  As Director of Community Partnerships at South Shore Conservatory, no one pushes me to do decline Latin verbs or play basketball any more.  Jump shots are not a part of my job description (that’s a good thing, believe me!) and so they have fallen away.  This thing is, studies show that learning a new skill, especially through music, is good for us as we age. Active participation in the arts improves cognitive function, builds community and facilitates self-expression.
A year ago this summer, I sat down with my colleagues from other departments at SSC (Performance, Education, Private Instruction, and Creative Arts Therapies) to discuss how we could increase participation in the arts by adults. The result of that brainstorming meeting was a new strategy to welcome grownups into the SSC community through performances, classes and lessons: our Adult Learning initiative.
In addition to private lessons and classes at our two campuses in Duxbury and Hingham, SSC is committed to providing opportunities for participation in community-based programming through partnerships with local Councils on Aging, Senior Centers, residential communities and assisted living facilities.
Barbara Farnsworth, Director of the Hingham Council on Aging, offered a full year of Ukulele classes at the Senior Center this past year.  “I have a colleague who learned to play the ukulele and found it to be great fun and had made many friends.,” She told me.  “I was looking for something new and different to offer at the Senior Center, and thought that the ukulele fit that description.  To be quite honest, I was very surprised to see the level of interest both at the beginning and as we continued to offer subsequent sessions.  SSC teacher, John McCarthy, has been wonderful to work with and those who have taken the classes now have a new talent.”
At the Kingston Senior Center, a creative movement class called Shake Your Soul® has been inspiring participants to dance with joy every week since last October. According to program coordinator Marilyn Greenstein, participants report that the class greatly enhances their lives, improving mood, reducing stress, and helping them to feel more energized. “How did this happen?” Marilyn asks. “SSC teacher Emily Browder-Melville brought her knowledge and expertise to each and every person in the class. She now has a fan club, and we want her to come back.”
At the Norwell COA, 74-year-old Maureen Melanson plays in a community drum circle every month.  “We have so much fun!” She told me. “There are members in their 80’s and some younger people too.  People were nervous at the beginning, thinking it was going to be too hard, but we’ve learned that there’s no such thing as “can’t do it.”  Ed (Sorrentino, SSC percussion teacher) shows us the beat and we follow along.  We certainly aren’t the Symphony Orchestra – I’m not a musician at all – but I’m learning.  And if I make a mistake, it doesn’t matter. We just laugh and laugh!”
At the end of our first year, SSC adult music programs are taking place at 12 Senior Centers on the South Shore and we’ve welcomed over 500 new friends to the South Shore Conservatory family. All programs are carefully designed to challenge adult minds, stimulate creativity and build vibrant social connections.  If you’ve always wanted to try the cello or take up singing, we would love to have you join our community of active, joyful learners.  It’s never too late to try something new!  Call Student/Faculty Liaison Jessica Willcox (781) 749-7565 x37 to schedule a trial lesson.
For more information about South Shore Conservatory’s adult learning initiative, contact Anne Smith a.smith@sscmusic.org, or visit http://sscmusic.org/adult_programs.html .
About South Shore Conservatory
South Shore Conservatory, (SSC) has been providing access to and enriching the lives of South Shore residents through music and the arts for over 45 years. Recognized as a national model for arts education by the National Guild for Community Arts Education, SSC is the largest, not-for-profit, community school for the arts in Massachusetts, serving over 3500 students of all ages and abilities at its two beautiful campuses and in partnership with schools, and social service and community agencies throughout the South Shore. Students participate in more than 50 diverse programs in music, dance and drama, with performance playing an important role in overall education. With more than 100 exceptional musicians on faculty, SSC offers 30 professionally produced concerts annually.  Through innovative partnerships, SSC’s Creative Arts Therapies department supports the mental, emotional, and physical health of some of our community’s underserved members, and the ImagineARTS program strengthens pre-reading skills for young learners in Brockton Schools through integrated music and dramatic play. SSC’s campuses are located at One Conservatory Drive, Hingham, (781-749-7565) and 64 St. George Street, Duxbury (781-934-2731). SSC programs are supported in part by a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. For more information call us, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram or visit www.sscmusic.org.
In keeping with SSC’s inclusive mission to provide access to quality education in the arts for all, the Conservatory offers programs for all segments of the population to enjoy, regardless of age, ability, geography, and financial means.  Furthermore, South Shore Conservatory admits students and families of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school.
Reprinted from the South Shore Senior News September 2017 edition.