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Sarah’s Blog


Thank you for your interest in supporting high quality music teaching and learning for persons of every age and cultural background with Pakachoag.

Give Online Here

As Executive Director, with a team of 30 committed faculty, board members, education and music enthusiasts alongside me, I am both excited and humbled to be leading Pakachoag Music School as we celebrate our 40th Anniversary Year.

Every student who comes to Pakachoag, whatever their age, has a story.  For many students, this is their dream.  For some, learning to play an instrument would never otherwise be possible.

Chris, a recorder student this past year, writes:

This is my first year studying the recorder.  I really like the recorder, whether I’m playing for my grandparents, or just goofin’ about.  I hope to be an architect when I grow up, but I also want to play the clarinet, that’s why I am doing the recorder.  I also like maths.  Thank you for your support [of my lessons].  Chris.

As teachers, we know that playing an instrument brings fulfillment, contributes to self development and supports academic success.  Every gift opens a door that begins with music but which also provides a unique experience that continues with each student through life.

Thank you for visiting us on the web!  Below are ways that you can make a difference in the life of a child or teen.

Sincerely, Sarah Smongeski, Executive Director


Ways to Participate

All that the School has been and has become, combined with the thousands of students served along the way, has been and is only possible thanks to the on-going generosity of donors and grantors.  While tuition is a large portion of our annual budget, tuition alone is never enough to keep the wheels turning and the music playing.

The Annual Harmony Fund

We accept donations to the Annual Harmony Fund throughout the year.  Gifts of all sizes are welcome.  You can learn more, print a form, or make a gift online here:

Individual Giving

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Music Matters!

A gift of $100 to $10,000 to the Music Matters Program brings music instruction to students in need.  This includes fully free after-school, off-site small group music classes, as well as financial aid for traditional programs and the all-new Quinsigamond Youth Theatrical Company starting Fall 2022.   Your gift supports every student in experiencing music success, as we work to inspire on-going music learning for enjoyment and life-long health and well-being.

To make a gift, please visit the Individual Giving page here.  You can designate on the printable form or online that you would like your gift to support Pakachoag’s Music Matters out-of-school/after-school learning program.

Individual Giving

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Sponsor a Student

With a gift of $500 to $1500, you can Sponsor-A-Student.  Gifts allow a child or teen of low-income to experience the thrill of becoming a musician.  Each student receives up to 40 weeks annually of one-on-one instruction, accompanied by at-home practice, under the tutelage of one of the School’s 30 teaching artists.

To learn more or to sponsor a student, click here.

Sponsor a Student

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40th Anniversary GRAND Campaign

The 40th Anniversary Gala & Campaign continues!  Following the September 2022 Gala, we have raised $180,000 toward our $240,000 goal.  A gift to the campaign positions the school for long-term sustainability, AND you’ll be helping us make the dream of a Steinway performance piano and endowment a reality.

The 40th campaign continues through FY2023.

Please email Sarah@pakmusic.org for more information about the 40th Anniversary Campaign.

Endowment, Planned Giving (Wills, Trusts, Estates)

We welcome larger gifts as part of a will or your own “planned giving”.  We can provide more information upon request. Please email Sarah@pakmusic.org.

 

Meet (or Catch Up With!) Joy O’Connor Miller, 2006 Graduate
Artist and Art Teacher

When the Lessons of Music at Pakachoag Keep Giving

Joy took flute lessons through middle and high school.  She is originally from Auburn,  MA

This fall, Joy joined our Harmony Fund family with her first gift.  Joy now lives in Mississippi*.  She graduated from Ann Maria College in Paxton, MA.
I asked Joy if she is still playing her flute. Joy says not so much, but she does have some reflections to share about the impact of music learning in her daily work.

I have a poster in my classroom that reads “Practice makes Progress.” That’s definitely an idea I grew very familiar with through my lessons and daily flute practice throughout middle and high school. I was never a perfect flutist, but I definitely witnessed a lot of progress, which was so rewarding that it then fueled more practice and more progress. I hope to convey the importance of progress over perfection to my art students: they don’t come to my classes because they already create perfect art, but because they want to learn and develop into better artists.

The impact of music lessons becomes broader and deeper over time. What we do is about music, but so much more, like improving reading and memory skills for beginners to lots of analytical thinking involved in mastering technical challenges for older, advancing students; and definitely, as Joy well knows, instilling a life-long understanding of the importance of hard work through practice – for progress, not necessarily the illusive idea of “perfection”.

Many thanks to all, including Joy, who support Pakachoag as volunteer, donor, grantor, community member.  Your support helps make Music for Life.

*Oops.  I (Sarah S.) mixed up my state abbreviations and translated MS earlier as Missouri.

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 Sarah@pakmusic.org 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 info@pakmusic.org 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.

 

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)

Hey, Diddle, DiddleHey Diddle Diddle song

Rhymes, more specifically nursery rhymes, have been with us for centuries.  The earliest known published collection of nursery rhymes was Tommy Thumb’s (Pretty) Song Book, 2 vol. (London, 1744).

The Music Together curriculum is rich with rhymes.  Songs with words that rhyme, like “Hey, Diddle, Diddle,” help children hear how individual sounds come together to make words.

To expand and reinforce your child’s speech and memory skills, try singing other words that rhyme in place of “diddle” and “moon.” When your child is ready, they can come up with their own words that rhyme. You can even use nonsense words and silly phrases! For example:

Hey, doodle, doodle, the cat and the noodle,
the cow jumped over the hoop.
The little dog laughed to see such sport,
and the dish ran away with the soup!

Hey, Diddle, Diddle is one of several free songs available on the Music Together free Hello Everybody App.

Get the Music

The Music Together Free AppWith Music Together’s “Hello Everybody” app, it’s easy to play musically as a family at home and on the go. The app comes pre-loaded with eight Music Together songs, including Hey, Diddle, Diddle.  If you are an MT enrollee, you can sign in with your Music Together account to access your semester music, too. The app also includes a digital version of Music Together’s award-winning Singalong Storybook, Hello, Everybody.
Digital versions of our other 9 Singalong Storybooks can also be purchased.

Fall 2020 Preview:  Why / How Remote Music Learning is Different

Dear Friends,

We hope you remain well. As public school openings (or “remotings” ) take shape, we’re ready to confirm our plans at Pakachoag.

Fall 2020 includes our new Pakachoag Connect Remote Learning Program as well as some limited in-person options.

If you are not already enrolled for fall, before you retreat from the idea of additional remote learning, I encourage you to consider how MUSIC learning is by nature different from core subject matter learning; and, in particular, with regard to the remote experience.

1) When teaching, our focus is on sound -melody, harmony and rhythm.  Not only are we using our ears, we’re also using our physical “self” to feel rhythm and develop the physical techniques needed for successful musicianship.  For our youngest learners, rhythm is tied closely to movement. For the vast majority of our online offerings, teacher and student are focused on listening, creating and feeling music; less on reading, dictation and conversation.

2) For private lessons, we don’t spend a lot of time looking at each other on the screen and talking. Rather, we’re playing music.  As teacher, we coach and demonstrate; together we play back and forth, and listen.

3) For lessons and school-aged classes, we’re checking in on how practice, in connection with weekly assignments, is going.  For 6 out of 7 days, online music learning is actually NOT ONLINE at all. Its independent study [aka practice] with weekly teacher ‘check ins’ that include coaching and goal setting/assignments for the upcoming week.

4) For early childhood classes and sometimes Rhythm Kids, mom or dad or grandparent is the teacher (not the screen) as you, the adult role model for your child, take cues (visually and aurally) from our teacher.

This very interactive / active nature of music learning, which in every case benefits from independent music-making (and listening) at home between class or lesson time, means screen fatigue is a little less prominent than with traditional subject matter.

I totally get that some moms and dads, primarily our younger families, are opting to wait until we can be in-person. But I hope you will take a few minutes to consider all of the benefits music has to offer, no matter whether in-person or online.

This year, it also makes sense that we highlight how artistic engagement supports mental health.  As one of my own adult students mentioned in her remote lesson this week, ‘My lessons are my anchor right now; practice brings a routine to my day, a predictability.’

As teacher and musician, I like to add: “Yes!! it also helps us block out the outside world for a bit and immerse ourselves in the music.”

With wishes for good health, let’s stay connected with music – no matter if in-person or online.

Sincerely, Sarah Smongeski, Executive Director


Fall 2020 Preview

We’re Listening:  Technology Sustainability and Transformation

Thank you to parents who responded to our Online Learning Assessment earlier this summer. We heard you loud and clear and are investing time and resources to kick off the School’s new Pakachoag Connect Program.

The new PCP Program is a long-term commitment to remote learning.

PCP expands access geographically and to those with health concerns, eases transportation and schedule challenges, and ensures safety during COVID-19.

For the long-term we’ll be offering both in-person and remote lessons, or a combination option.

For group classes, some will be designed to be remote-only; some will be in-person only; and some groups will similarly offer either/or options in the future.

Check Out Pakachoag Connect

Look for the PCP logo above on webpages to quickly identify programs being offered remotely.

PCP options for FALL include:

Details for our Two Most Popular Programs

Music Together Online:  Registration Now Open

Music Together Online Registration Opens TODAY!

Save $15 now through Friday, September 8th

Fall classes are currently planned for online. We’ll be singing and dancing with ‘Bongos’!

Some classes will remain online for the full year. We hope to be able to resume some in-person classes when circumstances change with regard to COVID-19.

Summer families have enjoyed seeing each other each week and taking a few minutes to say hello on-screen. Then, we’re off and hopping, skipping from home.

Materials will be mailed home starting September 17th or within 2 weeks of receiving your registration thereafter.

Early registration greatly appreciated so we can confirm classes in a timely manner.

Private Lessons – Remote and Some In-Person Opportunities

We’re registering! Whether you are looking for remote only, in-person only, or a combination we may be able to help.

We’re handling plans on a case-by-case / teacher-by-teacher basis.

Some of our safety plans include:

  • HEPA-13 medical-grade filters in studios to circulate and clean air every 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Plexiglass barriers to curb flow of air between teacher and student.
  • Open windows when possible.
  • Sanitizing of key surfaces between lessons.
  • Masks and social distancing

We can provide a COVID-19 Safetey Guidelines Handbook upon request. We will ask anyone enrolling to sign a waiver of liability.

For lesson information please e-mail our Director of Programs & Outreach Kristjon@pakmusic.org

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

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

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