Concerts at A Street – A Monthly Series

We’re happy to announce our new concert series at A Street, featuring students of all ages and our awesome instrumental faculty. Each month, we’ll have a few of our students and a faculty member perform here in our shop (our office handily converts into a small performance space).

Rachel Massey and Daniel Hawkins played at our old location last year as the Driftwood Duet

Rachel Massey and Daniel Hawkin’s played at our old location last year as the Driftwood Duet

March 23rd marks the first event, featuring piano and violin students, and a performance by Geni Skendo. After our very successful violin classes last month, I’m sure we’ll see more and more violin performances!

Concerts at A Street

The fourth Saturday of the month at 5pm

One Elm Avenue, Quincy, MA 02130



A Break for the Holiday and Faux Christmas Music

Hello blog readers! I do apologize for not being totally on the ball getting blogs out during December. A Street Music has been rolling along – we’ve enrolled new students, performed again at the Quincy YMCA (no photos this time, unfortunately), Aaron has been repairing instruments as fast as his hands allow, and I’ve been working hard on the assessment project I created.

The next blog to come from me, which wont be until the first week or two of January, will be pretty education heavy. I intend to outline exactly how we take accountability for what is being learned in A Street Music lessons. I’ve been interviewing students and teachers all Fall, and the conclusions I make from all those interviews will inform how we monitor and encourage student learning in the future. But enough of that for now!

More pressing news is that A Street Music is closing for the holidays. We will be closed from Christmas (12/25) until New Years (1/1/11), and will reopen with normal hours on Monday, 1/3/11. Aaron will be takin’ it easy on the warm beaches of… Japan? And I will have a white Christmas in the mountains of… Texas? No, I suppose we’re not taking very traditional Christmas vacations this year.

And on that note, here are two recordings from my recital. They’re not traditionally Christmas music, but they are beautiful chant-like pieces written by Igor Stravinsky for the Russian Orthodox Church. Enjoy, and have a happy holiday!

P.S. Listening to these pieces reminds me that A Street is really low on brass students. We have an amazing brass faculty that’s going to waste not teaching a whole bunch of students. It’s like getting a Wii for Christmas and then realizing that you don’t have electricity (a not quite perfect metaphor). So if you’re a brass player and you want lessons, come down to the store!

Chad Gray: Composer/Performer/Teacher

Chad Gray, A Street Music’s primary bass guitar teacher, told me about his career as a composer and arranger when I approached him regarding the Artist-Teacher series on this blog. While Chad has extensive experience performing, his degree from Berklee School of Music is in jazz composition. Chad composes and arranges music for a number of groups around Boston in which he also performs, as well as for groups in which he doesn’t perform.

In private lesson settings – like our program at A Street – the main emphasis is almost always on performance. We like to provide students with entry points into composition, listening, and critiquing music as well as performance, but in my experience it’s not common to find a teaching-artist who is as much a performer as a composer. It’s important for students to dedicated a lot of time to thoughtful practice in order to develop as performers, so one could argue that it’s not important to have a teacher who is interested in composition. But Chad’s musical experience show really important entry points into music that some students might not find in their musical educations.

Chad was originally self-taught on guitar, and “played in a local jazz band” once he switched to bass. He told me that he “learned by figuring it [guitar] out from recordings and from having [his] friends show [him] things here and there.” After studying music in California, he moved to Boston to study at Berklee, where “being immersed in an environment with so many different musicians around really allowed [him] to grow and start to figure out [his] own voice.”

Today he performs in and composes for a number of ensembles, including the Beantown Swing Orchestra and the Boston String Players. He also keeps up to date on modern music, adding, “I research about 20 different blogs almost every day and discover amazing music I would have never found on my own.” Chad also keeps himself alert and learning when he’s performing and composing:

Performing tests a lot of ideas I have to see if they work and what kind of reaction I get from an audience and other musicians… Composing also helps as a performer by allowing me to think about the person who wrote the music and what they’d want. It’s important to try and understand both perspectives simultaneously.

What I gather from all of this is that Chad was drawn to composition and performance as one complete musical experience. The two different musical ‘hats’ are intrinsically linked. While this isn’t wholly uncommon, I think it’s important because it exhibits a well-rounded application of music in one’s life. As a classical player, I’ve seen a lot of people who view music education and competitions as necessary pit-stops on the way to a performing job, rather than viewing them as opportunities to explore different aspects of music. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, Chad’s explanation of his musical development suggests a more experiential and intrinsic approach to music.

What excites me about Chad is his instinctive motivation to explore new aspects of music, whether through his blogs ( and, compositions, arrangements, performances, or teaching. His constant exploration has provided him with direct correlations between music and life: “[J]ust being alive and breathing influences my teaching because with every experience you have a new metaphor that you can relate to music somehow.” The following is a video of Chad’s jazz composition recital that I found to exemplify connections between music and other disciplines:

Chad’s students benefit from his exploration of musical fundamentals, including “rhythm, melody, harmony, timbre, and form,” and from the connections he’s made between music and life. Music might not have a point in our lives if it didn’t connect with something inside of us, and Chad’s study of music stems directly from music’s effects. Chad told me that “[M]usic connects people, so I try to connect music.”

Chad emphasizes that “teaching is only showing you [the student] what has already happened,” but his personality and love of music will inspire students to discover novel aspects of music throughout their lives.