Spring Scholarship

Hi Readers,

As the holidays approach, I want to make available our application for the Spring financial hardship scholarship! This scholarship provides fifteen free lessons for eager students who can’t afford the cost of music lessons. Please download the file from the link below, and carefully answer the questions. Deadline for applications is January 4, 2013. We’ll be accepting either one or two students.

A Street Scholarship Application Spring 2013

In other news, I am proud to formally announce the addition of Samantha Dearborn and Rob Megna to our faculty! Samantha and Rob will both be teaching on Thursdays at A Street Music.

sam dearbornSoprano Samantha Dearborn has performed on stages in the U.S. and in Europe, presenting recitals and appearing as featured and guest soloist in both concert and recital repertoire. Her passion for music and performance is evident in her teaching. Emphasizing the importance of breath, she encourages a healthy technique for a sustainable voice. She strives to create a safe, positive atmosphere for her students to learn, grow, and discover. During a study program in Hungary, she was trained in the Kodály Method, which she also incorporates into her lessons.

Ms. Dearborn holds a Bachelor of Music with honors in vocal performance from Capital University. Currently, she is pursuing a Master of Music in voice at Longy School of Music of Bard College.

rob megnaRob Megna is a professional drummer living in Boston, Massachusetts. He is well versed in styles including blues, jazz, latin, rock, funk and country. Rob has played live at music venues such as Lupos Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, RI, B.B. Kings in New York City, the Worcester Palladium, and Tobey Keith’s in Foxboro, MA. He recently headlined a sold out show at Nectar’s in Burlington, VT with folk/blues quartet Hey Mama.

Rob began playing drums at the age of 5 and was instantly recognized for having natural talent. He studied privately with Martin Vazquez, owner of M.V. Drums on Cape Cod. Rob has considerable experience teaching young drummers on Cape Cod and the South Shore, and performs regularly with A Street guitar teacher Paul Chase.

To see full bios for either of our new teachers, see www.astreetmusicllc.com! Short update today, but I’ll be back with more soon!


New to Our Faculty

I always feel like the start of a school year is the real “new year.” Everything picks back up after our collective summer travel and special projects. September also marks the start of A Street Music Education’s third year teaching music. To celebrate, we’ve already chosen our first ever scholarship student, who will receive free tuition for a full semester of lessons. Read below to find out what else we’re doing to provide opportunities in music education to our community. First, however, I’d like to address the title of this post!

We’re happy to announce the addition of Benjamin Moniz and Sarah Troxler to our faculty. Benjamin specializes in teaching classical and folk guitar, banjo, and mandolin, and also teaches harmonica. We’re very excited to add banjo and harmonica to the list of instrumental lessons we teach here at A Street. Benjamin will be available to teach  lessons on Monday afternoons. Sarah is an accomplished pianist and music director, performing regularly around Boston and the South Shore. Sarah will be teaching our intermediate and advanced piano students, as well as providing substitute beginner violin lessons, on Thursdays. Please find more information about Ben and Sarah at the bottom of this post.

Now back to those music education opportunities to which I alluded. We’ll be providing monthly intro classes on a variety of instruments through the Spring. Thanks to generous donations to A Street Music Education, we’ve decided to provide these intro classes with a suggested donation instead of a fee. Call us at 617-328-3600 to inquire about registering for November’s FREE guitar classes.

About Our Faculty Additions:

Benjamin Moniz is a seasoned working musician in Boston and New England, performing almost nightly and teaching thirty private students each week. Ben received a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth where he studied jazz guitar with Jim Robitaille, modern improvisation with Andrew McWain, and classical guitar with William Riley. Ben has continued pursuing education on a variety of instruments including mandolin, banjo, dobro, bass, piano, harmonica (chromatic and diatonic). He is currently studying jazz and modern styles of guitar with Lou Cero and is enrolled in Tony Trischka’s online banjo lessons at the Academy of Bluegrass. You can see Ben perform locally with Grace Morrison and the RSO, The J.Kelley Band and The Marcus Monteiro Quartet (MM4).  He also enjoys a hobby of archiving bootleg jazz recordings and collecting folk, jazz and bluegrass vinyl records.

As an artist, Sarah Troxler operates on the firm belief that any person can learn music from any age or background. Each student learns differently and grasps material in their own unique way. Sarah strives to guide each individual to utilize his/her strengths and interests, so that he/she is able to take ownership of their craft, even from a beginning stage.

Sarah is an active musical collaborator throughout the greater Boston area, having earned her Master of Music degree in Collaborative Piano at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA.  She earned her B.A. in Piano Performance at Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, MA, where she is currently an adjunct music professor. She is active as a teaching artist throughout the greater Boston area, serving as a vocal coach for individual singers, choirs, and theatre groups.

Ms. Troxler is active in community music programs, serving on staff with the Quincy-based South Shore Performing Artists’ Concert Series and Quincy Summer Singers.  She serves as a collaborative pianist and vocal coach at Longy School of Music of Bard College and with Cambridge Summer Opera Company, as well as serving as Minister of Worship at North Street Community Church in Hingham.  Her instrumental arrangements of favorite Christmas tunes can be heard on North Street’s Advent album Coming Home.

Rachel Massey Talks Suzuki Method

Today I’m posting a short essay that our violin teacher, Rachel Massey, wrote for our blog about her evolving views on the Suzuki Method, created by Shinichi Suzuki. For a long while, the Suzuki Method has been one of the “buzz words” in music education, and Rachel thinks there’s good reason for this.

A few notes before turning things over to Rachel: (1) you can find a short overview of the Suzuki method here, (2) Rachel’s biography can be found at the end of this post, and (3) give us a call if you’d like to schedule a lesson with Rachel.

Thanks for reading!

Growing up, my exposure to the Suzuki method was pretty limited. Despite the fact that my earliest violin lessons were in Boulder, Colorado, a hub for the Suzuki Association and Suzuki Training, my teachers chose instead to focus on more “traditional” European methods and pushed me to start reading music as soon as I began, at age 7. While we still used the Suzuki books, they were more a vehicle for graduated repertoire and less about the violin method. Suzuki for me instead became synonymous with ridiculously talented peers (most of who had started by age 5 or earlier), a few beloved pieces and a few less-beloved ones, and a circulating rumor among the non-Suzuki kids that the method produced “automatons” and students who don’t know how to read music.

Until recently, I could include myself among the skeptics of Suzuki’s violin school. This wasn’t so much because I had any proof that my Suzuki peers were in any way insufficient. On the contrary, it had more to do with the violinistic trait of competition. From the very beginning, I was jealous of the effortless technique of these Suzuki kids. When I heard that they might, in fact, be flawed, I was all too eager to believe it, a consoling thought that offered a possible one-up on the Suzuki clan at long last.

The Suzuki Method emerged in Matsumoto, Japan out of Dr. Shin’ichi Suzuki’s belief that “every child can.” Suzuki himself didn’t begin to play the violin until his late teens (a very late start for anyone hoping to make a career out of music), and because of this had a greater chance to observe the earliest processes of learning an instrument with an adult eye. Suzuki’s first observation had to do with a child’s mother tongue: barring anything extraordinary, every child is able to speak the language of their parents at any early age. If children can pick up language so easily by listening and mimicking, why couldn’t they do the same thing with music?

The whole question seems elementary, but in effect it turned musical pedagogy on its head. Up until Suzuki’s revelation in the mid-20th century, Traditional European methods were the way music was taught. These methods encouraged a later start, early sight reading skills, and, quite often, rigid obedience and discipline. Many pedagogues of the European school intended their teachings to make great concert artists. Suzuki, on the other hand, intended his to make great people: “I want to make good citizens,” he said. “If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart.”

My own journey with Suzuki started as I began pondering how best to teach my students. I’ve been teaching for many years, and for many years did so in the same way I was taught. Recently, teaching has become a much bigger focus for me, and with that shift came a reevaluation of my methods. I was accepting more children into my studio, and I found the toolbox I had with which to teach simply wasn’t big or broad enough; I wanted to find ways to engage the kids, to relate to the way in which they access music, and to make the violin into a joy rather than a chore.  Because of this, I enrolled in Suzuki Teacher Training at Suzuki School of Newton. At the end of May, I will be certified in Book 1. While at the school for class and observation, I have witnessed two boys so excited about their violins and music that they insisted their mothers wait while they played their repertoire together in the hallway, all giddy and without an ounce of competition. I have also seen students come to their lesson each week with grins on their faces, not dreading their lessons but excited for what the thirty minutes ahead might hold. And I have heard 4, 5, and 6 year olds play with beautiful tone, great intonation, and, most importantly, with genuine expression. Not once have I encountered an automaton nor a child incapable of reading sheet music as well as she uses her ears.

I’m very excited to incorporate my Suzuki training into lessons with my students at A Street, as well as in lessons in my private studio. I would be hesitant to imply that any one method works for all students, but I’ve been very pleased with the emphasis in Suzuki on finding how best to reach a particular student rather than making the student bend to you.  I’ve been able to teach both children as well as adults using games, tools, and concepts from the Suzuki method. Perhaps most surprising, though, is how I’ve been able to teach myself.


A student of Yumi Hwang-Williams, Sally O’Reilly, Joey Corpus, and Mark Lakirovich, Rachel Massey attended high school as a violin major at Denver School of the Arts, and furthered her violin and viola studies at Denver University and Longy School of Music. She has played under the direction of noted conductors David Zinman, Julius Rudel, Michael Stern, James DePriest and, most recently, Benjamin Zander of the Boston Philharmonic. Rachel has also performed by invitation at Music on the Rhine in Dusseldorf, Germany, Aspen Music Festival, and on viola at the Las Vegas Music Festival. Currently, Rachel is a member of the Boston Philharmonic, associate principal for the Mercury Orchestra, and plays traditional and classical styles with cellist Daniel Hawkins in the Driftwood Duet.

Days One and Two of Summer Camp

Hello A Street Music Education blog readers! We are not too far from the end of summer, and there are tons of things to report. While we seemed to keep a steady and large amount of students in the summer months, we are excited to enroll new students during the coming school year. We’ve been playing around Quincy and around Boston (in fact, you can find us at the Quincy Farmers Market almost every Friday. But for me, the most interesting thing has been preparing for and directing musical summer camps. I directed the music portion of “Summer Jam,” part of the First Baptist Church of Jamaica Plain’s summer kids program. We are currently preparing for Day 3 of our summer camp at the YMCA here in Quincy.

Music camp at the YMCA is called a “Creative Arts” camp. We learn music in the large space where the “ART” installation is (pictured), and we build instruments in the art studio. Chad Gray, an A Street bass, guitar, and composition teacher, is pictured to the right. We built a scraper this morning to make sure we could best direct the campers.

In the first two days of camp, we’ve had the campers build and decorate claves and scrapers, using hand tools, thick wooden dowels, and all of the art supplies one could dream of (we do build in an art studio). In addition, we’ve had great success exploring dynamics (loud and soft in music), rhythm, beat, and tempo. We’ve also started exploring the idea of scales in music, partially by using numbers to represent notes. I was extremely impressed with how quickly the six to eight year old campers were able to begin exploring these fundamental musical concepts. The below photo exhibits one of those explorations using numbers to represent notes of the scale. The seemingly nonsensical words below the numbers are the lyrics to the “Navajo Song of Happiness,” a simple song easily applied to teaching situations.

I’ll be back soon to the blog with more photos from camp, and a bigger reflection on what the campers learned. But before I go, I’ll share one more photo of a student enjoying his newly made and decorated scraper!

Interlude: April News and Events

Another month has arrived. Spring is here. Well, Spring is somewhere, but it seems to have taken a wrong turn on its way to Boston. We’ve got a lot of fun things happening in April and May, and a lot of my time is going to setting up a student and faculty recital in May. Please check the events and news below and help support our local musicians! In addition, the last few blog posts have interactive features. If you’ve used them, please let me know what you think!

A Street Events…

Keep an eye out for our next YMCA concert!
A Street Music Recital coming up in May!

April Teacher Performances…

April 2 – 8pm
Dan Flonta with the Atlantic Symphony
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA

April 3 – 4pm
Dan Flonta with the Atlantic Symphony
Duxbury Performing Arts Center
130 George Street, Duxbury, MA

April 8 – 2pm
Bülent Güneralp with pianist Eunyoung Kim
Brigham House
341 Mt. Auburn St, Watertown, MA

April 8 – 8pm
Chad Gray improvising at Maya Kite’s Dance Recital
Roxbury Community College
1234 Columbus Ave, Boston, MA

April 10 – 12pm
Justin Stanley and Andrew Gushiken
Wenham Street Brass with Heidi Aispuro
Pierce Hall at NEC
241 St. Botolph Street, Boston, MA

April 13 – 7pm
Bülent Güneralp in The Prioress Tale
Peabody, MA
(bulentguneralp.com for more details)

April 16 – TBA
Nick Dinnerstein with Narrowland String Quartet
nickdinnerstein.moonfruit.com for more details

April 16 – 7pm
Chad Gray with Boston String Players
Featuring Chad’s “Variations on a theme by Weezer”
First Church in Boston
66 Marlborough Street, Boston, MA

April 16 – 8pm
Dan Flonta with the Chatham Chorale
D-Y Regional High School, Yarmouth, MA

April 17 – 3pm
Dan Flonta with the Chatham Chorale
Nauset Regional Middle School, Orleans, MA

Dates throughout April
Ken Freeman and his band, Wishful Thinking

Wednesdays in April – 9pm
Paul Chase
The Burren
247 Elm Street, Somerville, MA

Other News…

New album by Michael Thomas
The Long Way
Available at thomasjazz.com

Purchase Geni Skendo’s method book at A Street
A Flute Workbook: Exercises derived from modes used by Olivier Messiaen

A Street’s resident ensemble, the Wenham Street Brass, will be presenting a program at Pierce Middle School in Quincy on April 8th. We hope to have some documentation on the blog in mid April to let you know what we did!

Interlude: February News and Events

A Street Events…

February 22 – 12pm
New faculty member Dan Flonta
YMCA – Quincy Branch
79 Coddington Street

February Teacher Performances…

February 6 – 3pm
Nick Dinnerstein
Goodnow Library
21 Concord Road, Sudbury, MA

February 12 – 3pm
Bülent Güneralp in The Prioress Tale
Thomas Crane Public Library
40 Washington Street, Quincy, MA

February 13 – 2pm
Nick Dinnerstein
Newton Free Library
330 Homer Street, Newton Center, MA

February 17 – 10pm
Aaron Chase
Porterbelly’s Pub
338 Washington Street, Brighton, MA

February 23 – 7pm
Bülent Güneralp in The Prioress Tale
Wheaton College
26 East Main Street, Norton, MA

Dates throughout February
Ken Freeman and his band, Wishful Thinking

Wednesdays in February – 9pm
Paul Chase
The Burren
247 Elm Street, Somerville, MA

I’ll add more as I hear about them. Support our local musicians!

P.S. Bülent, our voice teacher and baritone, begged me to include a blurb about an upcoming Celebrity Series concert featuring Dmitri Hvorostovsky on Feb. 27. I must say, it looks like a great concert.

What do you get with A Street Music lessons?

A piano lesson with Bülent

It’s finally here.

I’ve been alluding a blog post about our assessment practices here at A Street Music for a while. I’ve also been feeling guilty about not writing said post for a while. I am the education director at A Street Music, and this is the first time that I’ve put together a full assessment program. I’ve been a consultant for assessment in the Chicago Public Schools through the Music-in-Education National Consortium, and I’ve tracked the learning of my own students. Here, I’m creating a program where students get full progress reports and where teaching artists are challenged regularly to grow as educators. The ‘blurb’ about assessment on our lesson advertisements reads,

When you purchase A Street Lessons, you will receive more than just lessons with our outstanding faculty. You or your child will be encouraged to reflect on the learning happening in lessons and at home. This occurs through interviews designed to get students to think critically and with as much complexity as possible, and through daily practice logs provided by A Street Music. Teachers and students alike are assessed and critiqued through careful observation of lessons by our Education Director, and through detailed reports from teachers. You or your child will receive regular progress reports from A Street Music.

Everything above has been implemented already (except practice logs, which should be designed in the next week). I’ve begun observing lessons, and many of our students have received progress reports, to be provided every few months. The ‘meat and potatoes’ of the assessment – a strange metaphor as I don’t eat meat – is the interviews with teachers and students.

I originally designed the student interviews with Randy Wong in New England Conservatory’s Music-in-Education program with the intent to find out what students are learning and how make our education department great. The questions I ask get students to speak about musicianship, their instruments, listening to music, and performing/creating music. I ask the same questions to 5 year old students as I ask 30 year old students, though the way I word the questions should always be age appropriate. I feel good about the format of the questions, because young kids are able to respond and show progress over months of lessons, yet older students still comment on how difficult the questions are. These questions aren’t ‘only-one-answer’ questions, but they definitely make students think.

Progress Reports
I use the rubric below to take notes based on the interviews and to assign scores. Students, parents, and teachers don’t see this part of the process. I prepare a full progress report that ranges between two and three pages and meet with parents or students. I will include a link to a progress report here as soon as I get permission from a current A Street student.

The teachers respond to questions much like those of the students, but they are directed toward what the teacher has observed in lessons. This material supplements the interview scores on progress reports, and it also supports teacher reflection. Teachers are encouraged to plan ahead according the strengths and weaknesses of each individual student. Lesson observations are mostly to help give feedback to our teachers, but they will also be used to augment the information in progress reports.

What’s Next?
In the most literal sense, practice logs – tools for students to keep records their own work – will be the next implementation of assessment here. I’m excited about this, because it’s my belief that assessment – understanding what students know, what they need to do, how students learn, etc, etc, etc – is always best when it’s in the hands of students. When students reflect on their own progress, the trajectory of their learning is evident and goals for the future are easier to make.

Over time, I want to move toward a ‘portfolio-based’ learning philosophy here. By that, I mean that I want students to be able to document, through writing and video/audio taping, what they do musically. With more responsibility comes better learning. With better learning comes better musicianship. We want our students to constantly grow as learners and musicians. I created a portfolio of my experience here at A Street Music. I will make this available in the shop as soon as I get permission from all students featured in the portfolio.

So what does this all mean? For all intents and purposes, A Street Music is a music store that provides music lessons. I hope that what I’ve outlined above shows that we don’t want to be ‘just’ a music store that gives music lessons. As Aaron, A Street’s owner, likes to say, “we’re a non-profit organization in for-profit’s body.” A Street is a store, but we always want to offer people the best when it comes to all things music. Whether it be through the care we take making sure students are learning, the care we take with individual instruments, the availability of instruments for sale or rent, or our outreach in the community (keep an eye out for our coming work with the local YMCA), we showcase our love of music and our desire to share music.

So keep an eye out for more on the assessment program here, as well as our faculty’s upcoming concerts and a commentary on practice. And feel free to contact the store anytime.