Mark your calendar for the Spring into West Concord Junction Day celebration!
Check out the Spring into West Concord Junction Day on Saturday, May 21st, from 11:00 am to noon, where our students will perform for our community. The “CCM Stage” will be at 101 Commonwealth Avenue in front of Reflections. Plan to come out and hear great music by CCM students!
The CCM Listening Project
It’s a playlist full of surprises!
This month’s Listening Project includes tunes using fascinating techniques to create music, from sampling to feeding trumpet sounds through a harmonizer.
What is sampling? Stephen explains that and more at the MAY CCM LISTENING PROJECT.
Discover new and unfamiliar music.
Remember to use your Listening Journal to find thought-provoking questions to think about while listening to the music. It’s a great way to start insightful conversations with your family, friends, or music instructor!
What do Fidelity, Raytheon, and State Street have in common?
They have matching gift programs.
If your employer matches tax-deductible charitable contributions, you can double the impact of your gift to CCM! Concord Conservatory recognizes and thanks to both donor and employer for this generous gesture!
Are you a CCM friend yet?
Join us on Instagram and Facebook to be the first to learn CCM news and more! See what music videos we like, photos we post, practice tips and articles we suggest, and new music in the music world. Be sure to bookmark the CCM Blog to never miss a new post.
“Beethoven did for composers what he did for music, breaking the traditional conceptions of the role a composer ‘ought’ to play in society.”
—Scott McLetchie, Societal Views of Music and Composers
Well, apparently society didn’t get the memo. Because here in the 21st century, composers such as Aaron Jay Myers still aren’t sure of the role they play. “When my first piece was performed, my reaction was, ‘Wow, I’m a composer,’” Aaron recalls.
That was followed immediately by a second reaction: “Am I allowed to call myself that?”
Since that day Aaron has solidified his bona fides as a composer. He holds degrees in Composition from Towson University outside Baltimore, where he grew up, and The Boston Conservatory in his adopted hometown. And he has been commissioned by a wide variety of musicians and ensembles, ranging from NorthStar Duo to NakedEye Ensemble to The Governors School of North Carolina Instrumental Music Department. He has also released two recordings of his own work, “… But I’m Doing It Anyway” (2018), which was self-released, and “Clever Machines” (2022), which was released by New Focus Recordings.
Nevertheless, when he tells people he’s a composer, they often respond with furrowed brows. “Outside of the music community, a lot of people don’t entirely know what that means,” Aaron says. “They’ll say, ‘You mean you write songs on your guitar?’ And I’ll say, ‘Well, yeah, sometimes I do that.’ Or they’ll say, ‘You mean you make movie music?’ And I’ll say, ‘Yes, I have done music for independent films.’
“Or they’ll just ask, ‘So what kind of music do you write?’ And I’ll say, ‘That’s hard to explain.’ ” He laughs. “It’s contemporary classical, but it’s not really classical because it has influences of rock and jazz too, and I also came from a punk background…”
And Did We Mention the Ukulele?
In addition to his work as a composer, Aaron is an instructor at CCM, specializing in music appreciation, guitar — and ukulele.
Just as composers in Beethoven’s day evolved with society’s changing appetites, Aaron has adapted to the demands of the modern music marketplace. When ukulele lessons surged in popularity about a dozen years ago, the school where Aaron taught at the time asked if he could add them to his repertoire. “I said, ‘Uh … sure,’ ” Aaron says. “So I bought a ukulele and learned some stuff on it.”
While guitar remains his first love and primary instrument of expression, Aaron is happy to instruct those who are using the ukulele as an entrée to fretted instruments. “I love teaching music…” he begins, then restarts: “I love sharing music. I’ve committed my life to that. Regardless of the instrument we’re using, I enjoy seeing the growth of a student. I love that moment when you see the light bulb go on and you realize they get it. And then they take it to the next level. That’s very rewarding as a teacher.”
Teachers Are Students, Too
Although he has followed the traditional path as a composer and working musician, Aaron has gone his own way when it comes to teaching. “I’m definitely not a fan of the old-school European approach that involves berating the student,” he says. “That doesn’t really help anyone. It just makes the students hate music. I don’t want my students to feel like what they’re doing is a horrible chore. Yeah, it’s work — but hopefully, it’s work that is ultimately rewarding.”
He also thinks it’s important to acknowledge that frustration is a natural part of the process. “I tell them it can get frustrating for me, too,” he says. “There were times I felt like throwing the guitar across the room. But I didn’t because — well, for one thing, I’m not one of those people who can afford a ton of guitars.”
More to the point, it’s important to recognize when you need to hit the reset button — “Take a break, grab a snack or whatever” — and then get back at it. “That’s part of connecting with your students on a basic human level,” Aaron says. “It helps to let them know, ‘Hey, I wasn’t born playing this instrument really well. There’s still stuff I’m working on.’ ”
The Rewards of Sticking with It
For evidence of how Aaron’s devotion can pay off not just for him but also for his students, read the bio on classical guitarist Chaz Aguado’s homepage: “He first began learning guitar at age 12 with Aaron Jay Myers.”
“Chaz is now better than I am on a classical guitar repertoire,” Aaron says. “And he commissioned me to write a 15-minute, four-movement classical guitar epic.”
At some point Aaron will add a recording of his former student’s classical guitar epic to his growing resume as a 21st century composer.
Have you only experienced music lessons through your child’s music lessons? Then consider joining in the fun and experience it firsthand. You can study, explore, and enjoy music side-by-side with your kids. Whether you both take private instruction, learn simultaneously in a semi-private lesson, or take a group class together, it’s more than sharing a common activity—your fostering the love of music together. We’ve got parents here who do just that.
Three family members, three instruments, three faculty members
The piano is the instrument of choice for CCM parent Tracy Bull, and she studies with Chieko Loy. However, her daughter chose the violin and takes lessons with Eric Mrugala. In contrast, her son decided to learn the bass from Justin Meyer. They may have chosen three different instruments, but they all have the same motivation and desire to create music.
Taking music lessons at the same time as your kids may help motivate them to practice and learn their instruments. Tracy exclaims, “Seeing their parent willingly practice might encourage my kids and learn that practice shouldn’t be dreaded! It also instills in them the idea that music is a lifelong journey–that it is never “too late” to learn something new.”
When each family member learns a different instrument, everyone learns more. Each family member will inevitably speak about their instrument and their own learning experience. Bonding with kids happens magically as family members share their music, practice strategies, and playing techniques, even if everyone plays different instruments. Just think—without leaving home, an ensemble or rock group can begin.
Empathy for learning
Parents learn and understand that finding the time and motivation to practice can be challenging. Being humble, Tracy says, is the main benefit she gets from her kids taking music lessons alongside her. “It is interesting to see my kids progress so quickly (sometimes without much practice)! As an adult learner, patience is key—although I practice more, it doesn’t necessarily equate to faster learning!”
When a parent and their kid learn the same instrument together in a semi-private lesson, they can help each other out after each lesson. Case in point, CCM parent Jason Griswold, who studies guitar together with his son, explains why lessons with CCM guitar faculty member Phil Sargent are a huge motivator to practice for them both. He mentioned that they frequently discuss how they aren’t always quite prepared and feel the need to practice more. Jason says, “We jam together at home, mostly after lessons, as we are pumped to apply our new learnings.”
Quality time together
It’s having a set time to be with your kid—to have a fantastic learning experience together and then sharing your music with the rest of the family. It’s about creating meaningful memories that make an indelible impression and bring joy. And, kids witness a parent’s challenges learning an instrument, not only the successes. Jason says, “The best part is that once a week, Ollie and I have dedicated time to spend together learning something new. It is so important for kids to see their parents struggling with new things, and I definitely struggle!”
Working as a team
CCM student Nina Bitter takes violin lessons with Nicole Parks, but she decided to branch out and join a group class with her mom.
A friend and her daughter invited CCM parent Cathie Bitter if she and her daughter Nina would like to join the Ukulele Crash Course with them. She thought they could all spend some time together and do something fun. Of course, the ukulele is a fun instrument! Cathie recalls, “I thought it was a great idea, and it was an easy sell for Nina once she knew her friend was doing it too.”
The mom-daughter team has a built-in support system at home. “One of the greatest benefits is that we spend time together learning something new, and we can jointly figure things out. Nina plays the violin already, so she can pick things up much faster than I can and show me what to do!” Cathie explains.
Cathie said that they always practice together—great teamwork in action. She says, “One of us plays the chords, and one plays the melody. We are finding it much more fun to play the ukulele with someone rather than on your own!”
Greater appreciation for the challenges of learning something new
Cathie continues, “It has always been a challenge to encourage our kids to practice their instruments daily. So, I thought I could be a role model and show how easy it is to practice every day. Well, now I have learned how challenging practicing is! It is hard to find time and energy to practice effectively and learn something new after a long day at school or work. I now have a much greater appreciation for our kids’ effort and commitment to learning music.”
With validation from Tracy, Jason, and Cathie, and CCM offering terrific learning experiences led by highly-accomplished music instructors, there’s no better time than now to learn music with your kids and other family members. The bonding through music doesn’t have to stop with your kids—encourage grandparents, cousins, or siblings to join in the fun.
Need more encouragement?
Here’s why you need to reserve your group class spot today with your family members:
On Sunday, June 5th at 3:00 pm, CCM faculty member and flutist Weronika Balewski performs Shostakovich Fifth Symphony with the Brookline Symphony Orchestra.
Tickets go on sale two weeks prior to the concert. The performance will be held at the All Saint Parish in Brookline.