News At CCM

CCM faculty member Eric Mrugala with his student, Makai ShakarianCongratulations to CCM student Makai Shakarian!

CCM violin student Makai Shakarian passed the first round of the Crescendo Little Mozarts competition and will now have the terrific opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall in May. Makai studies violin with Eric Mrugala.

An annual music juried competition, Little Mozarts provides young musicians with the opportunity to perform and receive feedback. The competition aims to encourage and motivate them to make music a more significant part of their life. Makai is doing just that.

He says proudly, “First I learned to play my instrument – now I’m learning to play it with feeling. And now I get a chance to do that at the Little Mozarts competition at Carnegie Hall. I’m grateful to my CCM teacher, my nanny, and my family for helping me push through when things got hard.”

Bravo Makai!

CCM’S 2023 Bluegrass Band Scramble

2023 CCM Bluegrass Band Scramble

Over twenty amateur bluegrass musicians came out to join a band on Saturday, April 29th, at the annual CCM Bluegrass Band Scramble!  Names were drawn out of hats to create five bands with the right mix of instrumentalists.  They then practiced for three hours to create a set to perform, their band name, and their origin story.  After receiving coaching from the CCM faculty and practicing, everyone was ready to perform a concert with a professional sound system and engineer.

Not billed as a competition and with no prizes to win, the CCM Scramble allows musicians to meet up and perform bluegrass with others—in other words, a super rewarding time with great music!

Listening Project Playlist Listening Project Playlist

Since May is International Drum Month, we’ll be adding to the celebration by spotlighting drum/percussion music.

Our May Listening Project Playlist will be available online soon.

Remember to use your Listening Journal for additional thought-provoking questions to think about while listening to the selections. 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.

Won’t you please consider giving the gift of music today?

Are you a CCM friend yet?

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Faculty Spotlight: Yoko Hagino, Teaching her students to excel in performing

CCM faculty member Yoko Hagino

Inspired by watching her daughter skate, she laced up her skates and stepped out onto the rink. Gliding forward without falling was not enough. Typical for CCM piano faculty member Yoko Hagino, she set out to conquer hopping and spinning on ice, and even learning the spiral—not an easy feat for most adults. Her daughter’s coach saw that familiar gleam in her eyes and without much coaxing, Yoko signed up for ice skating lessons two years ago. “Branching out and learning to skate has been a great source for teaching beginners,” Yoko excitedly states.

She feels fortunate to have an extremely patient and positive skating coach. Even more now, Yoko understands the struggles of piano students and tries to use her skating stories to teach.

When asked about falling on ice, Yoko proudly announced that it doesn’t happen much at all because her coach taught her how to prevent falls, similar to how she prepares her students for their recital performances.

Yoko’s first instructor understood the importance of teaching performance skills

A businessman by day, Yoko’s dad found time to enjoy his love of music and sang in two prominent Yoko Hagino performing choirs in Japan. From the start, his mission was to find Yoko the right teacher—someone who shared his passion for music and performing. It made a world of difference to her.

Mastering performing

Her enthusiasm shines through when Yoko speaks about practicing and playing the piano. “Piano is the instrument that covers all the ranges of instruments—the piccolo, double bass, percussion, tuba, and on. You can express the whole orchestra with one instrument, the piano.”

As the co-director of Die Musiker Witz, a chamber music group in Japan, she has planned their summer performances for more than 20 years. Her teaching and performance schedule throughout the year keeps her busy: from one of CCM’s concerts—Music & Water this past March—to the Boston Modern Orchestra Project at Carnegie Hall, to the Monadnock Music Festival this summer, which will feature her favorite composer, Brahms.

Ensuring successful student performances

“Yes, I still get nervous,” Yoko says adamantly. After all these years of experience, even she feels the jitters before each performance. Sharing her performing feelings and stories with her students helps ease their nerves and apprehensions about their upcoming recitals.

A piece of performing advice she received years ago became her motto: Practice as you would perform, and then perform as you would practice. Yoko tries to get her students to imagine the sound of their performances—”play like you’d hear it in a concert hall—and hear and feel the energy.” To avoid racing heartbeats, Yoko teaches her students to “center themselves” and practice staying as Practice motto calm as possible. Practicing mental awareness of the task at hand helps with fine-tuning performing pieces. No doubt occasional mistakes will be made during a recital, but she implores her students to continue playing through their pieces. “No one knows that piece better than you”, she tells them.

Yoko encourages her students to interject their personality when performing—rather than simply straightforward playing of a piece. She compared this to simply stacking Legos versus building a creative masterpiece. Yoko wants her students to experience freedom with music. She exclaims, “Music is an expressional art. You must feel the music.” When her students take to the stage this recital season, rest assured they’ll be well prepared.

Yoko Hagino consistently nails classical and contemporary pieces on the performance stage, and now in the skating rink (okay, we’re still waiting to hear about her perfected spiral), but if you’ve seen her perform, you’d understand thoroughly what we mean.

Plan a road trip to see Yoko perform at the Monadnock Music Festival

Rindge Village Concert, Sunday, June 25th at 4 pm at Franklin Pierce University, Rindge, NH (free and open to the public)


We’re celebrating our 2023 high school graduates!

Congratulations to our seniors!

Our seniors share with us in their own words their unique musical journey.

Sofia Charest

Instrument: Piano

Plan for next year: Mount Holyoke College to study psychology

I first began lessons in 2011, starting in a group class. After one year, I switched to solo lessons and Sofia Charest became a student of Chieko Loy. For the next 11 years, piano remained a constant in my life, acting as a form of stability.

Whether dealing with elementary friendship struggles, middle school insecurities, or high school stress, getting an hour at CCM each week was unchanging. This form of stability, along with my love for piano, is ultimately what kept me in the program. There were times along my CCM journey where I was feeling burnt out from piano and neglected practice, but the security and comfort the school has given me reminded me of why I began, and why I want to keep going.

Music instruction at CCM has given me confidence in myself. As a young adult who has struggled deeply with self-esteem, I have been told my entire life I need more confidence. Whether it be teachers, coaches, or even parents, they reminded me of this character flaw that I was working towards overcoming.

At CCM, I lacked confidence in the beginning. I was insecure about my skills and felt unsure about how well I could improve. My instructor Chieko Loy acknowledged this, but instead of simply telling me to be more confident, she helped me through my insecurities. Chieko cut long tedious pieces into sections. We initially worked through the challenging sections each lesson. My confidence increased as I became more familiar with what I was doing.

While Chieko did teach me very effectively how to play the piano, what I am most grateful for are the conversations we had. She would tell me stories about how she grew up and her time in Japan as a child. In a way, these seemingly silly stories taught me important lessons, and gave me a better understanding of the world I was living in.

Sydney Haddad

Instrument: Guitar

Plan for next year: Oberlin College to study environmental studies

I first started taking guitar lessons because I was very drawn to the instrument. I continued to take Sydney Haddad lessons with Björn Wennås because I had fun and I realized I was happier when I made time to play guitar!

Life gets really busy, especially in high school, but continuing to take lessons has been a fantastic way to build time into my schedule to play guitar.

For the first three months of the pandemic, I was committed to posting a one-minute musical clip on Instagram, which helped me stay grounded amidst much uncertainty as well as grew my ability to quickly pick up a new piece of music.

Kyle Hooloomann

Instrument: Piano and Violin

Plan for next year: To be determined soon

I first started music at CCM 10 years ago at age 9 with Lorna Henderson playing the piano. I Kyle Hooloomann transitioned to adding on violin lessons a few years later, and my musical career has spanned 14 years.

Things with music have not always been smooth, but I’ve always found comfort in music, and I’ve found that it provides an escape for me when things get rough or I need to take my mind off something. Especially in the years of COVID, music provided an escape for me, and it was a place I could go to and not worry about what my immediate future held or what would happen to my education.

As I’ve grown and matured, music has felt increasingly like a passion and place of excitement for me, rather than the chore that practicing was for me at age 7. My time at CCM has helped me to discover my true passion for music, something that has heavily shaped me to become the person I am today.

Before high school, I participated in soccer and baseball, and as I transitioned to high school, this moved from sports to volunteering and participation for clubs within the school. None of my activities have taken up a majority of my time, and I enjoy spending my effort on everything I do. However, music has been a love for me. When schoolwork and extracurricular duties can feel like a chore, music helps relieve the stress.

Both of my teachers, Angel Valchinov and Lorna Henderson, have been extremely supportive and have found the right balance between creating a serious, yet lighthearted mood in our lessons. I feel as though I have created a bond beyond music playing with my teachers, and I frequently talk about my outside life with them. Being able to know my teachers on a personal level helps, as I feel very comfortable with them, and implementing advice from them feels natural.

Without the support from my instructors, I do not think that my love for music would be what it is, and that is something for which I am incredibly grateful.

Neven Johnson

Instrument: Piano

Plan for next year:  University of Michigan to study computer science

I first started piano lessons about 12 years ago. What has kept me going is the feeling of Neven Johnson accomplishment that comes with learning difficult music. Seeing the progress and results of all the effort required to learn music is satisfying. Additionally, the joy of playing music and performing it for others has been another reason for me to continue.

Music education has taught me valuable lessons that have been useful in everything I do, whether that be school, hobbies, or anything in between. For instance, music education has helped me in other areas by teaching me discipline and concentration, among other things.

Major benefits I’ve gained from my music instruction include learning the importance of dedication and consistent practice, learning to push myself beyond what is comfortable or easy, and learning to have more confidence in myself, especially when performing, all of which apply not only to music but to other areas as well.

Both of my instructors throughout my time at CCM have made my music journey fun by encouraging me to try new, diverse pieces, and by being supportive throughout the learning process. They have pushed me outside of my comfort zone and have always given me constructive feedback to help me practice and improve as effectively as possible.

Olivia Paulsen

Instrument: Piano

Plan for next year: College of the Holy Cross to study economics and international relations

I started piano lessons at CCM in February of 2021 with no prior piano experience. Having both a Olivia Paulsen great teacher and a love for classical music has motivated me to keep playing and practicing. During the two years I’ve taken lessons at CCM, I have learned to play piano pieces I never thought I would be able to learn, which has motivated me to want to continue to learn piano beyond high school!

Outside of school, I spend a lot of time volunteering and being outside hiking. Like learning a language, playing the piano has made me more confident as a student and in my extracurriculars. Figuring out how to practice effectively and on a schedule has made me more mindful of how to manage my time in other parts of my life, especially with school.

My teacher, Yoko Hagino, has been an essential part of my musical journey. I have benefitted significantly from her knowledge of piano and music as well as her guidance and support. In addition to teaching me the technical aspects of playing piano, Ms. Hagino has also taught me how to play music expressively and with personal meaning, which has made playing the piano more fun and exciting.

Lucas Shen

Instrument: Piano

Plan for next year:  University of California Irvine to study biology

I first started lessons at CCM during my freshman year of high school. Immediately, I felt a Lucas Shen connection to my piano teacher, Keith Kirchoff, and felt confident in my playing and the amount of growth I believed I could make.

I have run track all four years of high school while playing piano, and I have been involved in other clubs at my high school. During the summers, I have worked jobs and have completed volunteer work. These different experiences complement each other, as the basic skills of communication, hard work, and discipline have been key in both my music experience and additional activities.

I think that Keith has helped me push my musical abilities beyond what I had initially thought I was capable of. When I first started lessons with him, I just had a broad goal of becoming “better” at the piano. However, over the course of my time with Keith, he has helped me develop my own sound, pushing me to dive fully into the music beyond what is simply written. Conveying emotionality, different moods, and storytelling through music are all aspects of playing that I would have never considered without Keith’s help.

Additionally, I have been a part of the chamber group at CCM which has been another massive learning experience. Initially, playing with others was a struggle, as there was an increased amount of pressure I felt playing as an entire group. Over time, I made strides in my playing and eventually got to a point where I felt comfortable and willing to accept my mistakes because I knew I could lean back on the amount of practice and work I had put in when going through difficult passages. Much of the skills that I learned from Chamber music also transferred to my individual playing, as I felt I made the largest improvement over my time at CCM when I joined the chamber group.

Keith obviously is a great piano teacher in terms of technicality, providing helpful tips and advice for my actual playing. However, what has made him truly special is how he has pushed me to think about music differently. One distinct difference is the musicales he held, where each audience member says something they liked about each student performance. This has changed the way I listen to performances, even outside of the musicales, as I listen much more attentively to certain aspects that I like or dislike. This is just one of the many things Keith has done to help foster a true passion for music and the piano for me and, I’m sure for many others.


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