Music Lessons in Centerbrook, CT
On Tuesday, June 11, 2024 at 6:25 pm I entered Studio 8 at CMS for a performance by our “Musical Theatre Class Ensemble.” Prior to the concert’s start, the six performers (aged 11-16) sat at the front of the room facing the audience. The room was full, so I sat in the front row not more than 3 feet from the students. Having teenaged kids myself, I knew it was probably a bit awkward for these professionally-dressed students to face an audience before performing, and be forced into idle chit-chat. They handled it well as I asked about summer plans, music, etc. The father of one of the students sat next to me and told me that this class with Miss Jackie has been the bright spot for his daughter each week. The musical performances themselves were wonderful; with solos, duets, and group songs, all prepared in only 8 class sessions. No matter one’s age, it takes bravery and confidence to sing in front of an audience of people, especially when they’re so close! I was also impressed by the way each song was articulately and confidently introduced by the students themselves. At a number of moments throughout the performance, there were tears from parents/audience members. After the concert, one mom told me how much the whole thing meant to her: “I’ve never been able to get my daughter to sing in front of me!”
As I drove home that night thinking about that concert, I felt challenged because, when it comes to quantifying music’s value in a child’s or adult’s life, I often insist that music is worth learning for music’s sake and needn’t be justified by other things (i.e. “Music helps build self-confidence”… well, take a public speaking class! “Music helps build life skills!”… well, join Scouting & learn how to build a fire! ) I thought about the challenges that adolescents face, particularly today (you’ve perhaps heard the recent talk of, or read, Jonathan Haidt’s recent book)I also thought about the things I noticed & experienced in the CMS performance orchestrated by new CMS faculty member Jackie Belmonte, a wonderful musician who has also enjoyed an extensive career as a successful business woman. It was apparent that each aspect was intentional: not only the music, but also the positioning of audience & performers, the introductions, presentation style, and the professionally-worded email of appreciation Jackie sent to each family the following day. I found myself thinking, “Gee… if all adolescents engaged in music this way, if they could take this class and gain this type of professional example/mentorship… then maybe Mr. Haidt would be writing a book with a very different title!”

Brava! Music helps build life skills indeed! 

– Dr. Richard Wyman, Executive Director, Community Music School

Jackie Belmonte (center) and students from the Musical Theatre Class after their Spring 2024 performance

Add A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *