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A 'Champ' at age 88

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Elaine Pinkham and her teacher Abigail Charbeneau

Elaine Pinkham, age 88, known at the Music School as "Champ," recalls the day eight years ago when she asked Music School teacher Abigail Charbeneau: "Is there any way that I, at the advanced age of 80, can find a piano teacher?"

A new life opened for Pinkham as she joined the Music School as Charbeneau's piano student.

"I never would have believed that I could play Bach, Haydn, Mozart and even Jeremiah Clarke for an audience and live through it," Pinkham said.

In addition to piano lessons, Pinkham also takes voice lessons with Ellen Nordstrom Baer and sings in Songweavers with Peggo Horstmann Hodes.

Last spring, when Horstmann Hodes asked her to join Songweavers, Pinkham decided to give it a try.

"Although I thought my singing days were over, I find some of the notes come out okay," Pinkham said. "It is wonderful to be amongst the other Songweavers who make me feel so much a part of their group."

Pinkham says she began piano lessons at about age 6. At age 18, her family's upright piano had to be sold because her parents moved to a small apartment. From that day on, she never touched a piano again until her first lesson with Charbeneau.

Pinkham said her love of music never waned. Living in the Boston area, she attended concerts and studied with musicologist Willi Apel, co-author of the Harvard Dictionary of Music. As a working adult, an occupational therapist at a mental health facility, she joined an amateur Gilbert and Sullivan operetta group.

Today, a retiree of 20-plus years, she is now in her eighth year as a piano student and has participated in piano department evaluations. She values each faculty member's critique so much that they each receive a handwritten thank-you note.

"Elaine is one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic students I have taught," Charbeneau said. "Elaine pushes herself through her challenges and new situations (like evaluations), and her love for playing is evident. I am so glad she has music lessons at the Music School at this time in her life; I know she looks forward to each time she comes to the school. She is a 'Champ!'"

To hear Pinkham's Story Corps sound clip from last year's Anniversary Weekend, click here.

Jazz ensembles wow the audience

The lights are low in the Recital Hall, as a lone violinist strides onto the stage to join a friend playing the snare drum. One by one, they are joined by the other members of their ensemble. Welcome to the wonderfully eclectic musical evening that happens twice a year -- the Music School's student jazz recital.

On January 24, six ensembles performed music by Eric Clapton, David Tonkin, Lennon/McCartney and a wide range of other composers, with students ranging in age and experience from young guitarists to nationally recognized high school musicians.

"The audience members who love this recital like I do delight in watching students grow over the years. It's so generational -- an accomplished Scholarship Ensemble member, who was in his first jazz recital 12 years before, will compliment the beginners on the program who are awe-struck by these older kids, dreaming that someday they'll play like that," says Peggy Senter, Music School president.

Music School trustee and jazz fan Louis Josephson, president and CEO of Riverbend Community Mental Health, was in the audience during the recital. He said: "All of the ensembles played with passion and thoughtful expression, but the Scholarship Ensemble just blew the audience away. They sounded like professionals. I have heard a lot of live jazz in clubs and concerts, but this ensemble was as good as anything I've heard. The students were so into it that their enthusiasm became infectious to the audience. Wow!"

Mark your calendars for the next jazz recital on June 5 at 7 p.m.!

To listen to a recording by the Scholarship Jazz Ensemble, click here.

Music School alum now heads college music department

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Rick Cook (center, standing) in rehearsal

Music School alum Rick Cook was recently highlighted in the Union Leader's "40 Under Forty" special section. Cook, who is now director of music at Southern New Hampshire University, spent four years of high school playing trumpet with the Scholarship Jazz Ensemble coached by David Tonkin.

"Many of the techniques I use when I teach jazz combo now are modeled after David's approach. Actually, I was lucky to get into that band in the first place. When David first let me in as a freshman, I wasn't nearly as strong a player as the upperclassmen in the band. But trumpet players were scarce that year, and David gave me a chance."

He also studied trumpet with former faculty member Dana Oakes when he was a junior and senior in high school.

"One of the highlights of that experience was the chance to premiere a brand-new work for trumpet and piano by Herschel Garfein that the Music School commissioned," he said.

Cook's wife, Kim, also has fond memories of Concord Community Music School. She participated in the Scholarship Vocal Ensemble when she, like Cook, was a student at Manchester's Central High School. She now teaches elementary-level general music and band for the Timberlane School District.

To read more about Cook's career in music education, click here.

Performing for a great cause

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Mark your calendars: Anniversary Weekend is around the corner! Join us for a faculty concert of vocal chamber music by Bach, Mozart, Schubert and Schumann on Friday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall. And on Saturday, our annual Performathon and Open House will be held. More than 150 students will perform continuously from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. to benefit the Financial Aid Fund. The $15,000 fundraising goal can be reached with your help. To sponsor a performer or make a general contribution, click here.

Join the conversation!

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