Blog: Notes From the Academy

Welcome to Encore’s Online Blog where you can find news and insights into all things music!
This blog features, articles written by staff, music Faculty feature bloggers, student feature bloggers, student spotlights, reviews, links to outside news sources and helpful articles!

October 18, 2018

“Echoes and Heroes” 

By Lisa Ostrow, Co-Owner of Encore Music Academy and Recording Studios

There are heroes amongst us: More often than not, they are not recognized as heroes or even all that hero-like, but to me they have the power to make or break a day, to slay the dragons, and to right the wrongs. They climb mountains (of paperwork, at least), navigate labyrinths of unimaginable peril fraught with twists and turns and a cliff edge or two, and brave the terrors of unknown and uncharted pathways. They guard and protect, negotiate and navigate, and do it all with patience and grace. Who are these unsung heroes of whom I speak? They all have names – Lili, Jenn, Kathleen, Marybeth, Nikki, Tyler, Francisco, Lauren, Brianna, Laura, and Gabriela – and they are the faces you first see when you walk through the doors of Encore. Ever since we opened our doors back in February, 2012, each has left an indelible imprint on Encore, and on us.

First, there was Lili. Twelve-year-old, mature-way-beyond-her-years Lili began with us as an intern, volunteering her time when we could not yet afford to hire help. Soon she graduated to become the very first Office Manager of our Franklin location. Although she was just fourteen, with official work permit proudly in hand, Lili developed our filing system, implemented procedures, and covered every inch of surface with humorous and insightful reminder sticky notes. One remained on the printer for years after she left: It sported a drawn picture of Gandolph with the words, “You shall not throw out ink cartridges”. And it worked! To this day, even though the note is long gone, (much to her chagrin when she returned for a visit), the reminder lives on. Her passion was organization, so much so that she organized all the guitar picks into perfection in the retail display, and since she left us to go to college, the display has never been quite the same!

Next came Jenn – quirky, adorable, bubbly, effervescent, and full of ideas, — and what a remarkable find she was. Jenn catapulted us into technology, and moved us forward with remarkable speed. Never has Encore ever been so clean, either! The magic eraser was her friend, and now it’s ours, too! She had a talent for thinking outside the box, filling that box with great ideas, and then selling them. When she left, we thought we could not go on, but then along came Nikki.

Sweetly shy, our Nikki came on board and took Encore by really quiet thunderstorm! In addition to her Office Manager role, she took the Encore Music Education Foundation under her wing and organized our first auction, a superhuman feat of tremendous strength, perseverance, stamina and, just perhaps, a tinge of insanity. Calm, steady, and remarkably efficient, she helped us grow, change with the times, and build the Foundation’s foundation! And she did it all with blushes, killer wit, and unparalleled intelligence, which was wasted on us and was much better put to use pursuing her Master’s degree in linguistics. (Who wouldn’t trade us for that?!)

And then Jenn came back! Yes, she actually came back! We were in a bind, and the timeing was right, so Jenn returned and performed another round of technological upgrades and mini magic eraser miracles for us before she was drawn away again.

Enter, Tyler, the first trace of masculinity behind the desk at Encore in Franklin. While studying full-time for a grad degree, Tyler gave us his absolute all until he was literally doing it in his sleep!

Cut to Francisco, just fifteen and smart as a whip! He knew where everything was and how to do everything, and what he didn’t know, (which wasn’t much), he could find out in 20 seconds or less on Google. He was our Fran Of All Trades, equally as good behind the reception desk as he was in the studio, and he would still be working here today, but that pesky high school career got in the way!

Meanwhile, in Millis this whole time, Brianna reigned supreme. Singlehandedly, she has battled solar light malfunctions, relentless weeds that threatened a hostile takeover of the front office through the adjacent wall, a flash flood when the air conditioner broke, and a few toilets clogged with rolls of toilet paper when curious children want to see how many will fit at one time. Weathering the many changes of staff, faculty, and policy with courage, humor, and grace, as the steady heartbeat of Encore, Brianna understands how it all works, and how we all work, too. Bri was our rock, is still our rock, will always be our rock, and a precious one at that. Funny, steady, quirky, and just plain fun, Bri is the glue that binds both locations together. But, when she can’t be there—take Saturdays, for example—there have been two others who have braved the 8:30 start time on a weekend morning to play parking attendant, housekeeper, grounds manager, garbage collector, babysitter, and, of course, Office Manager. First Kathleen, and then Marybeth, became our Saturday morning warriors, braving torrential rains, blizzards, and a perfect summer day or two, to open the doors at Millis and welcome the masses. To get up early on a Saturday morning is never easy, but to do it for others is, perhaps, simple madness! But, oh, are we ever grateful for our Saturday gladiators!

Lauren came to stay for a while to fill the Franklin lobby with smiles and laughter. Upbeat always, Encore echoed with her bursts of bubbly laughter. And, boy was she brave! In the closet off the kitchen, there lived a huge, ginormous, gargantuan, ridiculously scary, and maybe even hairy—wait for it, folks—SPIDER, who lived, it would seem, simply to terrorize Lea, one of our instructors. It seems his sole aim was to hear her scream, and scream she did! And, it was always Lauren, fearless and dauntless, who came galloping to her rescue. Although Skipper somehow evaded capture and imminent death, he seemed intimidated enough by Lauren’s bravado that he stopped making appearances in Lea’s lesson room.

And then there was Laura – sweet, serene, empathetic, and uber-capable Laura. With the heart of a mother, Laura cared for and nurtured all of us. It is she who started the Encore faculty group in order to bring us all together outside the workplace. It is she who sat on the floor with one small and very unhappy autistic child for two hours until he was calm enough and ready to get up and leave with his own mother. And it was she who would make countless dinner runs, knowing that we would not eat, otherwise. And the bowl of candy she would keep under her desk was the piéce de resistance for all of the faculty; she seemed always to know exactly what we needed and her timing was impeccable. But Israel called Laura away, and now Gabriela is here to stay!

So, what is a hero, really? Is it someone who slays the monsters and rescues damsels in distress? Or, is it the person who brings a spark of joy into the lives of others through actions and deeds? Just maybe a hero is that person who takes an ordinary day and turns it into something extraordinary. From Nikki, who went way above and beyond the call of duty to learn braille so that she could braille music, lyrics, folders, and files for me; to Laura, who went above and beyond to turn every day into something special for every faculty member and student that walked by her desk, Encore is brimming with our own brand of heroism. The Bris and Jenns and Gabrielas are the heart and soul of Encore, our everyday dragon-slayers, our heroes.

September 17, 2018

“Anytime I Hear Music I Smile” 

By Noelle Reda, Student of Clarinet and Theory at Encore

Encore Music Academy is a place where I can learn, grow, and be myself. I have never felt that way anywhere else and I always feel welcomed with open arms whenever I arrive. If I did not have Encore in my life I would have definitely given up on clarinet and I would be missing out big time. Music means more to me now as I get older, because it helps give me time to forget about high school drama and homework. I play clarinet, I’m starting flute and I love listening to music.

Anytime I hear music I smile. Music can express so many feelings and emotions. You can think back to an old memory or look forward to the future.

Band in school by far is the best class and I can’t stand when people say it’s just an “easy A class” because it is so much more important than that. Encore makes music even more special to me. Lea is my instructor and she is truly the best! She is so kind and hardworking. She does so much for me and is always there for me.  And Pat and Lisa, what would I do without you guys? You make Encore a happy, joyful, fun place to go and I love you both so much! I honestly learn more in Encore than I do in school. I remember my first clarinet lesson; I was so nervous and I felt like crying. Little did I know that Lea is one of the kindest, most hard working people I know and Encore is like my second home.

Music has made the world a better place and it feels great to contribute to that. I am so proud whenever I say that I am a musician and it’s just a wonderful feeling. I can’t go a day without listening to music, or singing a tune from a Maroon 5 song. When you walk into Encore you hear all of the beautiful sounds coming from people who want to learn and improve. Some instructors who I have met are so kind and passionate and you don’t get that from just anywhere. Encore just gets this smile on my face that I can’t stop.  Encore is a family and I’m so glad that I’m a part of a wonderful community. I have grown so much not just as a musician but a person as well!

August 18, 2018

“My Home Away From Home” 

By Lea Botta, Director of Woodwinds and Manager of Program Development

I have been teaching here at Encore since February of 2013. I started with two students on a Saturday. I had a very busy teaching studio of my own, teaching 6 days a week in various schools throughout the South Shore. I had worked hard to build my studio up and loved every minute of it. However, having moved to Franklin in 2009, the commute to the South Shore was definitely grating on  me. It was time for a change.

I remember my first phone call with Lisa, one of Encore’s Founding Directors. It was the night before a blizzard. I was on my way out to get milk and bread….I don’t even drink milk, but this is New England –  it’s just what you do.

I met with Lisa and Pat the next week and I passed muster. They hired me. It was with a lot of trepidation that I started working for someone besides myself and gave up some of my own studio time to work at Encore. I gave Encore a Saturday out of my schedule as a compromise. If things didn’t work out, I still had five other days at my own studio.

Fast forward five or so years … one day with two students on my schedule turned into five full days of lessons. This past year, I was hired full-time as Director of Woodwinds and Program Development Manager. I have never looked back or regretted giving up my own studio to teach here. Besides having two of the best and most understanding bosses on the planet, I work with a great group of people. My colleagues that teach with me are highly educated, awesome musicians and are professional in every way. I couldn’t ask for better students. They are highly motivated, enthusiastic, and work hard to become better musicians in every lesson. I can tell that they, too, love being here at Encore.

And, yes,  Encore is my home away from home. I am honored and proud to call this wonderful place so! Onward and upward!

July 23, 2018

“The Sounds of Encore”

By Laura Ostrow, Office Manager

You drive up to the familiar Encore sign, walk up to the door, and may already hear music flowing from inside the entryway of the building. As you open the door and take your first step in, you hear a symphony of sounds all at once, creating a chorus of laughter, song, and music. To your right, you hear the typing away of the office manager who greets you with a smile saying “hello.” As you walk in further, you may hear the songbird sound of a student singing an Italian Aria in the classroom on your left, mixed with possibly a grungy electric guitar rock song in the room straight ahead. As you move into the reception area, you may hear the heartbeat of the school through the steady beat of a drummer practicing his rhythm. And when you walk through the main room, you may hear a full ensemble singing, playing instruments, or practicing for their next big performance. As you step into the recording studio, it is suddenly quiet, peaceful, and the sounds of Encore become muffled through the burgundy soundproof walls. You hear audio feedback, as the mix master closely listens and carefully tunes the track to perfect pitch. As you exit the studio and continue through Encore’s hallways, you may hear a class discussing the intricacies of theory, and in the next room, those same intricacies being sung out clear in song.

These are the welcoming sounds of Encore. These are the sounds of our students’ second home. You are welcome here! 🙂