Kicking off the Muse

From left, Sam Fetters, Sam Seidel-Aldrich-Moodie, Leah Littlefield, Kestutis Biskis, Jasper Ralph, and Tate Fairchild-Coppoletti play games at a workshop. Courtesy Anne Cook.

Eleven-year-old Jasper Ralph is already producing music and writing full-length songs. Through the Muse MV, any local kid can.

The Muse MV is a performance arts program for kids founded by local artist and musician Annie Cook. The eight-week series is intended to engage kids ages 11 to 17 in music, or expand upon their already developing “musical muse.” The three-hour workshops are led by rotating guest artists at various locations, bringing together established musicians and Island youth. Workshops are free, and fully funded by Music Drives Us, an Ernie Boch Jr. organization.

With the third week underway, the Muse MV is off to a successful start. Each week, a new guest artist creates a lesson plan for a Saturday-morning workshop. The first workshop, led by Willy Mason on Jan. 6, was called “The Language of Song: Experiments in Lyric and Melody.” In his personal statement on the Muse MV website, he explained how songwriting is a powerful way to express emotions, and allows one to imbue language with the combination of words and melody. “This makes song an easy place to talk about things that are difficult to express and share otherwise,” he said.

The second workshop, led by Sean McMahon, was at Pathways Arts on Jan. 13. The session was called “Sound and Space: Playing with Improvisation.” He covered what it’s like to “make it up as we go along,” and the sense of play that comes from that. “In this space, there are no rules,” McMahon said in his personal statement.

On the horizon for Muse MV is a workshop this Saturday, Jan. 20, led by Jodie Treloar Sampson at Alex’s Place at 10:30 am. It’s called “Freeing the Song Within: Letting Your Creative Star Shine.” Treloar Sampson will talk about the courage that comes with getting onstage, and getting past the various hang-ups that come with self-expression through performance.

“Through sharing personal experiences, and supporting each other through exercises, I hope to empower kids to transcend any potential speedbumps a young musician may face,” Treloar Sampson said.

On Jan. 27, guest artist Shawn Barber’s session may appeal to the nonsingers out there. His workshop is called “Songwriting for Non-Singers: How I Talked My Way into a Song.” Not everybody can carry a tune, but Barber’s here to say that shouldn’t stop you.

“I went from driving people away from campfires, to forming a band [Good Night Louise], playing original music, to getting whole crowds on their feet dancing,” Barber said in his statement.

Rick Padilla will lead the week five workshop, called “Composing Songs that Rock,” on Feb. 3 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. He will talk about what it’s like to be the frontman for a band, and the collaborative nature of developing a song from its rough draft. “Getting a song performance ready involves work, fun, and mutual respect,” Padilla said.

On Feb. 10, local musician Jessie Leaman will lead a workshop called “Music Lab: Crossing Borders.” She’ll cover what it’s like to expand your music vocabulary, crossing genres, and checking out new roads to songwriting. As Leaman said in her statement, “Songwriting involves digging deep inside ourselves, but also going out, and exploring beyond what we’re used to.”

Adam Garde will play with the possibilities of music technology on Feb. 17 at Pathways Arts for week seven. His workshop is called “Sonic Beats and Sound: Playing with Hip-Hop, Electronica, and Ambient Styles and Recording Tech.” He will talk about how fusing various styles can lead to unexpected results, and can open up how we write a song.

Last but not least, Island native Siren Mayhew will conclude the eight-week series with her workshop “Light and Shadow: Evoking Mood in Song.” On March 10, she invites young musicians to tap into their inner resonance, personal vibration, and the frequency that moves them. She said, “May it never leave you, even if you leave it for periods of time.”

Encourage your curious kids to explore their musical side; with the Muse MV, they’ll be in good hands.

“As the old adage goes,” Barber said, “if you’re in the record store and you can’t find the album you want, you need to make it yourself.”


Voluntary rehearsal sessions for Muse MV performances will begin on March 17 for atwo scheduled performances. One is on April 6 at Alex’s Place at 7 pm, and another is on April 7 at the Oak Bluffs library at 1 pm. To register your child for a session, email


This article by Brittany Bowker originally appeared on