Early Music America is pleased to announce Nina Stern and S’Cool Sounds as recipients of the 2019 Laurette Goldberg Award for lifetime achievement in early music outreach and/or educational projects for children or adults by ensembles and individual artists. The Laurette Goldberg Award is named for Laurette Goldberg, the extraordinary teacher, performer, author, and founder of musical enterprises in the San Francisco Bay area.
S’Cool Sounds was founded early in 2002 out of a desire to share the joy of music-making with NYC children. Since graduating music conservatory, I had always enjoyed opportunities to teach aspiring young professionals as well as communicate with and connect to audiences. The richness of my own experiences, however, magnified a painful awareness that many children in my community faced barriers to accessing their own musical voices. The process of learning to play an instrument far transcends the music it generates, with gains in self-expression, connectivity, and creativity that literally impact a lifetime. I founded S’Cool Sounds so that I could share this transformative experience with the children of my community.
Nina Stern has carved a unique and astonishingly diverse career for herself as a world-class recorder player and classical clarinetist. A native New Yorker, Ms. Stern studied at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland, where she received a Soloist’s Degree. From Basel, she moved to Milan, Italy where she was offered a teaching position at the Civica Scuola di Musica. Ms. Stern performs widely on recorders, chalumeaux, and historical clarinets. She has appeared as a soloist or principal player with orchestras such as The New York Philharmonic, New York City Opera, American Classical Orchestra, Philharmonia Baroque, Trinity Baroque Orchestra, Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, La Scala Theatre Orchestra, Clarion Orchestra, I Solisti Veneti, Hesperion XX, Apollo’s Fire, and Tafelmusik. Her numerous festival and concert series appearances have included performances under leading conductors such as Loren Maazel, Kurt Masur, Christopher Hogwood, Trevor Pinnock, Claudio Scimone, Kent Tritle, Jane Glover, Bruno Weil, Ton Koopman, Andrew Parrot and Jordi Savall. She has recorded for Erato, Harmonia Mundi, Sony Classics, Newport Classics, Wildboar, Telarc, MSR, and Smithsonian labels.
Nina Stern’s recent projects include performances and recordings of traditional music of Eastern Europe, Armenia, and the Middle East, as a soloist and with the ensembles Rose of the Compass and East of the River. In recent years, Rose of the Compass has collaborated annually with the conductor Kent Tritle and the Choir of St. John the Divine in creating programs for the “Great Music in a Great Space” concert series at the Cathedral. Nina Stern’s most recent album, The Crane, was released in January on the Good Child Music label.
Ms. Stern was appointed to the faculty of Juilliard’s Historical Performance program in 2012 and has served on the faculties of the Mannes College of Music – where she directed the Historical Performance Program from 1989 to 1996 – the Civica Scuola di Musica (Milan, Italy), Oberlin Conservatory, and the Five Colleges in Massachusetts.
Nina Stern is also hailed as an innovator in teaching school-age children to be fine young musicians. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of “S’Cool Sounds” a successful hands-on music education project. The Washington Post applauded this program as a model in its “innovation in the classroom” series (11/9/03). For this important work Ms. Stern was awarded an Endicott Fellowship in 2003 and was honored in 2005 with the “Early Music Brings History Alive” Award, bestowed by Early Music America. Nina Stern served as Director of Education for the New York Collegium from 2002-2007. She has consulted for Midori & Friends and for Carnegie Hall’s Weill Institute, helping them to develop and expand their recorder curriculum. She is the author of “Recorders Without Borders” – two books for beginning recorder players and percussion. Ms. Stern has shared her teaching methods with students and teachers throughout the U.S. the Netherlands, and Belgium and has worked to establish recorder programs in several schools in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, in Burundi and at schools for Syrian refugee children in Azraq, Jordan.
Now in its seventeenth year, S’Cool Sounds was first established as a pilot program at The Ella Baker School, a public school in New York City. By 2003, the program was already featured by Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post in an article highlighting philosophies and techniques of innovative teachers. One of my favorite quotes from that article was from then nine-year-old Nyja Poe who said, “This music helps me express my feelings. I thought I couldn’t play the recorder – now I know I can, and if I can play the recorder, I can play almost any instrument. And I can learn other new things, too.” Since then, S’Cool Sounds has reached thousands of local students and currently provides hands-on weekly musical instruction to hundreds of children throughout New York City.
The cross-cultural focus of S’Cool Sounds found a natural expansion in 2010, when I was invited by a local humanitarian organization to introduce the SCS music program to children living in the Kibera slum of Nairobi. Here I again witnessed the transformative power of music – this time watching it lift spirits and change lives in the largest urban slum in Africa. Today, S’Cool Sounds programs have been implemented in five schools in Kibera, including one that has sent a performing group to the Kenyan National Music Competition coming home with first prize in 2016, 2017, and again in 2018. Those kids are so proud! In recent years we’ve also developed partnerships with a health organization in Burundi and an organization serving Syrian Refugees in Jordan, the latter of which has already spread to four schools. Connections abroad uniquely complement SCS activities back at home creating a meaningful exchange between our communities – here in NYC our students have made recorder cases for refugee children in Jordan and learned traditional Kenyan beats from our community in Kibera. Fourth-grade Jamzeed Jossain got to the heart of what we’re doing when he said of our transnational friends, “We play the same song.”
In 2016 S’Cool Sounds became an independent non-profit organization reaffirming our dedication to expressive communication, mutual respect, and global awareness through musical training for children and adults who lack access to arts education. What began as a vision is now a community that believes in social connectedness, in stimulating creativity and imagination, and in giving the gift of music. By making music together we tell our stories and listen closely to the stories of people around us and far away – communicating and connecting in a way that is more important than ever.