Hopkinton POS

HCA Spotlight Series Family

 HCA Spotlight
 Learn more about the people who call the HCA 'home'.

Jack Byrne, private lesson and group guitar instructor

Tell us about yourself? I come from a very musical family. My dad is a jazz guitarist and all my siblings sing and play guitar and/or piano. Sitting around the dinner table would evolve into an impromptu sing-a-long/jam session more often than not, so getting involved with music as a career always felt like the obvious thing to do for me!

What led you to the Hopkinton Center for the Arts?  I answered an ad that HCA was looking for a new teacher back in the summer of 2016, and I started teaching that Fall, so this September will make 4 years at HCA for me. I still feel like the new guy, but I guess that's not really the case anymore.

What is your approach to teaching? My approach to teaching is mostly based on the way I was taught by so many different teachers throughout the years. My dad was my first guitar instructor, and taught me te Classic Rock songs that he and I listened to together, and when I became experienced enough to learn songs on my own, I started learning Punk Rock and Metal riffs, and from there started writing my own songs. Playing the music that I loved really motivated me to get better at my instrument, so in my teaching I try to learn as much about my students' individual interests in order to get them playing songs they love. You have to have that love for music, otherwise practicing will feel like a chore.

What is it like being the host of the HCA First Friday Open Mic every month? Hosting First Friday Open Mic has been so much fun! In the two years that I have been hosting, we've developed a wonderful and supportive community of artists who come together to share the songs we've been working on. That's what I love about open mics in general, is they are a low-pressure environment for artists of all experience levels and abilities to try new things and work on their craft. As the host of our open mic it is my mission to foster that kind of environment where performers of all ages feel comfortable sharing their art. And even now that we can't meet in person, we still do the open mic on Facebook Live, and it's been amazing seeing people from all over the country get to watch and participate! Music brings people together, which is more important now than ever, so I'm grateful to keep being a part of our Open Mic at the HCA.

What do you like most about teaching? Seeing my students gaint the confidence to perform is by far the most rewarding part of my job. On many occasions I've had students show up to our open mic to sing cover songs, and in a few cases original songs. 

Why are arts centers like the HCA important for our communities? The arts are so important and so fundamental to who we are as people, and I'm greateful to organizations like the HCA for making sure that arts education is available and accessible to all. Arts programs are being cut from schools all over the country, and anything we can do to keep the arts alive is crucial. I walk around the halls of the HCA in between lessons and see such a variety of art forms happening all at once, between art classes, dance classes, theater productions, and more, and it reminds me how powerful artistic expression is, which inspires me to be a better musician myself.

Anything else you want to add? I just want to add that my students and their parents have been such good sports about transitioning to online lessons during the pandemic. I had no idea what to expect, and neither did they, I'm sure, but their positive attitudes and open mindedness have made the last several months so much easier than they could have been. So thank you to all my students! You're all rock stars!

Click to learn more about our new online course: Beginner Group Guitar



Meg Tyler, HCA student from Hopkinton

What attracted you to get involved at HCA?  When did you first become involved? When I first moved to town 15 years ago, I joined the Hopkinton Cultural Council and quickly became aware of this pocket of art-loving people. Knowing they were there reassured me; the arts are like oxygen. My friend Barbara Kessler was also very involved from the beginning and so I heard good reports from her about the founding crew. I did not personally become involved in ESL till later, when Shakespeare in the Hopkinton Common was underway.

Have you seen yourself grow as an artist since participating in HCA classes and performances?  If so, how? Absolutely. Although I teach quite a lot of dramatic literature, I had never acted in a proper stage piece before my debut in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew (dubbed The Taming of the Dude). I had no idea what I was doing, winging it as I went, but full of glee. The directors, Tom Kee and Kristi Artinian, were terrific, patient, knowledgeable; they taught me so much about how to be alive inside Shakespeare's lines; they made sure each of us understood every single word we were saying. We did a lot of textual work, which I love. Later on, I studied Improv at the HCA, another brand new experience, equally as terrifying as the Shakespeare but incredibly fulfilling nonetheless. I have never laughed as heartily in my life -- a five-month stretch of intense guffawing beats all other forms of therapy. Surprisingly, the Improv training also helped me learn to be a more attuned conversationalist; the "Yes...And" technique encourages an actor to tune in, more fully, to what others are saying, to follow another actor's rhythm instead of insisting on one's own. There is a form of liberation to be found in this, the giving over.

What value do you think the HCA brings to Metrowest? Our lives would be dull indeed without the HCA. Everyone in my family benefits from its existence. We attend events throughout the year. My son has played both violin and bass fiddle at the First Friday Open Mic. My husband and son have done ceramics classes together. We devour whatever classical music offerings appear. And I have had a rich theatre experience here; my teachers (like the accomplished actor, Jere Shea) have been excellent. Kelly and Kris, and everyone at the HCA, have created a welcoming, versatile and fertile artistic community that really has no peer in the Metrowest. If we want or need art or music or theatre, we have the best of the best here in town.

What is unique about the adult student experience at HCA? This is where I go to play, to romp, to shake off worry, even to resuscitate the wild and free parts of me -- all the while being accompanied by caring and encouraging mentors and supportive colleagues. (O dear, I have made it sound like a therapy group)

What surprises you most about the HCA? The variety of its offerings, the warmth of its community, how adaptable it is (in that the HCA wants to provide the community with what we want and need). The HCA gives and gives and gives to the surrounding community. And we are made better by this generosity, our lives are brightened, deepened and improved.




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