The testament to the strength and caliber of any program begins with the students who have gone through it. Here’s a chance for you to read the testimonials provided by Hopkins Instrumental Music Program student alumni.
Hopkins Instrumental Music student, 2006-2008
Current: UCLA Class of 2016, BA Music Composition
“The music program at Hopkins was very formative for me; looking back, it was my first encounter with a musical institution with any kind of rigor, excluding childhood piano lessons. And the difference was that the Hopkins program strove to produce great music and musicians, and provided students with high expectations and exemplars to aspire to – and of course, the students rose to the challenge. It’s not enough to teach music without being able to inspire a love for it, and I’m thankful that this was nourished at Hopkins. At the time – and perhaps this mythos still holds true today – this was all made possible by the consummate dedication of one man, the new Mr. Conway, who in his perseverance and exactitude set an example for us all.
I took great personal pride in our group performances, and I think we all loved watching our groups succeed at festivals and trips. Of course, we were never indulged with the attitude that our success could be taken for granted: we had to put in the work, and we were always reminded (admittedly, as we needed to be) what the stakes were.
In particular, I can’t emphasize enough how helpful it was to learn to play in a group, where you must always be aware of your role in the music – having met many musicians who have played and practiced mostly alone, I can say that sensitivity (both musical and personal) in group settings is not a skill common to everyone. Yes, I was disappointed that I wasn’t first chair, or that I didn’t get picked to play the solo, but I had to live with this decision and I (ever so gradually) learned to be a humbler person for it.
And besides, it was always such a joy to be a part of this exciting music anyway – each piece had its challenges, its quirks, its unique colors and harmonies, its fun passages, its soul-filling moments. Getting new music at the beginning of each trimester was like Christmas to me, whether or not I got to be in the spotlight.
A lot of inspiration came from playing in band when I began to realize the musical possibilities that started where playing alone at the piano ended: there are so many instruments, there is so much you can do with each one of them, and together they are more than the sum of their parts – this was something I realized and pursued as a curious 13-year-old, and really fed into the directions I’m taking now, as a freshly graduated college student with a degree in music composition, and a handful of shiny awards and recognitions to validate it.
But degree, awards, and gigs aside, the whole art of music has become my bread and butter, and I really think that it would have been so different if my experience with it weren’t what it was, in those critical early teen years. I guess you can’t really teach students to love music, or even “appreciate” music, but if you love it and appreciate it enough yourself, it really shows and I think young people are really drawn to and inspired by that – I know I was.
It’s been ten years since I first started music at Hopkins; I’m sure much has changed and grown, but I can also trust that under Mr. Conway’s direction, the program will continue to flourish, and I’m enthusiastically recommending it to everyone and anyone. I learned that music is a beautiful thing worth devoting my life to, and that excellence takes hard work and a lot of determination – all things considered, a pretty sound investment (and the returns just keep growing).”
Hopkins Instrumental Music student, 2008-2010
Current: Ph.D. student in Applied Mathematics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
“I participated in both Hopkins Intermediate and Advanced Orchestras during my time at Hopkins. Mr. Conway showed incredible kindness and attention to each and every student in the class. Mr. Conway is a passionate instructor who goes above and beyond his responsibilities as a music instructor. Despite his strenuous teaching schedule, I often saw his efforts extend late into the evening as he prepared scores and assignments for his students. I have never met such an earnest and dedicated educator before or since.
In our daily rehearsals, Mr. Conway would guide us through the nuances of the music’s dynamics, intonation, and timbre note by note and bar by bar. This meticulous teaching method inspired his students with the care and diligence characteristic of conservatory trained musicians. The music program at Hopkins not only developed my skills as a performer and orchestra member, but also immersed me into an environment of music. Although I had several years of private lessons before joining the Hopkins program, I had never played in a symphony before. Thus the Hopkins music program was an opportunity to broaden my knowledge of music and learn about the dynamics and interplay between different instruments and sections in a symphony orchestra. Furthermore, the program allowed me to develop skills such as collaboration and leadership.
I continue to be passionate about music today. Since my time at Hopkins, I have played in the San Jose Youth Symphony, Mission San Jose High School Orchestra, and the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra. In 2010 I was the winner of the SJYS Concert Orchestra Concerto Competition and performed the Bruch Violin Concerto, and in 2013 I performed a solo benefit concert with over three hundred attendees and over $8000 raised for schools in Fremont and East Palo Alto, and the Prince of Peace orphanage for handicapped children in Tianjin, China. Although I no longer have as much time to practice as I did in the past, the Hopkins Music Program has definitely transformed music’s role in my life from a chore into a lifetime passion.”
Hopkins Instrumental Music student 2006-2009; Tutor/Volunteer 2009-2013
Current: Math and Physics student, Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA
Aspiration: To be a physics professor.
“I was lucky enough to enter the Hopkins Music program as a 6th grader new to the cello. Mr. Conway and company introduced me to the magic of playing music in a group, and being part of a team where everybody was working towards the same goal. I made some of my best friends in the Hopkins music program and frankly, the gift of music is something that I don’t think I’ll ever be rid of.
The yearly trips to festivals were immensely rewarding, but I don’t think anything was like being able to simply play music in the environment that Mr. Conway created for the students (and alumni). He really helped foster a love for music. I still hold on to a favorite recording I made with two friends – one day we were hanging out at Hopkins and thought it’d be cool if we added a drum line to one of Vivaldi’s double cello concertos written in 1710. It was a blast. This sort of thing happened all the time and I absolutely loved it. It’s not ordinary that you’d find teachers who go to such lengths for their students.
Though I am a double math and physics major studying to be a physics professor, I maintain that being in Hopkins’ orchestra was by far the most useful class that I took at Hopkins. Don’t get me wrong – many classes at Hopkins were substantive, rich in material, and intellectually challenging. But being a part of the Hopkins music program and working towards Mr. Conway’s high standards was a rare gem in that it was endlessly challenging, yet a part of my relaxation, and remains a part of my life today.
I strongly believe the Hopkins Music Program was the factor in my life that made me want to pursue excellence for its own sake. It extended my ambitions far beyond getting a shiny plaque at a festival, or to be good at jumping through the artificial hoops in school. Since then, I’ve grown to relish the act of simply working hard on something, and cultivating proficiency intelligently and diligently into something meaningful to myself and the people around me. This love has shaped my growth not just in music but in science, my other hobbies.
As a random side note, my intimate physical familiarity with stringed instruments and vibrating strings that I derived from music is really paying off in building intuition for solving partial differential equations.”
Hopkins Instrumental Music student, 2007-2010
Current: Pre-Medical student, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, CA
“Mr. Conway and the Hopkins Music Program were critical in developing me to the person I am today. Music became more than just a hobby; it became the greatest and most defining learning experience of my teenage years. Under Mr. Conway’s guidance, I built a strong foundation in my leadership, teamwork, interpersonal, and communication skills – none of this would be possible without the Hopkins Music Program. Although my career interest is not in music, I’m still able to utilize these invaluable skills in real-life situations: in college and in pursuing my career in medicine and public health. So many great memories were made during my two years at Hopkins, but the most memorable moments were all of the concerts, tours, and music festivals at which we performed. I loved the sense of unity, camaraderie, and accomplishment that I shared with all of the band and orchestra players.
If you are a student at Hopkins Junior High School, you definitely cannot and should not miss the amazing opportunity to be part of the Hopkins Music Program. I would highly recommend this program to every student, regardless of music level. Mr. Conway creates such a positive learning environment that will help you improve your musicianship, self-confidence, and self-discipline. Mr. Conway also challenged me to take initiative and break out of my comfort zone. When I graduated from Hopkins, I had an urge to try something new and decided to learn how to play the cello, after five years of playing concert percussion. At first, many people gave me negative feedback and tried to tell me that it was a bad idea to switch instruments. However, Mr. Conway constantly encouraged me every step of the way, and I ended up loving the cello and continued playing cello throughout high school.
I hope that the Hopkins music program would only expand from here on out, especially because the program produces both excellent student musicians and outstanding citizens. Keep the band and orchestra playing, and support music education!”
Hopkins Instrumental Music student, 2009-2011
Instruments: Flute and Piccolo
Current: Neuroscience and Computer Science student, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
“I played the flute and piccolo during both my years at Hopkins. Band creates so many opportunities to meet new people and develop valuable skills such as time management, discipline, teamwork and leadership. The music program is so lucky to have Mr. Conway, who is an amazing director and really puts in the time and effort to bring out our musical potential.”
Hopkins Instrumental Music student, 2007-2009
Instrument: Baritone Saxophone
Current: Bachelor of Music, Music Education and Saxophone Performance, 2017, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
“I was in the Hopkins Concert Band, Jazz Workshop, Wind Ensemble, and Jazz Ensemble from 2007-2009. With his passion for teaching and dedication to his students, Gregory Conway not only introduced me to new genres and mediums of music, but also cultivated a passion that would turn into a career. Even for those who have no intention of becoming musicians, I highly recommend this program to any student who expresses at the very least a curiosity in instrumental music. The experience of being in an award-winning ensemble of peers is one of the most gratifying experiences a student can have, and the musical enrichment that students receive from this program is one that lasts a lifetime. I still have memories of performing with the Jazz Ensemble at local venues and travelling with many of my peers to Anaheim for Music in the Parks. Though I may be an extreme case, these experiences have definitely shaped me into the person that I am today.”
Hopkins Instrumental Music student, 2009-2011
Current: Biochemistry and Computer Science student, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
“The Hopkins music program under Mr. Conway is absolutely stellar and known to be one of the strongest programs around. Mr. Conway is very knowledgeable and dedicated, and students will definitely learn a lot from him by improving their individual skills and learning to be a part of a larger musical performance group. I highly recommend students join the Hopkins music program whether they want to do band in high school or not. I made many of my close friends in the Hopkins band and I can recall many of our concerts and trips (especially Anaheim, of course); it is really a valuable experience that I am thankful for. I really miss playing in a band and for Mr. Conway. Mr. Conway and the Hopkins Music Department have my highest recommendation.”
Hopkins Instrumental Music student, 2005-2007
Instrument: French Horn
Previous: Bachelors in French Horn Performance and Learning and Organizational Change, with a minor in Business Institutions, June 2015, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Current: Management Consultant, Accenture
“Under the direction of Mr. Conway, the Hopkins Music Program was a defining experience for me and taught me a lot about how to persevere and strive for excellence. I always enjoyed knowing that I could come to his class and know that I would be challenged to be better than I was yesterday, and together my peers and I would be able to come together to make beautiful music. I really enjoyed playing in his Jazz Band. Somehow, he gave his French Horn player a chance to play Lead Trumpet and it was a blast! All my best friends were there and we always looked forward to coming early in the morning to play music with each other. I would highly recommend this program to others. Mr. Conway was more than a music teacher to me; he really is a mentor. The lessons I learned in his class have stayed with me long after I left his classroom. Mr. Conway taught me the skills that I still use today: perseverance, determination, collaboration, and many others. While I may not directly be using my music education, it will always be the single thing that I am most grateful for.”
Hopkins Instrumental Music student, 2011-2013
Current: Chemical Engineering student, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
“In 7th grade, I joined the Hopkins Concert Band with almost no musical experience. Even so, participating in the Instrumental Music Program was definitely the most memorable and influential part of my two years of junior high. I enjoyed Mr. Conway’s instruction so much that I also participated in the Jazz Workshop, and, in 8th grade, I was a member of the Jazz Workshop, Jazz Ensemble, and Full Orchestra, in addition to Wind Ensemble. During those two fulfilling years, I had so much fun with my peers learning about everything music and much more. Mr. Conway not only taught me how to strive for perfection, persevere through difficulty to achieve a goal, and take pride in everything I do, but he himself also practiced them as a lifestyle. He also fostered in me an appreciation of the arts and inspired me to continue playing my instrument (and playing it well) for the rest of my life.
The following essay, which helped me attain the Finalist standing for the 2017 National Merit Scholarship competition, is a dedication to Mr. Conway — an exceptional teacher of life skills. (Essay prompt: “Describe an experience you have had, a person who has influenced you, or an obstacle you have overcome. Explain why this is meaningful to you.”)
Unsure of what secrets lay beyond the door of Room 23, I entered the music classroom at Hopkins Junior High School. A completely new music student, I was on a mission to select an instrument to play the following year, when I would join Band. The Hopkins music director Mr. Conway presented to me an array of well-kept, shiny instruments and talked about their characteristics as I listened carefully and silently. I initially gravitated toward the flute and clarinet on the floor in front of me, as these were the instruments that I had heard of my classmates playing. However, Mr. Conway emphasized that he was short on trombones in band for the following year, and told me about the instrument’s versatility in jazz and orchestral ensembles. I tentatively picked out the less popular trombone, which was a little too big for me to carry at the time. Following that, my parents rented a trombone for me and I began private lessons during the summer before seventh grade.
When the school year began, I realized what it was like to be a part of a Hopkins concert band, with 90 other novice musicians. Playing music with a group of people was like a whole new dimension after a summer of individual practice; I had to listen to others while managing my slide positions and controlling my tone not to sound like a fart. Warming up together on a 30-second nursery rhyme was already quite difficult for us — my mind furiously alternated between looking at my trombone slide, the music, the conductor’s baton — but Mr. Conway insisted on perfection from every note produced on our instruments and only the utmost concentration from the 90 of us, repeating exercises until we mastered the beginnings and endings of notes or finally played softly enough. As tedious as these repetitions were, Mr. Conway was just preparing us for the more challenging FIVE-MINUTE pieces that we were to perform in concerts and band competitions.
Mr. Conway’s pursuit of perfection in all of his ensembles motivated me to raise my personal standards of trombone playing. I practiced between 45 minutes and an hour every day and listened to professional recordings of our concert pieces to make sense of how parts for various instruments complemented each other. I endeavored to play softly on the trombone, despite the instrument’s reputation for being loud and obnoxious. When members of my section struggled with their parts, I scheduled lunchtime sectionals for us to work together on entrances and rhythms. What was the ultimate purpose of these efforts? I realized that it was not just to please Mr. Conway or earn high ratings at music festivals, but for the joy of being able to create something wonderful with other people. The euphoria I experienced from making awesome music, of the quality that Mr. Conway required, with other people was enough for me to continue band for the rest of junior high and beyond.
The level of perfection that Mr. Conway expected of us stayed and continues to stay with me. It was through his high expectations that I learned the skills needed to be accepted into prestigious honor bands year after year. The bond that fellow musicians and I share over being able to create music has helped me expand the people in my community and break through my old shell of shyness. Still struggling to help others realize the joy of musical art, I have taken on leadership roles, such as the Chief Musical Director of the Tri-City Band Corps and the Trombone Section Leader of the Mission San Jose High School Marching Band, through which I teach music to others.
I owe the majority of my musical success to Mr. Conway, and the sense of community and love for making art that I have derived from his teaching still motivates me to help bring people together to find the happiness that comes from producing something beautiful.
Hopkins Instrumental Music student, 2009-2011
Current: Applied and Computational Mathematics student, University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, CA
Aspiration: To work in the financial services industry.
“The Hopkins Music Program was undoubtedly the most incredible program I joined in junior high. Beyond the musical education and mentorship it provided, there was Great America, concerts, Anaheim — all sorts of unforgettable fun. Most of all, being in the music program provided levels of community, unified dedication, and positivity that I would never have been able to take away from my regular classes. Because of the Hopkins Music program, I stayed involved in music throughout high school, leading the band at MSJ for three years. Whether you’re a seasoned musician or someone just starting out, join the music program. You won’t regret it.”