In today’s installment of Notable Neighbors, we focus on the intergenerational magic that happens at NMS. One of the unique aspects of our school is that it has served people of all ages for over 100 years, and this takes on a very special meaning when it happens within one family.
At many of our events throughout the year we find our Recital Hall filled with two, three, and sometimes four generations of participants: grandparents and grandkids singing side by side at our Holiday Play-In, parents and kids learning together in Suzuki or Music and Movement classes, or family members playing on the same recital.
My own journey towards arts administration was sparked by stories my grandmother told me about her mom, who was a co-founder of the Settlement School in Philadelphia. Sharing these stories with my grandmother inspired me to join the magical world of community arts. Now, sharing experiences at NMS with my own family makes it more meaningful.
That magic is always present at NMS. Please join us for today’s journey where we share the story of violin student Lena Janiga, whose great-grandfather also attended NMS. We’ll also update you on Hanan Hameen, whose family brings so much joy to our hallways: along with her father, Jesse, the Hameens inspire us with their generosity of spirit, devotion to justice, educational profoundness, and overall amazing humanness.
Lena Janiga may only be five, but her family’s relationship with Neighborhood Music School is nearly 90 years old.
Lena’s great-grandfather, Anthony DiCaprio, took violin lessons at NMS in the 1930s. His identical twin brother took piano lessons, and another brother studied trumpet.
The siblings’ love of music has been handed down through the generations, and Lena is the latest member of her family to pick up an instrument. Following in the footsteps of her great-grandfather, and of her own sibling, Lena takes violin lessons at NMS today.
Lena joined the NMS community when she was 5 months old. Her older sister, Sofia, was — and still is — a Suzuki violin student at NMS.
As told by Lena and Sofia’s mother, Kim Salsbury, “Lena has sat in and observed nearly all of Sofia’s violin lessons and ensembles. She rarely slept through these lessons. Sometimes she snacked, sometimes she colored, sometimes she just watched intently. She often tried to imitate Sofia, first with a tiny violin that was actually a Christmas ornament, then with Sofia’s old box violin.”
Lena began her own Suzuki violin lessons with Jody Rowitsch and group class with Sigrid Karlstrom at age three. According to Jody, Lena immediately took to the violin: “She has had over 560 days in a row of steady practice. Violin is part of her life.”
Jody went on to note that Lena’s family’s dedication to music has played a major role in all Lena has accomplished at such a young age. “Music is such an essential part of the family dynamic,” said Jody. “Lena has a big sister who is patient and willing to teach her. Lena saw herself playing violin thanks to Sofia. She never had to grow into it. This is who she is.”
While Lena said that the best part of NMS is “practicing with Jody,” she noted many other favorite memories: “I like Spooky Suzuki because it’s spooky. I like everything. A Taste of Audubon was fun. I like watching Iris and Zara [her friends] in dance class through the funny mirror. It’s like a window.”“Really, Lena just loves NMS,” said her mother. “She doesn’t know a world without it. It has always been a part of her life.”We can only imagine how Anthony DiCaprio would feel about his great-granddaughters both studying violin and finding a home in the place that welcomed him 90 years ago. It seems safe to assume that he would be very proud.
Hanan Hameen is inspired to dance by her ancestors.
In a recent interview for the Arts Paper, Hanan, who is currently teaching remotely from Senegal, talked about learning about herself through her art and through the people who came before her: “Who is that person? Who are all of the ancestors, all of the cultures that make up that person?”
Hanan’s family’s relationship with NMS has also been passed down through the generations: her father, Jesse Hameen II, is a jazz drummer and member of the NMS faculty.
To learn more about Hanan and her work, please watch this short introductory video she filmed recently in Senegal:
We also invited Hanan to film a mini-lesson to share with you. Here she is, teaching a phrase of Dunham Technique choreography. We hope you will dance along with Hanan, wherever you may be in the world!