February Vacation Week

Community MusicWorks staff enjoyed a full week without the usual bustle and
intensity of teaching. We used this relatively relaxed time for a variety
of important projects:

1. Preparing the upcoming "Art of the Fugue/Light of Bach" and Dvorak Bass
Quintet concert programs
2. Brainstorming about improving our programs in our tenth year
3. Teasing out organizational development issues with facilitator Ellen Lynch
4. Celebrating Heath’s birthday with exceptional carrot cake made by Sara
5. Discussing strategies for dealing with disruptive student behavior with
Ferdinand Jones, professor emeritus of psychology at Brown University
6. Tidying up the office, including the addition of two very official
"Manager’s Chairs" from Staples

Heath Marlow, CMW staff



What do you get when you cross PSQ, Kate Sullivan, a hammer, some sandpaper, a musical saw, puppets and video footage of original paintings and shadow images? You get PINOCCHIO!, Kate Sullivan’s tour de force new musical setting of an old Italian tale.

On Friday, the Met School was transformed into a magical story-telling theater. Kate read her narration, a bi-lingual tip of the cap to author Carlo Collodi. She began, “C’era una volta, once upon a time….there was…a piece of wood, un pezzo di legno che piangeva e rideva comme un bambino…yes, it laughed and cried like a baby…” and off they went, with the quartet playing eleven short movements, from “The Workshop” to “La Notatta Orribile” (The Terrible Swim) to “Pesce Cane” (The Dog-Fish). Jesse, Sebastian, Jessie and Sara used their instruments to add the meows of cats, the groans of whales, the eerie harmonics of monsters. (They also got a few chances to ham it up in the acting department.)

Audience members of all ages enjoyed the show and had plenty of questions for the composer after the performance. “How did you make Pinocchio walk into the fish?” “Can your musical saw cut real wood?” “When can we see this again?”

Good question. We’re working on that one already!

–Kate Sullivan, PINOCCHIO composer

Aurea Ensemble workshop on Harlem Renaissance

On Friday, the Aurea Ensemble gave a masterclass for Phase II students. Here’s CMW parent Frank Ward’s reaction to the performance and discussion:

I enjoyed the Community Music Works’ Phase II workshop on the Harlem Renaissance. Aurea did a nice job melding together the poetry of African-American Poets with the music of the time. It was very exciting to hear the explanations of Paris as the center of artistic freedom during this time when artist from all over the world came together to explore new ways of expression. The discussion following, led by Rob Jones, was very educational and enjoyable. The students were very involved in the discussion and felt ‘free’ enough to have a frank and open dialogue about music, life and expression.

This was followed by a brief but enjoyable master class by Consuelo Sherba. Her information was clear and valuable to all who attended. The master class began late because the discussion was so energized and went over the allotted time. How exciting to see young students involved in something positive and constructive.

Thanks for the opportunity to attend.
Frank (CMW parent)


Drones as an improv teaching tool

Strings Magazine recently had an article about drones. In it the author spoke of drones in improvisation, and particularly talked about a technique for teaching improv in a group: you get the students each to come up with a sentence and start out by playing the rhythm of it in an octave with the drone; when the rhythm is set, the creator then makes the sentence melodic as well, leaving the drone to the other members of the group (always starting from the drone note in octave and returning to it at the end of the improv).

Since the Performance Party last Saturday featured such a wonderful example of improv, especially by the beginning violinist Heather and by Matt Haimovitz, the article set me to wondering if there are teachers out there who have used this "sentence" technique for stimulating improvisation, and if so what they think of it. Possibly an interesting way, among other things, to encourage musical identity making?

I have to confess I was trying it out today, with a simple sentences like "Matt Haimovitz is an awesome cellist and cool," and before I knew it a lot of time had slipped away!

Karen Romer- CMW Board member

Has anyone else had experience using drones as an improv tool? Check out the Strings Magazine article by clicking here.

Chloe Kline (moderator)

Haimovitz concert

Matt Haimovitz played a concert with the Providence Quartet and McGill University students (UCCELLO) last night at the Carriage House in Providence.  It was a wonderful event – sold out, even in the heavy rain, and the crowd energy was palpable. (Not to mention Matt’s energy!) Several people who spoke to me were struck by the originality of Matt’s playing.  He seems to be an utterly unique musical voice – not shaped by any specific tradition or school.  Any thoughts??
Chloe Kline (moderator)


Matt Haimovitz’s Anthem

One student’s reaction to Anthem, Matt’s Jimi Hendrix-inspired riff on the Star Spangled Banner at this afternoon’s Performance Party in Olneyville Square: "That’s messed up. His cello’s not supposed to sound like that!"

Heath Marlow, CMW staff


Stalnaker No. 1

Last weekend, the Providence Quartet presented a house concert in the idyllic bedroom community of Warren, RI. Included on the program, between Wolf’s Italian Serenade and the Schubert Cello Quintet, was the Quartet’s first performance of William Stalnaker’s String Quartet No. 1. This piece is one of two string quartets composed by Sara’s grandfather; his Quartet No. 2 was performed by the PSQ at the RISD Museum earlier in the month.

According to Sara, William Stalnaker always wanted to be a full-time composer, but he had "mouths to feed" and held a variety of jobs in Portland, Oregon until he retired and was able to pursue his first love. These jobs ranged from Professor of Musicology, to choirmaster, to first grade teacher, to the local Fuller Brush man at a time when he was just scraping by financially.

The Providence String Quartet is working up both pieces for a recording date in early March. Sara’s father and grandfather will be flying in from Portland for the recording session, and while in town, Sara’s father Bill (a professional French Horn player) will be leading a Friday workshop for CMW students on practice techniques.

Heath Marlow, CMW staff