Youth Salon

For April’s Youth Salon, Phase II came up with the idea of also making it a benefit concert to raise money for the kids affected by Hurricane Katrina. On the screen there was a power point to show some of the effects of hurricane Katrina. Then the entire group of Phase II got together and played Amazing Grace, with the accompany of Jumaane Smith (Jessie’s husband) playing the trumpet.

-Fidelia Vasquez, Phase II



Vacation Week

JessecaFor April vacation, Heath and I took our annual sojourn out to the San Francisco Bay Area for a week of chamber music with our friends Cynthia Freivogel and Deborah Price, forming a quartet known as “The Marlow Sound.” The trip out was great!  We flew from Boston direct to San Jose on Jetblue, that wonderful airline with DirectTV for every seat! “Cops” is no more edifying at 30,000 feet than it is on ground level, but it did help the time to pass. Apparently, the weather in the Bay Area had been rainy for about forty straight days, but as we descended into San Jose, a rainbow arced across the sky and we ended up having beautiful weather all week!

Once at the airport, it was time to rent the car. Our options were the Kia Rio, the Dodge Neon, or for a few more bucks a day, the coveted Chrysler PT Cruiser. Heath jumped for the PT Cruiser like Fat Albert going for a package of Ding-Dongs and it was ours for the week. I was a bit wary, but by the end of the week, the car had grown on me.


Aided by the three-hour time difference, Heath and I got a jump on the next day with an early morning jog up this big hill in Point Richmond (a tiny little hamlet about twenty minutes outside of San Francisco) which overlooks the Bay. It was stunning! You could see San Francisco on one side and Oakland on the other, plus there was a clear view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The general flow of the first few days was: jog, eat, rehearse, eat, rehearse, eat, watch Ali G, go to bed. The rehearsals went quite well and we were able to put together a nice little program of four of the Dvorak “Cypresses,” Turina’s “Prayer of the Bullfighter” and the Ravel Quartet. Heath had set up three concerts for us over the weekend: a house concert in Mill Valley, a yoga studio concert in Oakland and another house concert in Oakland. 

The concerts went well, but perhaps the most enjoyable part was that after we finished playing, we opened the floor for discussion with our audience members. There was a real dialogue about the pieces, the use of gut strings, Dvorak’s time in America, why viola jokes exist, why we chose the program we did, and how we all met, among other topics. It was simply friends talking about music, and it was fascinating, with many members of the audience sharing anecdotes about the composers, their concert experiences, or studying music as kids. Not to get back up on my soapbox, but I have a feeling if all concerts had a little Q & A session with the performers, the industry would be in much better shape than it is. But, that is a topic for another blog posting…

We ran into several friends during the week. The wonderful Chiara Quartet from Nebraska was giving a concert in Mill Valley on Sunday, so they came to our yoga studio performance on Saturday night. We even ran into Matt Haimovitz [see February blog entry] at Amoeba Music in downtown San Francisco. He was playing a concert with the St. Lawrence Quartet [see earlier April blog entry]. It is a small world.

Alas, all good chamber music weeks out in the Bay Area must come to and end, and after attending an incredible Hot Club concert in Berkeley with our old buddy Evan Price of the Turtle Island String Quartet playing fiddle (that guy is a genius), Heath and I drove the Cruiser back to San Jose and took the redeye back to Boston for Monday’s staff meeting, PSQ rehearsal, and Youth Salon preparations. In the words of the governor of that great state, "I’ll be back."

-Jesse Holstein, Providence String Quartet

Purgatory Chasm

A little dated now, but that’s what happens when school vacation week comes along and causes us all to take a few deep breaths and interrupt our usual busy lives for some rest and relaxation.

Here are a couple of pics from the Phase II full-day retreat to explore Purgatory Chasm in Blackstone Valley. After hiking, lunch and whiffle ball, we stretched out on the grass (with Tilly) for a group discussion about the upcoming Youth Salon and student membership on the Community MusicWorks board of directors.

-Heath Marlow, CMW staff



Jay Hunsberger workshop

Jay Hunsberger, tubist of the Florida West Coast Symphony, presented a great workshop to CMW students last Friday afternoon. Think tubas and strings don’t have much in common?  Think again! Here are Jay’s reactions to the workshop:

I was really into what the Community MusicWorks students had to offer back to me when I was there last Friday. What a cool group of people! I felt like they were not hesitant to ask questions or to  try the (sometimes crazy) things I asked them to do. The questions they had for me were creative and showed a lot of innovative character on their part. And the kids that played their instruments played so well and confidently.
–Jay Hunsberger

posted by Chloe, blog caretaker


St. Lawrence String Quartet trip

CMW resident musician Jesse Holstein describes an unconventional and thought-provoking Phase II concert trip to hear the St. Lawrence String Quartet:

Last Friday Sebastian and I took a group of Phase II kids down to URI in the big blue bus to hear the St. Lawrence String Quartet. The St. Lawrence is a youngish group in residence at Stanford University. As the lights dimmed and they came out on stage, one could tell from their dress that this was going to be a different kind of concert. Geoff Nuttall, the group’s first violinist was wearing a suit and tie; Barry Shiffman on second fiddle was wearing a black untucked Nehru-collared button up; Chris Constanza the cellist was decked out in a bright blue blazer with a white shirt and no tie; and Lesley Robertson, the violist, rounded out the group in a black sequined halter-top and black slacks. 

Right away, through their demeanor and wonderfully communicative playing, they shed the fetters of formality and delivered a capricious reading of Haydn’s “Joke” quartet. Good stuff! They even started to stand up at the finale’s false ending before sitting back down to sew the piece up. Our kids and the rest of the audience responded with a good chuckle, which the Quartet appreciated.

Following a great introduction by Geoff, the St. Lawrence delivered a searing performance of Osvaldo Golijov’s Yiddishbbuk. As some may recall, the PSQ played this piece in April of 2004, and it requires the performers to create many unconventional sounds with their equipment: banging the stick of the bow on the strings, sliding grotesquely, vibrating like a nanny goat, gossamer harmonics opposed by granitic blocks of sound, to name but a few.  It was riveting for our kids to hear and see “classical” music like this.   

We went backstage at intermission to meet the artists and they welcomed our Phase II kids with warmth, kindness, and by offering up their backstage snacks; the best three ways into anybody’s heart! The Quartet asked the kids what they thought of the Golijov, perhaps expecting an “it was good…” response, since comprehending contemporary music’s varied vocabulary can be difficult for even the most seasoned concertgoer.  Jovanne replied with a memorable line, “It was too alive to be classical!” Several other kids seconded Jovanne’s opinion and gave their enthusiastic approval. This response got the St. Lawrence’s attention, as well as Sebastian’s and mine. 

The Quartet asked our kids what instruments they play and what they are working on, and Fidelia told them about this month’s Phase II project—which she is leading—to collect supplies and money to send to the Gulf Coast to contribute to the Katrina relief effort.  Although we could only hang out with them for 10 minutes or so, the kids and the St. Lawrence Quartet were clearly well on their way to becoming fast friends and chamber music colleagues. 

After hearing the astounding Schumann A Minor Quartet, the audience wanted more.  For their encore, they prefaced their Mozart slow movement by mentioning that they had an idea for their next concert to put pillows just in front of the stage for young people to get up close to the band. Well, with a little encouragement from Sebastian and me, our kids came up the aisle and plopped down on the floor just a couple of feet away from the Quartet. It was magical! Afterwards, we went backstage again to thank them and to snap a quick picture [to be posted soon] before getting on the bus to Providence. 

*  *  *  *
The St. Lawrence Quartet is a fantastic group with a beautiful sound, pure intonation, clean ensemble and cogent phrasing. However, there are probably a hundred other quartets out there who do the same. What sets the St. Lawrence apart is their unstuffy immediacy of communication, both musically and non-musically. They drew us in (and not just because they offered us their snacks!). There was a sense of dialogue with us, the audience, when they played, and a true dialogue when they hung out with us backstage. 

Part of the struggle that the classical music industry has been experiencing for the last few years has been brought on by the distance that is created between the audience and the performers during “classical” concerts. Audiences at “classical” concerts are expected to remain still and silent as all-too-often unsmiling performers reverently play old museum pieces with nary a word being uttered to bridge the gap. Added to this, the dress of quartets and orchestras is often completely uniform and the performers are expected to bow and stand together, adding to the automaton-like presentation.

Perhaps other ensembles could take a cue from the St. Lawrence and try to bridge the divide between performer and audience aside from just showing up for juice and cookies at the reception?  These guys get it and our Phase II kids clearly responded.  What a great night!

-Jesse Holstein, Providence String Quartet

Immigrants Rights March

Several thousand of our neighborhoods flowed past our storefront over the last thirty minutes, waving flags (US, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Mexican) and chanting slogans as they headed up Westminster Street on their way toward Downcity. While we all stood outside on the sidewalk, we got the chance to see several friends of Community MusicWorks pass by, including Gladymil, one of Jessie’s students, Val Tutson, our favorite story teller, Eddie from the Citizens Bank branch down the street in Olneyville Square…

-Heath Marlow, CMW staff


Champion in the Neighborhood

Today’s flurry of excitement publicizing our "Champion in Action" award from Citizens Bank and NBC 10, as described by our fearless leader:

Citizens Bank and the Rhode Island NBC station, Channel 10, paid us a nice visit today. Although a few of us have known the news for a month or so, we’d been asked to keep it close to the vest until today’s announcement. The “Champion in Action” banner, with the logos of Citizens, NBC 10, and Community MusicWorks, fit nicely over our door, and we got to keep one of those BIG checks!

Community MusicWorks played elegant host to Joseph Marcaurele, President & CEO of Citizens Bank Rhode Island, a number of other good folks from both companies, and a group of loyal CMW fans and students with a sidewalk reception. The storefront speaker system made its first public showing of the spring—the Providence String Quartet, a Phase II quartet, Alana, Andrew, and Tae all performed for the crowd.

-Sebastian Ruth, CMW staff / Providence String Quartet



Representative Anastasia Williams, of District 9, mugs for the camera with a newly donated 1/16-size violin:


Mozart, Brahms, and Dinner on the Decks

On Sunday afternoon, eighty-five people packed Todd Carranza’s living room on Smith Hill for an afternoon of music and food that is not likely to be soon forgotten. A program of Mozart Piano Quartet in E-flat and Brahms Piano Quartet in C Minor was followed by Todd’s all-out vegetarian buffet extravaganza, including dinner on the newly constructed decks that abut either end of his living room/concert hall. Will Fedkenheuer (vln), Michael Reynolds (vcl), Carol Rodland (vla), and Lura Johnson-Lee (pno) provided a passionate and inspiring performance for us.  CMW Board President Karen Romer and Providence Mayor David Cicilline (pictured) provided the opening remarks.

Here are a few selections from the dinner menu, to make you jealous if you weren’t there to enjoy them in person: melon & mango salad, orange & artichoke soup, sweet potato & onion soup leek, mushroom & lemon risotto, mixed vegetable balti, pistachio blancmanges, banana brown butter torte… (there were others!)

-Heath Marlow, CMW staff