Sept. 4-6: Rhythm & Roots Kids Academy

An opportunity recommended by Rachel:

Registration for the 5th Annual Rhythm & Roots Cajun Kids Academy is still open.

Cajun Kids Academy (CKA) offers the opportunity for kids to learn to play, sing and perform traditional Cajun music during the Rhythm & Roots Festival, New England's festival of roots music and dance.

CKA is directed by Michelle Kaminsky (fiddler with Magnolia Cajun Band and fiddle teacher) and taught by Michelle and a staff of exceptional teachers of Cajun music. Classes are offered in traditional Cajun fiddle, guitar, accordion and mandolin. Teachers include Michelle Kaminsky, Chris Ash, Rachel Panitch and Andy Stewart (fiddle); Tim Kness (accordion); Martin Grosswendt and Mary Jo Slattery (guitar).

The Cajun Kids Academy meets Friday, Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 4-6) during the Rhythm and Roots Festival. Students need to bring their own instrument. However Michelle has commandeered a few accordions for kids who would like to take that class. Please let us know when you sign up if your child needs to borrow an accordion.

There is no cost for children to participate in this three-day program in Charlestown, RI.

Pre-board retreat party

Hey Guys!
It’s Kirby and just wanted to say hi to anyone out there.
Hope you guys had an amazing summer and are as pumped for CMW to begin
as I am. We’ve already started to get busy here but not without a
party. Sebastian hosted a party for the 20 new and returning board members before we had our
board retreat on Saturday, August 8. A very yummy party. Everyone brought something to share. Halfway through, Sebastian whipped up some
very tasty salmon for us to all enjoy.

Remains of the salmon

Amazing way to start out the
year I have to say. ☺ See you all soon!

-Kirby Vasquez, Phase III

Staffing updates

With Jessie's departure after five seasons as a member of the Providence String Quartet, we are very happy to announce that PSQ founding member Minna Choi will rejoin the Quartet when rehearsals begin next week.

Minna, with Sebastian, Jesse, and Sara, began playing as a string quartet in 2001. In 2004, Minna decided to pursue a two-year Masters degree in violin performance at the Hartt School of Music and Jessie was recruited to fill in, an appointment that became permanent during Jessie's second year at CMW when the plan for the new Fellowship Program became a reality and Minna decided to return to CMW in a halftime role in 2006 to run the Fellowship Program, teach and perform in the CMW Players. 

PSQ with Minna outside the CMW office in 2003

Also, we are thrilled to be able to keep Rachel Panitch on staff as Resident Musician & Administrator. Rachel completed CMW's two-year Fellowship Program in June and, with Arlyn, successfully produced CMW's first ever summmer* camp in July. Rachel will spend half of each week teaching, running Fiddle Class, coordinating Phase II, and assisting Sebastian and Heath with fundraising and other administrative projects. The other half of her time will be devoted to her new endeavor, the Fiddle & Dance Project based in Pawtucket.

Rachel leading CMW students at The Steel Yard

Two new Fellows, both violinists, will be announced in September.

-Heath Marlow, CMW staff

Fiddle & Dance Project

It's amazing to think that we're getting so close to launching the
Fiddle & Dance Project. This month I'll be talking about the
program with families in Pawtucket and Central Falls and playing my
fiddle at some neighborhood events (see below), then we'll register
families in September and begin lessons in October.


Lessons will be
based at the Woodlawn CDC in Pawtucket and I'll have a number of violin available which are being generously donated by Johnson String
(Newton, MA) and by McCarten Violins (based right in Pawtucket).

Family recruitment events:

1. August 22:
Pawtucket CDC Community Garden Celebration, 4-6 PM, corner of Broad
& Nickerson Streets in Pawtucket. Community dancing with live
music from 5-5:30.

2. August 30: Labor & Ethnic Heritage Festival,
Slater Mill, Pawtucket. 12-12:30 PM performances by CMW Fiddle Lab
students and Adrienne & Rachel. The festival (including the info
table) goes until 5 PM.

Download Fiddle & Dance Project flier here.
Download sign up form here.

still an incredible amount of work to be done, but that's where we are
so far!


In other news, you
can come hear me perform with Sakiko Mori on piano for a contra dance on
Friday, August 21st from 8-11 PM. The dance is as St. Stephen's
Church, 114 George Street, Providence. It's a wonderful chance to move
and try something new–every dance is taught!

-Rachel Panitch, Resident Musician & Administrator

A 50-50 (50) proposition

CMW is thrilled to be selected as one of a handful of recipients of a special three-year capacity-building grant from The Rhode Island Foundation!

This grant provides $50,000 in 2009, 2010, and 2011 specifically to help CMW increase its ability to achieve its mission: To create a cohesive urban
community through music education and performance that transforms
the lives of children, families, and musicians. At the center of
this mission are the teaching, mentoring, program design, and performance
activities of the Providence String Quartet.

One of the best parts about this grant: CMW will get to work with David
Karoff, an independent consultant who has nearly 25 years of experience
in the nonprofit sector in Rhode Island, including 13 years as the
Executive Director of three different nonprofits. Subsequently he spent
9 years at The Rhode Island Foundation, most recently as the Vice
President for Grantmaking.

David has a long history with CMW: "I first came into contact with CMW during my tenure at The Rhode Island Foundation, at which I had the opportunity to work on and review a number of CMW's funding proposals. However, my best opportunity to learn about CMW came when Sebastian applied for and was selected for The Rhode Island Foundation Fellows program. This program, which I had the privilege of leading, allowed me to witness firsthand over the course of a year some of the personal and organizational evolution of CMW and its founder. My respect for and admiration of both grew immensely during this year. I've also tried to come to as many CMW events as possible. The highlight for me of these was the Kompa Variations."

-Heath Marlow, CMW staff

Good luck Jessie, and we’ll miss you!

Community MusicWorks staff, students, and board bid a very fond farewell to Jessie Montgomery who, after five years in Providence, has relocated to New York City to pursue her dreams as a composer. Below is an excerpt from Jessie's recent letter to her violin and Music Lab students.


Dear Students,

This spring marks the end of my term here as your teacher at Community MusicWorks. I want to send my personal farewell to you all and I want for you to know that I will miss you very, very much. I am going to move back to New York City, my hometown, to focus on new creative projects in composition and to team up with old friends in music.

I am planning to attend school again for a higher degree, to learn to compose music for movies and TV and for the many musicians who live in New York. As you know, I have been composing music the whole time I have been here, and now I want to spend as much time doing that as possible so that I can share even more of my music with even more people.

Being a part of your lives and being your teacher has been the most meaningful experience in my life. In the past five years, I have watched many of you grow and change and find a connection to your music that I know will be everlasting. You guys have helped make CMW the fantastic place that it is, with all of your hard work and love and enthusiasm for music. You are bold and courageous, always stumping our workshop presenters with insightful questions and a “ready-to-try-anything” attitude with music. You have given me so much ammunition that I will take with me on my journey.

Collectively, you guys have a truly original perspective on what music means, and it has been contagious. I hear new sounds and possibilities when you talk about how “cool” it would be to make a piece with fiddle, hip-hop, jazz, classical and freaky improvisation all mixed up together. You are SO right! Keep thinking that way, and the world is going to be a better place for it. You are a part of something so big, a new generation of musicians and positive contributors to society, and you will have so much of the world open to you if you keep working hard and dedicating yourselves to the things you love in life. Keep listening to new music, keep trying new styles, and find a way to enjoy the struggle of the practice of making music. I know that it’s sometimes hard, but just think about you, at your best, on the stage, giving it all you’ve got and feeling awesome—practice your musical expression! Improvise!

I hope I can remain a positive example for you, even as I move on to a new chapter in my life. You all have made a permanent impression on me and have warmed my heart countless times over. Your faces and stories will live with me forever, and I thank you for them. I have made some of my best friends here and I will always make an effort to come back home to CMW whenever I can. 

New York City is really not that far away, after all, and Sebastian even has me signed up next year for a concert or two already! So this is not a "goodbye forever" goodbye. Just think of it as if I am changing my position from your Teacher, to your Worldwide Advocate in the Arts. If there is ANYTHING you need as you go through your studies that connects you to places beyond Providence, I will do anything I can to help.

Your adoring Teacher and Friend,


Summer Camp Wrap

During a staff meeting a few months ago, someone suggested we try
something akin to "random acts of violins" for the last day of summer
camp. We could all hop on our favorite Blue Bus, then stop off and
surprise people around Providence with a camp orchestra performance.
Well, it was a long day and an exhausting one, but we did it! And
each place we stopped, we were asked if we would please come back to
play again soon.


First stop: The Steel Yard. We got a 'safety talk' and
saw the incredibly ornate fence-work and industrial art trash bins that
students at Camp Metalhead and young adults working there for the
summer had completed. We set up indoors due to the rain and gave our
first performance of the Tuning Hoedown, Improvisation Games, Rockin'
Strings, Have You Been To Ireland? and Mairi's Wedding among the
welding and blacksmithing tools. 


Next stop: Bannister House, a nursing home facility
right down the street from Community MusicWorks. Our audience was
ready and waiting for us and even fed us all ice cream sundaes after
our performances. Then it was time to go run around at the Dexter Park
playground for a while and let off some steam.


Final stop: Mathewson Street United Methodist
Community Meal, run by the Providence Intown Churches
Association (PICA). Our hosts here were so gracious; they really
thought of our music as a special treat during the much needed meal.
It was a huge performance space and the first time we were up on a
stage. Lots of parents came to see this last performance which was a
great ending to the day and the program.


A huge thank you to the regular volunteers that made this summer camp happen: Paul, Luis, Montana & Yael. Thanks to Kirby, Jori, Chloe, Jessie, Minna & Sebastian for all being there to support one of our camp days. And thanks to Betsy, Colleen, and Katherine who joined us to make our final day a success!

-Rachel Panitch, CMW staff

Violin Craftsmanship Institute

Wow, this summer has been a whirlwind of activity and I am dreadfully behind on checking in with y’all. 

The first leg of my summer travels brought me to beautiful Durham, New Hampshire for the Violin Craftsmanship Institute. Thanks to a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation, I enrolled in the “Basic Violin Maintenance and Repair” class. The idea is that we would like to have a fully functioning workshop here at CMW and be able to do repairs ourselves.

The first order of business was to find a place to stay. Thanks to the Rous (as in Ben and Nahanni) and Cox (as is the violin maker Doug’s brother Chuck) families up in Durham, I stayed at the Cox family farm for the week.  It is a remarkable place, filled with friendly people and animals, tasty crops and bio-diesel fueled vehicles and machines.


Next on the to-do list was getting the right tools. A couple of days before the class began, I received the tool list of about 70 items, some of them highly specialized from Germany. There was no way I was going to be able to get this stuff in two days time, so CMW’s good buddy Dennis McCarten from McCarten’s Violins in Pawtucket helped out big time by lending me most of the stuff on the list. Thanks Dennis! 

I arrived in Durham the night before the class and got settled in on the farm. Everyone there was so kind and helpful. I had a small room in the guesthouse for the week, it was perfect.   

Day One. The class started the next morning at 8 am with the instructor, instrument maker Francis Morris of Great Barrington handing out a syllabus for the next five days. As there was much to cover, there was no dilly-dallying and we got started right away sharpening our tools on the grinder. As we quickly learned, a good repair person is useless without good sharp tools, so we spent most of the day at the tool grinder and sharpening tools by hand on our waterstones. I didn’t realize it was possible to light a steel sound-post setter on fire with the grinding machine, but I managed somehow.


The next day, we got down to business with cutting and shaping pegs. With deft skill and quick humor, Mr. Morris and the class assistant Arie Werbrouck (a very talented maker in his own right) held our hands as we learned to shave and fit new pegs into the violin peg box. Pegs are essential for tuning the instrument so we took most of the day getting it just right, or awfully close to just right, or in my case, very far away from just right. I went through about seven pegs before I got one that even remotely fit. While it was quite frustrating and humbling at times, it was also exciting as it felt like we were young apprentices in the master’s workshop. 


An added bonus to Day Two was a concert by Durham’s native son and former CMW violin teacher, Ben Rous. Ben, along with five of his friends, played some sextets at a Durham church. It was great to hear some chamber music and see old friends.

Day Three was sound post day. We spent the day standing up, setting and moving sound-posts. Sound posts stand up inside the fiddle and are crucial to an instrument’s sound and resonance. Frances and Arie were very picky about our posts. That is why they get paid the big bucks. We even made posts ourselves. My post was too short and wouldn’t stand up in my fiddle, but it was a good attempt, if I do say so myself. 


Day Four was bridges. Shaping, fitting and shaving, very precise stuff. At the end of the day, I had produced a bridge so fat that at the corner restaurant there is a sign that reads, “Occupancy 75, or Jesse’s Bridge.” While I was somewhat proud of my obese bridge, it was far too thick to produce a decent sound. Here is the said bridge below. 


The final day was tonal adjustments. Fascinating stuff. Essentially a violin, viola, or cello is a vibrating box. Anything that is done to that box can affect the sound, sometimes quite profoundly. If the bridge is moved a millimeter, it can affect the sound; if the sound-post is bumped over a fraction of a millimeter, that can affect the sound. Mr. Morris lectured for much of the morning about all the ways one can change the sound of a stuffed up instrument. While many makers or repair people are very secretive of their methods, Mr. Morris was very generous with his techniques. It was awesome. I tried a few adjustments on my fiddle, but because of my morbidly obese bridge, any tonal nuances went undetected. However on other people’s violins, you could really hear it. 

At the end of the week, I had many more questions than answers. It was a very humbling experience and I have the utmost respect for instrument makers and repair people now, not that I didn’t before but you know what I mean. I learned a tremendous amount in those five days and I am excited to continue learning the trade by apprenticing with a couple of people in Rhode Island. Before you know it, I’ll be working on our own stock of instruments at CMW… very exciting! 

After the Institute, I spent a few days in Maine at Bay Chamber Concerts playing viola in Carnival of the Animals and I also taught at Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music. Now, I’m off the Haiti tomorrow to teach for two weeks. Wish me luck!

-Jesse Holstein, PSQ