Parents Practicing Bow Holds


In Viola 101, parents of CMW students have been working hard on bow holds, keeping track of the names of the strings, and playing the D Major scale. Here they are with bow holds in tact! We'll be working towards a performance for the March Performance Party.

-Rachel Panitch, resident musician

Theodore Sizer (1932-2009)

CMW mourns the death of Ted Sizer, who, back in 1995, advised Sebastian (then a sophomore at Brown) that he should not be afraid to pursue such an outlandish idea as a neighborhood string quartet residency that combines music and music education with community building and social justice.


Dr. Sizer served as a member of CMW's advisory council, and was the featured speaker (along with Deborah Meier) at Education, Art, and Freedom: An Exploration of Philosophy and Pedagogy, the two-day symposium that CMW presented in May 2004.

"You need an adult community. You need friends, probably teachers who know the same kids, and you have to have a lot of time for “kid talk” because your impression through teaching the subject that you teach may be different than your colleague’s perception in the subject she teaches or the way the kid acts.

Good schools have multiple communities: there’s you, the teacher and your kids, and then there’s you, the teacher and the other teachers who teach the same class of kids. But there also has to be an adult culture. An adult culture should be full of critique. Not only of the adults’ work but also judgments about what’s going on with kids. Very few schools give time for that. That’s supposed to happen by osmosis. [laughter]"

Here is a link to a pdf containing his complete remarks from the 2004 symposium's Public Forum.

More about Ted Sizer's life and work here and here.

-Heath Marlow, CMW staff

Fellows Quartet

The Fellows Quartet had their first performances of the season this past weekend. We played Beethoven's String Quartet Op. 18, No. 2 at St. Michael's Church in Bristol on Saturday night, and at Temple Beth-El in Providence on Sunday afternoon.

When I applied to CMW, one of the many things I was excited about was the quartet playing that I would be doing. When we started rehearsing, it was obvious that we were going to gel quite nicely as a group.  Our rehearsals are not only productive, but they are also full of laughter. I think that this is really important for many reasons, one being that an audience can tell when musicians are enjoying what they're doing, and I always try to show that when I play.


I'm glad we got two opportunities to play the Beethoven quartet; it's too beautiful of a piece to only play once! Both performances were a success in my mind: We really did come together as a team to make some great music come alive. A lot of audience members commented on how impressed they were that we sounded as cohesive as we did…they were surprised that we'd only been rehearsing for about a month!

Photo by Kirby

I left the stage with a bubbling excitement about what we had accomplished. This kind of excitement is a common occurrence in my life, but it all the better when I have awesome colleagues to share it with!

-Carole Bestvater (Fellow)

Concert Trip Interviews

Aaron was kind enough to write up a transcript of the interviews with CMW students that Carole conducted on the bus ride back to Providence following the Boston Philharmonic concert trip. Here are a few excerpts (outtakes):

CB: What did you think of the concert?
S: It was good.
CB: Favorite part?
S: When the violinist did his extra thing. I thought it was interesting how he played and plucked at the same time. He must have some seriously strong fingers.
CB: Did you think it was cool how he was accompanying himself?
S: Yeah!
CB: Did it make you want to figure it out on the cello?
S: Yeah, I definitely want to see how strong my left hand is. It made me want to see what I can do.
CB: Does it apply to anything you're learning on the cello?
S: Yeah, definitely in fiddling. I want to try it and see what happens. I'm definitely going to go practice.
CB: Any other thoughts?
S: Yeah, I'm glad I came. I'm excited, and I really want to go play.

CB: What did you think?
S: I thought the concert was great. It was kind of sad not hearing the first movement–you know, it might have changed the feeling of the piece. I really enjoyed the soloist and his creativity and ability to memorize all of those pieces. I really liked the cooperation all of the musicians of the orchestra. I liked how much they sounded like one group, one voice. That was really cool.
CB: Will you go home and look up the first movement of the Brahms?
S: I might if I could figure out the information. I'm really interested now that I've heard the other movements.
CB: What did you think of the Dvorak symphony?
S: It was something else. Of course it was different than the Brahms, but it really had a story behind it, and I really felt it. I really liked the sound of the wind section–I felt like they had more of a part in the Dvorak, and it was really cool to hear the bassoon–you don't normally hear it, but in the Dvorak I was paying attention to each part. There were all these exciting parts in the Dvorak that made me want to tap my foot.
CB: Did it inspire you to think about how to do some of that stuff on your instrument?
S: Oh yeah, definitely. There were some cool techniques… I noticed the violinists were using even when they were playing soft.

CB: What was your favorite part?
S: I liked it when the violinist came out and did his own thing.
CB: Did you like the first one [encore] or the second one better?
S: The first one.
CB: Did you know that was God Save the Queen?
S: No.
CB: We sing that in Canada.

CB: What did you think of the concert?
S: It was good, but I didn't hear much of the second half because I was sleepy.

BPO concert trip

On Sunday, October 11, Community MusicWorks families boarded a bus and headed up to Boston's beautiful Sanders Theatre to see a performance of the Boston Philharmonic featuring violinist Feng Ning.

Jesse's pre-concert talk on board the bus

A busy street festival slowed our travel to Boston and we thought we were going to miss the first half of the concert, but the ushers graciously let us enter quietly in between movements. We arrived to hear Feng Ning play the Brahms Violin Concerto.


The audience clapped enthusiastically and he played two encores for us. For most students, this was the highlight of the concert:

"I liked the short songs after the concerto because they were funny!"

"It was interesting how he played and plucked at the same time. He must have some seriously strong fingers."


After intermission, we returned to see the orchestra play Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 7. The piece was truly exciting:

"I liked the loud parts!"

"I loved it. Not just one movement—all of it. It went from extremely loud to toned down… and the violins were all in perfect harmony!”

"It felt like it really had a story behind it. I really liked the sound of the wind section—it was really cool to hear the bassoon!"

After the concert, we had a chance to catch glimpses of both Feng Ning and Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. We also got a chance to talk about the music:

"It made me want to see what I can do with my instrument. I want to try some of the things that the violinist was doing"

"I'm excited! I really want to go play!"


It was a great start to a season of exciting concert trips. Looking forward to seeing you on the next one!

-Aaron McFarlane, Fellow

Oct. 16: Frank Ward on singing the African-American Songbook

A special invitation to PSQ and CMW fans from Christina at The Providence Athenaeum:

Friday 10/16, 5-7 pm

Salon Series: So, What’s the Story? Part Three: Bass-Baritone Frank Ward on researching and singing the African-American songbook and other works along life’s way. In addition to the standard classical and operatic repertoire, Ward has sung the works of African-American composers of art songs and spirituals, and researched and brought to life vaudeville, minstrel, and musical theater songs, circa 1900. Songs define their times and pass on stories from one era and one culture to another, letting us travel through time and space. Join us for a conversation about Ward’s musical itineraries. For Athenaeum members and their guests. For more info: call Christina at 421-6970 or visit

Free to guests of CMW. No need to sign in or make a reservation. Just come and enjoy the evening and (we hope) participate in the conversation.

I first heard Frank sing at the PSQ house concert at Phoebe and Peter's loft two or so years ago, and thought some of your fans might be his as well. Please join us!

-Christina Bevilacqua

A Dance for all ages

Join us for Fiddle & Dance Project's first community dance: Sunday, November 8th, from 3-5 pm at the Carriage House, 7 Duncan Avenue in Providence. Free!

Never tried contra dancing before? Perfect! Andy Davis, our caller hailing from Vermont, will talk you through each step. Music by Rachel Panitch, Michelle Kaminsky, Sakiko Mori, and more…

Fiddle & Dance Project is a new initiative based in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Pawtucket, offering free fiddle lessons and dance events to families. The project is being incubated by Community MusicWorks and is run by Rachel Panitch, CMW Fellow '07-'09.

Sebastian’s intro to the 09-10 season

Reprinted from CMW's 09-10 season program book

Welcome to our 13th season! Community MusicWorks continues to grow in our commitment to the intersections of performing, teaching, and community, and we are blessed to have you as a listener, participant, and supporter.

This season features some transitions for us. In the Providence String Quartet, we’re delighted that Minna Choi, a founding member from 2001-2004, is back playing with us this season. After five years with Community MusicWorks, our beloved Jessie Montgomery has moved to New York City to pursue her composing goals, although you can expect to see her back in Providence periodically wearing the different hats of violinist, composer, and Musical Workshop presenter. Also, we’re so happy that the Music Lab improvisation class that Jessie started continues to thrive with not one but four different members of our faculty leading weekly sections. It’s a testament to Jessie’s efforts that Music Lab has not only become oversubscribed, but also that improvisation is fast becoming a central thread in our curriculum.

In our concert series, expect to hear two string quartets by Mendelssohn (during this year of his 200th birthday), as well as quartets by Mozart, Beethoven, Bartok, and miniatures by Janacek. Also, you can expect quintets and sextets of Brahms, the fiery tango-inspired string nonet by Osvaldo Golijov, and a mix of sonatas, duos, and trios sprinkled throughout.

A new feature of this 13th season is a trimester system for our educational programs, and this means a new schedule of student performances, including Studio Recitals that are designed to give our students more opportunities to exhibit their solo talents. Also, thanks to the wonderfully thorough 18-month program evaluation led by Dr. Dennie Palmer Wolf, we have found that our students seem particularly motivated by opportunities to perform as soloists in church or other public settings outside of CMW. This year, all of our students will be challenged by their teachers to set goals of “connecting to the community” through their music. Please look out for and support these student performances as you learn about them!

Lastly, if you read this welcome during the late winter and early spring months, you may notice my absence! After more than twelve years working to start and grow Community MusicWorks, our Board of Directors has generously offered me a three-month sabbatical in which to explore some musical goals. As hard as it is to imagine being away from this beloved enterprise and community, I am looking forward to the time and I am immensely grateful to the dedicated and capable staff who will “steer the ship” while I’m away. 

Thank you for your involvement and interest in CMW, and enjoy the season!

-Sebastian Ruth, Executive-Artistic Director