Sebastian’s sabbatical

The CMW Board has awarded Sebastian Ruth, CMW's Founder and Executive-Artistic Director, a three month sabbatical leave, starting on February 1. What is a sabbatical? It is defined as “any extended period of leave from one's customary work, especially for rest, to acquire new skills or training.” Sabbatical comes from the word Sabbath, or the seventh day on which God rested after creating the world. Sebastian has labored for more than 12 years to create, develop, and build CMW into the fabric of Providence’s West Side. We felt it was high time he got a special reward that will give him time to nurture his musical talent, gain some space for reflection, and maybe even get some rest.

CMW’s momentum will not be interrupted by Sebastian’s well-deserved sabbatical. A team of staff are stepping up to provide leadership during the spring semester, including Heath, Minna, Chloe,and Rachel. David Karoff, our fabulous organizational consultant, whose services are being provided as part of a three-year capacity building grant from The Rhode Island Foundation, will be working with this team to learn from their leadership experience. The Board has already become accustomed to having Heath and Rachel at our meetings in the fall as they “learned the ropes” of working with us.

During his sabbatical Sebastian will be spending some time at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta, Canada, a place that "inspires creativity”, as well as in New York City and Boston, studying with special musical advisers such as violinist Barry Shiffman and violist Kim Kashkashian.

Please join us as we send him off with our best wishes for a special time.

-Liz Hollander, CMW Board


At the Performance Party in December, Jesse's violin studio serenaded Sebastian with an inspired new version of Joy to the World

Joy to the boss,
He needs a break,
From staff, and board, and Heath.

The phone is always ringing,
His emails always bringing,
More stuff for him to do,
All thanks to me and you.
He needs, he needs a silent night.


(To read the lyrics, click on the image to enlarge.)


Program Evaluation: The findings are in!

CMW’s rigorous 18-month program evaluation led by Dr. Dennie Palmer Wolf of WolfBrown was completed earlier this year, and her findings are available for downloading from the CMW website.


Dennie and all the CMW staff want to thank our students, parents, volunteers, and Board for sharing their time, stories, and thoughts throughout this involved process. CMW staff and Board members have been busy over the summer and fall digesting all the information that was gathered and working to incorporate the findings into our program design.

The findings cover topics such as student enrollment and persistence in CMW, student musicianship, students’ personal agency and involvement in the program, and students’ and families’ connections to the wider world. Here are some key quotes from the evaluation’s executive summary:

“When students persist in [CMW] and engage in its many offerings, the result is a distinctive young musician with strong, though basic, technique, a keen sense of the responsibilities of ensemble playing, a taste for a wide range of musical traditions, and a willingness to go beyond the score to improvise and compose.”

“A young person [who persists and engages with CMW] understands the personal agency and effort that it takes to engage, persist, and make progress. In Phase I this takes the form of joint child-family excitement over having and playing an instrument. In highly engaged Phase II and III students this agency develops into an investment in mastery and developing a distinct musical voice.”

“There is evidence that even outside of CMW lessons, music becomes a force organizing [students’] lives, focusing their activities and relationships. The program can also result in young people learning habits of hard work, investment and mutual responsibility. In sum, the experience of growing up at CMW can provide an anchor and a core identity.”

All of these positive findings relate to students who persist and engage. Therefore, the big challenge for CMW going forward is to make sure as many students as possible remain in the program, and become more engaged as they stay with us. While our retention rate is remarkably good (around 90%), the evaluation showed us that students sometimes lose ground between late Phase I and Phases II and III of the program, especially when they don’t have a clear sense that they’re making progress on their instruments.

The evaluation suggests that there are many things that CMW already does in a limited fashion that work to get students more engaged – including creating outside performance opportunities, pairing students with mentors or “practice buddies,” getting students involved in documenting their own progress, and creating more progress benchmarks for students to achieve.

Plans are under development to make sure that all students – especially those in danger of losing momentum – experience these opportunities. Our first experiments with practice buddies took place during the summer, and we’re working to expand this program to serve the entire student body this year. And a pilot program is underway to have students document their own progress… so stay tuned for some exciting updates at the next Performance Party or in the next edition of The Works.

It’s been really exciting for CMW’s teachers to have Dennie and her team work closely with us – we’re grateful for her input, and we’re looking forward to using these findings to continue to improve the CMW experience for the whole community.

Click here to read Dennie's evaluation.

-Chloe Kline, CMW staff

Editor's note: Dennie is also the co-author of a recent essay, Building Creative Capital, an "in-depth look at building creative capital as a powerful way to plan
for, execute, and measure the impact of the arts and culture on
communities." Read her essay here.

Strategic Plan

In early 2010, the CMW Board will be making a few final adjustments to a new Five Year Strategic Plan (Fall 2010–Spring 2015). This plan represents two years of thoughtful preparation by Board President Liz Hollander along with CMW's strategic planning committee, Board of Directors, and staff. When approved, a public version will be made available on the CMW website. In the meantime, enjoy some "pseudo haiku" composed by Rachel!

Strategic Plan

Sharing what we’ve learned
deepen positive impact
venture catalyst

Year One

Alum connections
community engagement
national spotlight

Year Two

All teach extra class
parent coordinator
15th year, publish!

Year Three

Endowment public
summer program ongoing
staff sustainable

Year Four

Sixty-five percent:
individual donors
fellows reunion

Year Five

Graduates on staff
West End arts ed. for all kids
space open. New plan!

VOCO returns to RI

Past Musical Workshop presenter Moira Smiley and her LA-based a capella band VOCO will be touring in New England in January, including a Rhode Island performance:

Stompin’ Gorgeous Harmony – Original, Americana, Balkan Beat

Saturday January 9, 2010, 8 PM   [DEC. 31 UPDATE: POSTPONED, NEW DATE TBA]
Blackstone River Theatre
549 Broad Street, Cumberland, RI 02864
$12 advance; $15 @ door

Info: (401) 725-9272

See photos from VOCO's January '09 Musical Workshop here.

Electronic Music Workshop




More photos by Jori in CMW's Flickr account.

Download the CMW Krew's Twinkle remix

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(3 MB).

CMW’s Parent Representatives

This year, I have the pleasure of working in partnership with Elsa Reverendo, CMW parent, member of our Board of Directors, and CMW's Family Engagement Coordinator Extraordinaire, to involve parents in new ways as volunteers at Community MusicWorks. Each CMW family has been asked to sign up for at least three volunteer opportunities–this might be signing students in at lessons, chaperoning a concert trip, or helping to serve food at a Performance Party.

To help us ensure that families are well-informed about upcoming events, and to act as representative voices for all parents, we are lucky to have seventeen Parent Representatives this year. Thank you to Ericka, Marisol, Jean, Zuleika, Santa, Linda, Juan, Michael, Norys, Sarah, Julie, Marisol, Annetti, Carol, Vithianny, Odris, and Candelaria for all that you've done so far and all that you continue to do for CMW!

-Rachel Panitch, CMW staff

Phase III & IMPS on YouTube

Here are two videos featuring members of Phase III joined by participants in the May 2009 Institute for Musicianship and Public Service (IMPS). In the first video, Luis and Josh perform a movement of a Mozart string quartet with two IMPS.

In the second video, the rest of the IMPS, along with Kirby and Sydney, create a spirited and fun improvisation based on themes from the Mozart quartet movement. The enthusiastic audience at the Carriage House is comprised of youth from various PYAC organizations.