We have a rich season to share with you beginning in October, marked by CMW’s continuing
spirit of experimentation and innovation.
A centerpiece of our 16th
season will be the opportunity to deepen our commitment to the intersection of
community and performance. CMW is one of
47 organizations around the country to have received funding from ArtPlace, a
national initiative interested in the ways artists and arts organizations make
a positive impact on their communities. Our ArtPlace-funded project entails nine
events in Providence’s West End that experiment with how performance can become
part of community and vice versa. Expect commissioned works, performances
around the neighborhood, pop-up events in vacant commercial storefronts, and concerts
After a year-long sabbatical from Providence String Quartet
activities, we are continuing in the vein of last year, having the CMW Players
be the primary ensemble-in-residence. We recognize that, in so many ways, our
growth calls for an ensemble larger than four. That said, string quartets are
still an essential and favorite form, and we will be presenting all of Beethoven’s
string quartets in F, both major and minor, that represent the first, last, and
two quartets from his middle period. The
Sonata Series that launched last year, featuring CMW musicians in solo roles,
will continue at the elegant main gallery of The RISD Museum.
We’ll be hosting several guest artists to enhance the season
of music making, including a return by violinist Jonathan Gandelsman, who will travel
to Providence in May to premiere a new violin concerto that CMW is
co-commissioning from Venezuelan composer Gonzalo Grau, and that will involve both
the CMW Players and our students!
A daily string orchestra program, led by former Fellow
Adrienne Taylor, is the most ambitious innovation CMW is launching this
year. Adrienne will combine her understanding
of CMW methodology with that of El Sistema, the wildly successful Venezuelan
youth orchestra system, to create opportunities for twenty first graders to
begin musical study in a program that meets every day after school. Adrienne brings a nuanced understanding of
the potential for this program, having spent a year as a Sistema Fellow at the New
In addition to Annalisa Boerner and Lauren Latessa, our two new
Fellows, we’re delighted to welcome Chase Spruill and Lisa Barksdale who, as resident
musicians, will help us meet the demands of our expanded educational programs
as well as adding new violin voices to our chamber music ensembles.
Please join us to help make these innovations come to life
this season, at events in the West End, concerts around Rhode Island, and at
student performances too. I look forward to seeing you!
CMW Players performed Joachim Raff’s Octet in C Major at the Armory Farmers
Market on September 13, and the experience served as a microcosmic
view of the world my colleagues have created at Community MusicWorks.
I arrived at the Farmers Market, Sebastian was warming up on violin
and had already attracted a small herd of children around his knees. He
played children’s songs for them as he smilingly engaged them in
few yards away was the spot where we would perform (following
the end of a drum circle performance), so we set up our octet under a
tree at the edge of the Dexter Training Grounds.
Cox, who I’ve discovered to be a blend of superhero, comedienne, and
all-around facilitator, brought a stack of literature and our iconic red stickers from the office so that we had something tangible about CMW to offer to
the crowd. This was essential as we were going to be unable to effectively
introduce ourselves from the grassy “stage” with our audience of
shoppers in near-constant motion.
we had eight instruments in tune, eight binders of music settled on
eight stands, and eight pairs of eyes in contact, the ensemble launched
into the Raff. Given our new and disconcerting acoustic (Mother Nature
furnishes no reverb), the Players leaned in, watching, listening, and
focusing with the sort of attention that adrenaline and acoustic
uncertainty readily provide. Our pages flew about in the breeze and the
sun indiscriminately shone in our eyes, but we held to one another when
the musical going got tough. The Raff is a roller coaster of emotional
content, and it was a pleasure to ride it with my colleagues.
performance and its environment appear to me, even at this early stage
of my Fellowship Program experience, to be quintessential CMW. We offered our music to a
new audience that day, and several of the people we met were so
enthusiastic as to donate on the spot. We took on a performance that
that would stretch and challenge our understanding of the music, and we
learned volumes from the experience. We made new connections in our
neighborhood and took a step toward expanding the space that the arts
occupy in our local landscape, and I’m excited for our neighborhood arts
adventures of the year to come.
The most recent creation of Geoff Hudson and Alisa Pearson, the wonderfully inventive team that brought the Bug Opera to Providence in 2006 and the Quartet Project in 2008, Quartetville is the place for string quartet musicians of all ages and
interests to connect, share, and learn from each other online! Upload
clips of your quartet, participate in regular challenges, and learn
from some of this country's best-known and most celebrated professional quartets.
Learn about Quartetville, including their exciting 50 State Challenge during the month of October, by clicking here.
Annalisa Boerner, Viola Fellow, hails from Columbus,
Ohio, where she grew up studying viola, playing chamber music and loving Ohio
State football. She spent six years in Cleveland, gaining her Bachelor of Music
degree and most recently completed her Master of Music degree at the Cleveland
Institute of Music. Annalisa grew up playing chamber music at the Chamber Music
Connection in Columbus. From 2010 to 2012, Annalisa served as the organization's Assistant Artistic Director.
Despite Cleveland's cliched mediocre
reputation, Annalisa will defend her favorite city to anyone who will listen,
and this year will be the first time living outside of her home state. In addition
to playing music, Annalisa enjoys cooking, and makes a
mean soup. She can also be found playing ultimate frisbee, painting,
thrifting, and drinking about six cups of coffee a day.
thoughts about the beginning of the Fellowship:
“I feel that I have thus far led a life of incredible
opportunity, and in my professional life I want to use my skills and experience
to create what opportunity I can for kids who were not given the same
advantages. Community-based non-profit
work appears to me to be a personally and artistically rewarding context for the practice of any of the fine arts, and in particular I
have come to believe that music has a unique capacity to unlock and reveal
potential in those who study and perform it.
I am happy to be entering a position where I can both play
music and act as a creative, thinking individual. I look forward to having the
opportunity to work with private students consistently over the next two
We're delighted to welcome Annalisa to CMW and the Fellowship Program!
Lauren Latessa, Cello Fellow, grew up in Cincinnati,
Ohio. Lauren earned a Masters degree in cello performance from Northwestern
University, where she studied with Hans Jensen. She received her Bachelor of Music degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music under the
guidance of David Hardy.
While at Peabody, Lauren was the Student Associate
Director of Creative Access, the
largest student run musical outreach organization in the United States. As a leader in this organization, she has
performed in many nontraditional settings, including hospices, nursing homes
and afterschool programs. In addition to
her musical pursuits, Lauren holds a BA honors diploma in the History of Art,
where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa with distinction from the Humanities Center
of the Johns Hopkins University. She is
very interested in the crossover between classical music and visual art and
enjoys any opportunity where she can combine her musical and visual art
Lauren says: “I first heard about CMW’s Fellowship Program
when I was a junior at Peabody. From
that first encounter, it sounded like a perfect position for me! I’ve always loved teaching and playing
chamber music and I have always believed that there was a strong connection
between music and social justice. I am
thrilled to be at CMW playing chamber music, teaching, and deepening my understanding
about the connection between music and social justice.”
Please join us in warmly welcoming Lauren to CMW and the Fellowship Program!
Part Three of an ongoing series of reflections by resident violinist Chase Spruill.
I hadn’t been having a whole lot of success setting up the new household during my first couple of weeks. After being met with various disasters, I was pretty set with the notion that at least having cable installed in one’s home should be a fairly simple process. However, after having my heart and expectations broken multiple times, I was losing hope for the thought that any process involving setting up your house could be a simple one. A few back-and-forth calls to the cable company finally yielded a technician sent to my house for the installation. The rest of the CMW staff was going to be gathering at a mixer after touring this year’s new teaching facility, Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts, but, admittedly, a few weeks without television had sent me into nervous twitches and a strange feeling of being disconnected from the rest of the world, so I was happy to wait during my window of 5 pm to 7 pm for the technician to show.
As 7:30 pm approached and there were no technicians in sight, I was imagining all the fun my coworkers must be having at the party, sharing stories, reading chamber music… The sky was getting dark, the minutes were rolling by, impending rehearsal dates for CMW were looming on the calendar, and I still had a lot of music to learn, so I pulled out my violin and decided to start getting some serious work done.
Fifteen minutes hadn’t gone by before I got a knock on the door and the Cable Company had showed up. I was face-to-face with a pleasant man named James who immediately apologized for being so behind on the schedule. After shaking hands and showing him inside, he took note of the violin laying on the couch.
“You a musician?” he asked. “On my better days, yeah.”
I’m always slightly confused when somebody sees a violin in my house next to a music stand and asks me whether or not I’m a musician. Perhaps they assume I’m about to creating some sort of wall installation? Or perhaps I’m a less talented Andy Warhol?
“You any good?” “I try to be. I work at it every day.” A stock answer, but a true answer. “Well, don’t let me stop you,” he said, setting down his tools and unpacking all his materials. “I love music. It won’t bother me one bit.”
I’m uncomfortable practicing around people I don’t know. It’s possible that I labor under the misconception that the general public believes that when a musician practices, they’ll be able to set up lawn chairs outside and enjoy a free concert. If they ever actually did that, I’m sure they’d be disappointed by the constant repetition and the squealing and the screeching as I try to learn Beethoven. So there’s always an initial embarrassment that I feel about doing the serious work I need to do in front of people who’ve never seen or heard a classical musician practice before.
About fifteen to twenty minutes passed before I started hearing drilling and hammering. It was a relatively comforting distraction where I actually felt free to sound bad (which is easy to do when you’re practicing, and most of what one might expect in the first few days of learning a piece). But as I tried to retain note patterns under my fingers, my brain kept switching back and forth to the cable installation in-progress and what problem I was destined to run into next. Finally, I set the violin back in its case and made my way into the other room to find James who was crouched into the corner of a wall.
He got up from his knees and walked me over to the window. “You see that cord hovering from the telephone pole, past the street light and over the roof? You see how it’s kind of hanging next to the wall of that house over there? Well, that’s not supposed to be like that. That means somebody cut it. The wire connects through the wall and into this outlet you see here. If there’s a TV that’s going to be in a different room, what I can do is connect a splitter, find a spot in the wall where I can drill through to the other room, feed it through, and connect it to the cable box and the modem.”
“So we don’t have to bracket the cable cord along the baseboards?” I asked, recalling past experiences, realizing that I probably didn’t really understand why all of that was actually being done. “You can do it like that. But this way will be easier."
James went through a couple more technical things with me, and I felt much better. I was finally having the experience of having something go about as right as it could possibly go, and I was understanding why things were happening the way they were.
He was finishing work up in the living by connecting our internet when I decided to start practicing again. A couple minutes later, he stopped me in between notes and asked, "So, do you understand what you’re seeing right there?"
“What, on the music?” “Yeah.” “Well… In a way, I guess I do.” “So, if you understand it, why do you practice?”
That’s a question I ask myself every now and again. “Well, because this is a new piece for me that I have to learn. I can understand the notes on the page and what they are, but I don’t know how to connect the material just yet… When I practice, I try to find a way to make the notes that are on the page work for me in a technical way so that I don’t run into a section of music that my hands don’t know… I guess that’s what my practicing really is—it’s me trying to get coordinated.”
“So why do you have to practice these notes before you have to play them if you can already read them?”
Another excellent question. “Well, this piece right here is actually one violin part in a piece written for four instruments. So, when I practice these notes, I do it before I get together with the other people to rehearse so we can talk about a bunch of other things, like, what we think of the piece, interpretation, pacing… That way, technique doesn’t keep us from talking about the stuff that represents what the composer is trying to say with the music they’ve written.”
“I love classical music, man… That stuff really gets to me. Sometimes it just takes me to, like, this other place in my brain. It’s such a great way to relax after work and life and kids… You gonna be playing this anytime soon?”
Almost in a flurry, images, words and voices from my first week at CMW began flooding through my head. Suddenly, the staff meetings and the sit-downs with the planning teams and the quick conversations in the storefront office all began to pull themselves together in a meaningful way. I was free from the anxiety of information overload, and I became an agent for my new workplace:
…You know, there’s this cool project we're undertaking this season… …It’s possible you’ll find us in a rehabbed house converted into a temporary concert venue… …It’s about bringing music to the community as a force for good…
I could talk about the mission of CMW in a way that truly helped me understand the path I’m walking right now. I didn’t necessarily need to find a way to become a member of the community. I already was. And this was the conscious start of my own exploration into the same philosophy that brews in this strangely magical vortex on Westminster Street, and the journey of how to go deeper, positively affecting the community through music while having the community positive
ly affect you.
I’m unbelievably happy to be working with this group of dedicated, talented people, and I’m eager, through my time here working with them, to see what product is born come this time next summer. I hope you’ll take that journey with me, and offer me your voice, your ears, and your heart.
Part Two of an ongoing series of reflections by resident violinist Chase Spruill.
“The first thing you should know is that, at the end of this week, if you feel like your head is going to explode and you’re going to fall into a seizure because of all the information we’re about to throw at you, that’s totally okay.” That came from CMW's founder Sebastian Ruth who was sitting across from me at a long conference table on the third floor of the office space on Westminster Street that CMW rents.
I had watched videos and interviews and read articles about Sebastian and company long before I showed up, and so it was interesting to be sitting with members of the staff face-to-face. They’re just as fashionable and just as warm as they come off on interview footage in the news or on YouTube. “I told Chloe to tell you ‘If, at the end of the week, Chase feels massively disoriented and like his head is going to explode, let him know that that’s okay.’” Chloe Kline, CMW's Education Director, was sitting on the other side of the table, smiling and nodding along in agreement. “That said—” she laid out a massive red binder in front of me full of various reading materials and detailed contracts and compendiums,”—welcome to Community MusicWorks.”
As it turns out, my first week learning about CMW was going to be about way more than small technical things, like learning when schedules come out and how to check email. It was going to be about ingesting the various concepts that have been growing and living inside of the organization since its inception. Running alongside that moving vehicle can feel daunting enough, but then, trying to jump on board when other new CMW projects are coming to the fore can feel like an equally trying task.
After signing my name on the dotted line, I committed to being a part of the team and to bring energy and creativity to my job. But when you learn that so much of that job ends up depending on knowing things about the community, what do you bring to the table when you don’t feel like you’re an actual part of the community yet and have no idea how to achieve that? And when it happens, do you know it? Can you feel it? Does someone send you an official letter in the mail letting you know that you’ve achieved community status? (to be continued…)
Part One of an ongoing series of reflections by resident violinist Chase Spruill.
When you take a new job, there are certain things as a responsible new member of the team that you want taped on your chest when the Taxi drops you off on the company doorstep. For one, know your acronyms. Every company has their own lingo and the best way to feel like you can contribute to the information being hurled around in conversations and meetings is to know what in the world they’re talking about. Still, though, you won’t know everything, and it’s best not to panic. Secondly, accept the fact that you’ll probably mess up…a lot. You’ll want to minimize the damage you do to other people’s work due to being ignorant of the way their world works, but nonetheless, you don’t know anything until you know it. And third, don’t feel bad if you don’t make friends. You can’t force it. People who’ve been working together for a long time already have a relationship with one another, and it’s got nothing to do with you, but eventually, hopefully, it will…
These are some of the thoughts that spun through my head between my three connecting flights in the middle of August 2012 en route to Providence, Rhode Island from Sacramento, California. No one knows you and you don’t know them. And if that isn’t anxiety enough, your family is going to be joining you in this adventure in three short weeks, and you still don’t officially have a place to stay. When I first accepted this job, Heath Marlow—CMW's Managing Director who first contacted me about potentially applying—had urged me to be in contact with members of the community. I was advised to ask about housing, ask about neighborhoods, places to eat, grocery stores, day care, breathing, and on, and on, and on… All really good stuff, except no one in Providence knew me, and I didn’t know them. I wasn’t a member of the community. How could I impose? That wasn’t my thing. Perhaps, when they get to know me, if they like me, maybe I could have those conversations. But only once I know I’ve become a member of the community. But how does one do that? What a hefty task to undertake, and lo and behold, it’s in your job description. And how do you know when it actually happens? Is it something at which you can actually succeed?
Between the takeoff of my plane at Sacramento International Airport at 7 am on August 10, and the time I actually landed in Providence on August 11 at 2 am the next day, a series of disasters had struck. A storm came in and cancelled a few of my connecting flights. I was rerouted to Washington D.C., only to have another flight cancelled. The newly rescheduled flight had been oversold and seats were all messed up, and to add insult to injury, they decided it would be a good idea to fly me straight into a lightning storm. All the things you love to go through when you’re like me and have slight hesitations about travelling by air. And through all of this, I had been wondering if this were some kind of terrible omen about my weeks to come and my eventual year at this new job.
Surely enough, over the next few days, it was one disaster after another. The first place I looked at renting became a fiasco of comedic proportions. The second place I found and ended up renting wasn’t ready to be lived in and…well, as it would turn out, wouldn’t be ready for quite some time. I had received my first parking ticket because I didn’t realize there was no such thing as overnight parking in my new neighborhood. And half the furniture I bought ended up not being able to fit through my front door or any other door in the house.
If this was my first week in a new place, I couldn’t even begin to imagine what my first week at work was going to be like…
Community MusicWorks is a revolutionary organization.
- Alex Ross The New Yorker