This Sunday: The Fred Kelley Scholarship Concert


Dear Friends,

We invite you to celebrate the memory of a great friend and to support the Fred Kelley Scholarship Fund. Join us this Sunday, May 2 at 2 pm at the RISD Museum Grand Gallery for a performance by the Donegal String Quartet, featuring CMW Players EmmaLee Holmes-Hicks, Ealaín McMullin, Jesse Holstein and special guest Heath Marlow.

Fred Kelley, a CMW supporter who loved chamber music, passed away after a brief illness in 2007. Fred’s son, Mike, is a member of the ensemble in residence for the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music in Nelson, New Hampshire. Apple Hill’s central mission is to bring people of diverse backgrounds and cultures together to study and perform chamber music together through their Playing for Peace program. It seemed a fitting tribute to form the Fred Kelley Scholarship Fund to honor his memory.

The Community MusicWorks Fred Kelley Scholarship helps to send CMW students to Apple Hill to study chamber music with friends from all over the world. Last year, the Fund was able to send six students to Apple Hill in August.

This year, we have the largest number of applicants to date. With tuition running at $1,700 per student to attend the ten-day chamber music workshop, the Scholarship Fund needs your support. 100% of your tax-exempt donation will go to sending a CMW student to Apple Hill this summer. No donation is too small (or too big!).

We hope to see you there!

Jesse, EmmaLee, Heath and Ealaín

The Annual Fred Kelley Scholarship Concert

featuring The Donegal String Quartet

performing the works of Haydn, Beethoven, and Cole Porter

EmmaLee Holmes-Hicks and Ealaín McMullin, violins

Jesse Holstein, viola

Heath Marlow, cello

Sunday, May 4 at 2:00 pm

RISD Museum Grand Gallery

224 Benefit St, Providence, RI

Sunday offers free admission to the museum

and free street parking.

Phase II Youth Salon: Reflections on Connection in a High Speed World

Malachy Youth Salon Poster

As many of you may already be aware this year's Youth Salon is fast approaching. For Phase II that means it's crunch time and we'll all be brainstorming as much as possible to bring a thought-provoking experience to our audience. For everyone else that means the chance to participate in a night of music and discussion that should be a glimpse into the process of idea generating and dinner time camaraderie that is a staple of Phase II. This year we are hoping to bring as immersive an experience as possible. Our audience will be as much a part of presenting our thoughts on the theme as we will be. At least that's the idea.

Speaking of the theme, this year's youth salon title is Reflections on Connections in a High Speed World. If our discussions have been any indication, this promises to be a topic approachable from many different directions. We've been focusing our recent work on developing questions and discussion guiding techniques that should yield the most juicy conversation. With a diverse audience, many of whom, unlike ourselves, grew up before the age of the internet there will be a much broader range of opinions. The idea of digital communication is a fascinating new dimension of modern life that carries with it a great spectrum of ideas. If you enjoy music, discussion, spoken word poetry, avant-garde theater or good food this will be the event for you.

-Liam, Phase II

Phase II Selfie

Phase II Youth Salon:

An Evening of Dinner, Discussion and Music

Reflections on Connection in a High Speed World

Friday, May 2 at 7 pm

Bell Street Chapel


Daily Orchestra Program: Meet James

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A few Fridays ago I sat down for a short interview with one of the violinists of the Daily Orchestra Program. James is nine years old, in the third grade, and attending Young & Woods Elementary School. He is a friendly, active, energetic young man, and I’m so thrilled that our blog readers will have this small chance to get to know him a little bit better. I hope you enjoy meeting James here. We hope to see you soon in person at our next concert!

~Lisa Barksdale

LB: So, James, you were one of our very first students in the Daily Orchestra Program, and now you’re in our second-year “Beethoven Orchestra.” What do you like about being in orchestra?

JJ: I choose to play music because it’s fun and other people are playing. It’s not like you’re the only person that plays the violin. It’s an orchestra. It’s fun meeting other people who play nice instruments that we don’t really see. (I believe he’s talking about some of our guest artists who have brought unusual or unfamiliar instruments to share with the group). It’s nice seeing people who play the violin for a lot of people, and it’s nice because other people are in the program. And because other people help me and help me. . . and sometimes I can be a little naughty and stuff (here James has a somewhat bashful look), BUT they still help me and make sure I do the songs, and if I need help on the songs they can help me.

LB: That’s so good to hear!

JJ: It’s very expire. . .expiretive?. . .expired? Wait, no not expired. . .

LB: Inspired?

JJ: Inspired! – for me because it’s fun playing all types of different music. Even though we have to work on the new music, when everyone in the orchestra and I play with other people it feels fun, and knowing that I can play all types of places when I get bigger and I can play for a lot of people – for the president! – and all kinds of places!

LB: Wow. James, I think you’ve actually answered a lot of my questions in one big sentence. Thank you! Now I want to ask what is your favorite piece of music that we’re working on right now?

JJ: Does it just have to be one?

LB: Doesn’t have to just be one I guess! I kinda want to know your most favorite.

JJ: It would probably be “The Blues” and then the second one “Goblin Cobbler.”

LB: Ah! Cool.

JJ: And I’m still learning how to play “William Tell.”

LB: And what do you like most about the violin?

JJ: I like. . . hmm. . . the sound of it. And when I play with my violin and when other people have their violin it sounds like one big violin orchestra.

LB: Okay, and this next one might be a hard question – What is your least favorite thing about the violin?

JJ: Huh. . . uh. . .putting on the sponge!

LB: Ha! Ya know, I don’t really like that part either! Wouldn’t it be easier if we didn’t have to do that sort of thing? Okay, so today is Friday. What does a usual Friday look like for you?

JJ: We make up stuff. On Fridays the whole orchestra with the “Brittens” (nickname for our first-year orchestra) come together and we can make up anything. On Mondays everyone has to be in the violin section, viola section, or cello section, but on Fridays everybody is next to other people who play violin, cello, or viola, and then when you play something and we repeat what you play it sounds very different because you’re not next to someone who plays the same instrument.

(On Fridays we branch out from our regular orchestra formation and instead form a large circle for improvisation games. We try to mix it up so that people can stand or sit next to people/instruments they normally wouldn’t sit next to.)

LB: Hmmmm. I like that about Fridays too. I think people might be interested to know what other kinds of things you like to do in your spare time?

JJ: In my spare time I probably would play Blues and then if I’m in the mood I probably would play William Tell.

LB: In your spare time you’d like to practice the violin??

JJ: Yeah.

LB: Wow! I wish all my students were like you! But what about if you can’t practice your violin or you’re not in music. What do you like to be doing?

JJ: Sports. Playing outside with my friends. I have a game but I don’t really like sitting down games. I like to get active and get outside and play!

LB: I like that too! I also hear that you’re quite a basketball fan.

JJ: Yes.

LB: I’m not a basketball player, but I have a question I’ve always wanted to ask – I’ve always wondered how the basketball players are able to get the ball in the basket no matter where they are on the court? I’ve never been able to do that. How do you think they learn how to do that?

JJ: A lot of practice! And. . . when I get bigger and I’m in college I want to play the violin and basketball!

LB: Okay! And our very last question – if you could describe yourself using one word what word would that be?

JJ: Happy!

Jonathan Biss: An Artist of the World

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Pianist Jonathan Biss performs a benefit concert for Community MusicWorks on Friday, April 18 at 8 pm at the RISD Museum Metcalf Auditorium. Tickets for this event are available online here.

Guest writer Jill Pearlman recently spoke to Jonathan about the event and his connection to CMW:

It's not enough to be only a concert pianist these days, says concert pianist Jonathan Biss. It is not enough to be hailed as one of the best of your generation, as he is. It's narrow stuff, having your tails dusted off before stepping onto stage at Carnegie Hall. It's a new world, and Biss, who will be performing for CMW on April 18, has his sleeves rolled up, ready for it.

"The concert performer as a cloistered phenomenon is rapidly becoming extinct and that's a good thing," Biss says with characteristic brio. 

Biss' perspective is remarkably wide and all-encompassing. For him, an artist of the world means not only traveling internationally but being online, working in communities, plunging into new zones for the love of his art. If his goal is to communicate with the utmost of passion, he needs a passionate audience to relate to. And that's his mission.

Biss is 33. One feels that his prodigy and personality found itself when he was young, and while it has deepened, has not really changed. He is brilliant and hyper-articulate, warm and driven to share the expanse of his world. 

One of Biss' current obsessions is Beethoven – he has embarked on a path of recording the composer's 32 piano sonatas, one CD a year over nine years. Biss' appetite for a new, freer role for the musician/composer has a model in the master. In an online course that Biss teaches, he speaks of Beethoven's breaking loose from the old role of court composer and musical servant, and living by his wits as a freelancer without steady support. The freedom was bracing, and led to legendary and radical creativity.

The classical world is in hard times now. Audiences are getting smaller and smaller. The music runs after larger audiences by offering crowdpleasers that aren't terribly challenging. Crisis has brought urgency, and as deep and rapid as it is, it has the possibility for radical change.

"The old models aren't working as they did before," Jonathan says. "We are all ripe for a conversation. I'm not rejoicing in anyone's struggle but I do think it's good to be forced to question ourselves. What's working, what's not. To be forced to evaluate everything.

"We are being asked to be ambassadors for our art. Have a different role in culture and society. Asked to think about the role of music on the people who are listening. People with passionate interests can find one another. You find your way to your audience. To what you can communicate with passion."

Biss has Rodin-like hands, long creating fingers that have a romantic warmth. Online, on the free Coursera class via Curtis School of Music he plays and speaks to people who "suspect they could love classical music but don't understand the language. Unless you speak it, you don't love it." In the course, he exposes people to a performer's relationship to the music with all its layers and complexities, allowing us to hear music in a way that we hadn't previously.

Community MusicWorks is close to Biss’s heart, for the way it engages people from the ground up, art as life and life as art. Biss met former CMW Managing Director Heath Marlow when he was 14 at summer camp. "I instantly thought CMW was a fantastic idea," he says. "I was attracted to the idea of thinking about the role of the musician in the community. The model that they've established is so right-headed and inspired. The best thing I could hope for would be if it were replicated in every community across the U.S." 

"CMW musicians play on such a high caliber. They have impact on the communities which they've chosen. What they do is different than outreach, a word I hate. They have chosen a life's work through music."

To celebrate that, Biss plays a benefit concert for CMW following the release of each year's Beethoven CD. Scheduling prevented him from appearing last year, so momentum is now building for the April 18 concert when Biss will salute CMW and the release of Beethoven Sonatas, Vol. 3. He will play two sonatas as well as selections from Janacek and Chopin.

Of Sonata Opus 10, no. 2, Biss says, "It doesn't get played for some reason as often as it should.  It is distinguished by fantastic wit, almost Haydnesque.  It is marked by the relish to surprise, a sense of wit and sense of play." The other will be the famous Waldstein sonata, which he performs on the latest CD. "The Waldstein is so ubiquitous it was hard for me to hear it with open ears. But I have rediscovered it. It is an extraordinary masterpiece. There is so much mystery and wonder. Of looking out at infinity, stumbling towards an infinity in space. It is heroic as fits the middle period, but it has a searching quality.

"The sonatas are monumental and mysterious enough to be able to accommodate infinite points of view," says Biss. "They are, indeed, endlessly interesting. The player never comes to a point where you think, now I know it.  They always reveal some other aspect." He pauses in wonder, then laughs. "By the time I finish the ninth CD, it will probably be time to start over again."

-Jill Pearlman

Providence-based writer Jill Pearlman worked in music journalism in New York for over a decade. She's currently tapping some of her experiences for her novel, Clio's Mobile Home.

Photo of Jonathan Biss by Benjamin Ealovega.


Jonathan Biss, piano
A benefit for Community MusicWorks

Friday, April 18 at 8 pm

RISD Museum Metcalf Auditorium
Admission: $25 general, $50 preferred, and $100 benefactor
Buy tickets online here.