Concert Preview: Melody Unchained

Mark your calendars for December 12 and 13!  We are all looking forward to Melody Unchained, an upcoming performance featuring CMW Players Sebastian Ruth, Chase Spruill, Kate Outterbridge and Adrienne Taylor, along with special guests, members of CMW’s Phase 3 chamber ensemble, and several CMW alumni.


Martin Boyce, When Now Is Night, 2002. Photo: Photographic Services. Courtesy of the Artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich; Johnen Galerie, Berlin and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

The ensembles will be performing as part of the RISD Museum exhibit “When Now is Night.”  In this exhibit visual artist Martin Boyce is reimagining and reinterpreting natural forms.  One of Boyce’s inspirations for creating this kind of work is music made popular in the early-to-mid 19th century which gave way to the language of hard-hitting post-minimalist pop music that we know so well today.  But where does the practice of today’s popular music have its roots?  CMW presents an intensive, parallel musical exploration for one night only inside of this magnificent contemporary exhibit, spanning over 300 years of related musical history, and offering a bridge into the world and structure of today’s popular music.  Trust us, Melody Unchained will be an event not to be missed!

The program will include the following:
John Bull: Variations on “Walsingham” for solo harpsichord
Arnold Schoenberg: excerpts from String Quartet no.2
Alex North:  Unchained Melody
Michael Nyman:  String Quartet no.1 and music from “Drowning by Numbers”

To learn more and register for the event (seating is limited!) click the link below:
–Chase Spruill (Resident Musician)


Workshop with Festival Ballet: Expression through Movement


I have always been inspired by the connection between dance and music.  Growing up my first exposure to live music was seeing Atlanta Ballet productions of the great hits such as Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.  I was transfixed by the dancing and the talented musicians in the pit orchestra (including my then-violin teacher).  Still today ballet music is some of my favorite music of all time, and though I’m not a dancer myself I have a great appreciation for the many connections and interactions between our two professions.

As you can imagine I was very excited for Community MusicWorks students to witness and learn more about this connection up close and personal this past Tuesday evening.  Students and teachers braved the rainy evening and gathered in the lobby of the Holy Ghost School for a workshop with the dancers of Festival Ballet Providence.  They presented three dances from their upcoming performance  “Up Close On Hope”  (Nov. 13th-22nd), accompanied by CMW Resident Musician Adrienne Taylor and CMW Fellow Hannah Ross.  Our students made very keen observations about the dances, picking up emotions from the gestures and asking poignant questions about the choreographing process and the life of a dancer.


Then the real fun began!  Dividing into two groups, half of our students learned an 8-beat dance, while the other half learned to play an 8-beat melody on their instruments.  The workshop culminated in a performance of the music with the dancers, during which a relentlessly quickening tempo eventually dissolved into joyous laughter from everyone!

Throughout the evening I was thrilled to see so many students smiling, engaged, and seeing their musicianship in a whole new light.  Many thanks to Festival Ballet for this valuable experience!

–Lisa Barksdale, Resident Musician

Photos by Stephanie Ewens – Click here to see more!

Watch a short clip from the grand finale of our workshop here:

Not Far From the Tree: A Letter from Carole Bestvater

Hello from St. John’s!!

Well, I must say.

What a year it has been!

Many of you already are familiar with my exclamation marks and bubbling voice, but some of you reading this blog post may not be.  It constantly blows my mind that time continues to move forward, even though it feels like I lived in Providence just yesterday. Since participating in the Fellowship program from ’09-’11, CMW and the souls that make it so special have never been too far from my thoughts.

For the past two seasons, I have been piloting a program called the Suncor Energy Strings Program through the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Orchestra.  It was an interesting juxtaposition between the El Sistema and Community MusicWorks models.  Last spring, the scheduled conclusion of funding from our primary sponsor came to its end, leaving me at a turning point. 

I made the decision to step out on my own, to continue to grow the mission of this program independently.  It felt like the right direction to take- it would enable the program to be its own artistic and cultural entity, and work towards the social and musical goals that are at the heart of this community music program.  After much deliberation and thinking, Strong Harbour Strings came to be.  The change came with encouragement and support from the NSYO.  We continue to find ways to work together as community partners.

There are currently 20 students in Strong Harbour Strings, most of whom have been with us since the beginning of the program, when it was the Suncor Energy Strings Program.   They stayed because they love music, because they love learning, because they thrive under the mentorship of the teaching artists, because they are getting good and want to keep on getting good, because they are a community now and have made important friends that they only see at music lessons.  They stayed because they didn’t know how curious they were, and now the floodgates have been opened.


Each student comes twice a week, once for individual instruction, and once for chamber music.  This year, we are starting even the beginning-est of beginners in chamber groups, because we want to teach them from the start that their voice is important, that their part matters, and that among many other things music is about communication and growing together.


The Teaching Artists with Strong Harbour Strings are also the members of my String Quartet.   The Strataphoria String Quartet was an independent project, but it is my hope that Strong Harbour Strings will become a viable career option for not only the quartet but for other professional musicians in Newfoundland and Labrador.

It’s all very exciting.  Things are still stabilizing, but there is a palpable energy in the air that reassures me that everything is going to work out.   At every corner, I meet more people who are excited to support this program and offer encouragement along the way.

In between setting up Strong Harbour Strings and developing a String Quartet, I also got married!  In June 2014, I tied the knot with Sheldon surrounded by both of our incredibly large families.  We then drove 3,000 km from SK to NL (including an 8 hour ferry from Nova Scotia to the west coast of Newfoundland) to put down a few roots together in St. John’s.   You’ll all meet Sheldon, someday, I promise!

Sending all my love to all of you!

Many hugs,
CMW Violin Fellow ’09-’11

To learn more about Carole Bestvater’s work you can visit the Strong Harbour Strings website.  You can also watch a short interview she did recently for a local TV station

Aware Engagements: Musicians at Work in the 21st Century

Aware Engagements: Musicians at Work in the 21st Century

New England Conservatory’s Music in 2050 presents a conversation about the future of music, musicians, and music schools with Sebastian Ruth, MacArthur Foundation Fellow and founder of Community MusicWorks. Students, faculty, and staff—all are welcome. Please join our conversation!

Thursday, November 19, 2:30—4:00 pm
New England Conservatory
Jordan Hall building, room 118
30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA 02115

Sebastian Ruth is a professional musician and educator committed to exploring connections between the arts and social change. He is the Founder and Artistic Director of Community MusicWorks, a nationally recognized organization that connects professional musicians with urban youth and families in Providence, RI. In 2010, Sebastian was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for “creating rewarding musical experiences for often-forgotten populations and forging a new, multifaceted role beyond the concert hall for the twenty-first-century musician.”

NEC’s Music in 2050 is dedicated to exploring the role of music, musician, and conservatory in a drastically changing world. Our inquiry springs from the urgent need to understand the future opening before us, and to imagine how music will be shared, how musicians must engage, and what musicians must know in a world shaped by the cultural, economic, and natural forces we now see converging. Music in 2050 is first and foremost a Conservatory-wide dialogue, energized by the culture of diversity that defines NEC, and devoted to inspiring change where change is vital, conservancy where traditions enrich, and innovation to challenge both, all in service to the art and the extended communities that bind us.


Bach Week In Review

Bach Around The Clock has come to an end, and it was a wonderful week for us!  From our performances at Providence College and the John Carter Brown Library, to our more casual guerrilla-style performances in all kinds of places around the city, to the transformative experience of Bach To The Future III (the all night long Bach marathon at Brown University), we very much enjoyed spending our week steeped in Bach.

We also enjoyed seeing many of you in the audience, catching up with friends, meeting new friends, and providing small moments of musical beauty in unexpected places around the city.

In case you missed us, here are a couple of snapshots from the week:


CMW Players took to the stage at Providence College in attire fitting the spirit of October 31st!  We celebrated the changing of seasons with two of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and two of Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, in addition to a gorgeous Bach Cantata, featuring our friend Fred Jodry as soloist, and a Bach Concerto with student soloists.  (photo by Laura Cetilia)



With Halloween shenanigans behind us we performed the same program at the John Carter Brown Library on Brown University campus.  (photo by CMW parent Tresavan McClary)


As part of Bach Around Town Lisa Barksdale performed Bach’s E Major Partita for Solo violin at CAV Restaurant.


Chase Spruill performed selections from Bach’s D minor Partita for solo violin under the very resonant dome of the State House.  (photo by Lisa Barksdale)






For our third ArtPlace Inhabit event of the season CMW Players performed Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D Major with CMW students Alana Perez and Heather Arguenta as soloists at La Lupita Tacos Mexicanos.  (photo by Bryony Romer)


Bach to the Future III ran from 7:00 PM Friday November 6th all the way until 7:00 AM the following morning.  Around 4:15 AM Sebastian Ruth revived the audience with a lively performance of Bach’s Suite No. 1 played on the viola.  (photo by Lisa Barksdale)

Many many thanks to everyone who came out for any of these performances!  We have some exciting new projects in the future, so stay tuned and check the CMW Events Calendar to see what’s coming up next!

–Lisa Barksdale (Resident Musician)