Listening Transforms: CMW’s Year-End Appeal

Give to our Year-End Appeal:
Become Part of the Transformation!

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Community MusicWorks’ mission is to create a cohesive urban community through music education and performance that transforms the lives of children, families, and musicians. But how have we made these transformations happen? How can we develop an audience, connect with a teenager, change a city? How can professional musicians be transformed alongside their students?

By listening…


Community MusicWorks was founded on the very idea that transformation can happen only when we really listen, when we set aside preconceptions and open ourselves to hear possibilities and potential, to appreciate something different. In the words of the great Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki, “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”

By programming works that are new to us, in addition to the beloved chestnuts, we are challenging ourselves to open our collective ears to new experiences. By understanding and incorporating each student’s interests into lessons, we are able to encourage and inspire. By partnering with other community organizations, we can support the changes we are all trying to make in the community.


We have also been listening to you. To your applause at our performances, to your attention to our email updates, to your questions posed to our students and staff. Through that, and your thoughtful donations, you have been part of our transformation.

This 19th season is a special one for CMW. We are on the verge of another transformation, moving on from our “teenage” years. Like our high school seniors heading off to college, we are confident in what we have learned, but realize there is so much more to be done: uncharted music to be played, the next generation of students to mentor, and new audiences to connect with.



We hope you will join us in making our next transformation a reality by making a donation. Please consider a gift (or perhaps a multiple of 10, 100 or even 1,000!) of $19 to celebrate our 19th season, $30 towards our performances around Providence, $130 to recognize our students and their families, or any amount to support what you love best about Community MusicWorks – the people, performances, places, philosophy, and passion – and most of all, the listening.

I thank you for being part of CMW’s continued transformation.

Jesse Holstein
Associate Director/Senior Resident Musician


Great Expectations for The Daily Orchestra

Fridays at the Daily Orchestra Program: the best of times, the worst of times. The students are tired, hungry, and hyped. If you wonder what you were like when you were seven, come over on Friday and see for yourself.

The decibel level at Federal Hill House can be rock-concert loud, but the energy is positive. Here it is the end of the week, and Miss Adrienne and Miss Lisa are asking twenty five kids to line up! Not only line up, but then sit in a circle quietly, in name-tag-identified places, and wait for the class to begin.

How do they do it?

My answer is this: not only are Adrienne and Lisa talented teachers,  but  these kids already know the power of music – that its alluring, it’s an achievement, and it’s fun. Fridays are turned over to the latter,  and it succeeds more often than it fails.

What happens on Fridays? Who wants to play rhythm machine? Who wants to go first? 25 hands are up. Who wants to end it? 25 hands. Which instrument section is calm enough to deserve retrieving their instruments?

“Ok cellos, you can get your instruments. “

“Not so fast, violins!”

I have the privilege of being part of the Daily Orchestra Program on occasional Fridays. I started by simply bringing in instruments I have managed to scavenge and hold on to for years: African drums, keyboards, theramin, penny whistle, shaker eggs, harmonica, clarinet , kazoo, bongos. I try to introduce these instruments as credible music makers, and we talk a little each time about rhythm, melody, or harmony. Where does sound come from? How did people first make sound? Does silence exist? What if you only had yourself to make music? What if you have a friend to make music?

Mark at DOP 1 3:2015

A major step forward last this year was their willingness to “face the music”…..sit in small groups – trios or quartets – look each other in the eye, and take responsibility for contributing music they made and listening to each other.


Of course, rules are important to any group of 25 or so. The “Constitution” in this case includes simple acts of kindness: never criticize a friend, no such thing as a mistake, and more. Another is the growing respect they have toward music as a language of its own, that contains all the tensions and resolutions, that are part of all of their lives. 

What keeps me coming back? A constant is the boundless energy these kids devote to finding out who they are,  where they end, and where the world starts. Gradually, concepts of music and technique on their instruments sink in.

Will they be great musicians someday?  Who knows. I hope some will. But I do know that they will become young adults with more than average openness to the sounds of their neighborhood, the music around them,  and maybe even to the voices and feelings of their families and friends.

Sounds like a good first step in being part of a bigger community.

–Mark Hinkley
Community MusicWorks Board Member 

–Photos of Mark with Daily Orchestra Program students by Lisa Barksdale 

The Daily Orchestra Performs!


Last week students in the Daily Orchestra Program gave their first performance of the season at Federal Hill House before an audience of parents and friends. The program consisted of pieces played by the whole orchestra as well as two solos and a violin duet.


As I listened to the orchestra play Soon Hee Newbold’s Hiawatha I thought about how our conductorless orchestra of mostly 9 and 10-year-olds has grown over time and is now able to play in four parts, each section listening intently to the others in order to play together.  Maybe even more astonishing than their ability to play their own notes and rhythms together as a cohesive ensemble is the way students have grown to see themselves as essential parts of a working team.

When I have a moment to stand off to the side during a rehearsal and observe, I see students teaching each other, nominating each other to lead activities and congratulating each other on their achievements. Not only are students playing together as an orchestra, they are working together as a community.


–Adrienne Taylor (Daily Orchestra Program Director/Resident Musician)

Photos by Stephanie Ewens – Click here to see more of Stephanie’s fantastic photos of the Daily Orchestra Program concert 

Melody Unchained: Pop Music through the Ages


When RISD curator Dominic Molon and CMW Resident Musician Chase Spruill first met to talk about a potential musical collaboration that could temporarily live inside the contemporary exhibit “When Now is Night” by Martin Boyce, there were striking and immediate similarities of approach and aesthetic.  Visually, Boyce has spent a career not only reimagining and recreating natural forms that surround our everyday life, but has also been inspired by the work of other artists such as Saul Bass, who so effectively captured the spirit of anxiety and fear in a big city, and the sense of being lost in the “cage” of the grid for the opening title sequence of the film North by Northwest.


As the movie industry and the recording industry began to take prominence in the early-to-mid 20th century, a distinct musical language began to emerge alongside increasingly more evocative visual mediums.  But the practices and inspirations of the composers and musicians who’ve produced and created the language of today’s music in film, music in television, and even what we hear on the radio, might be connected to a single event which took place in 16th century Europe.

Join us for a series of intimate and intensive special events that explore the work of Martin Boyce which culminates into a parallel concert experience designed to trace the roots, aesthetics and rise of popular music with an experimental program comprising over 300 years of music history.


John Bull: Variations on “Walsingham” for solo harpsichord

Arnold Schoenberg: String Quartet no.2

Alex North: Unchained Melody

Michael Nyman: String Quartet no.1 and music from “Drowning by Numbers”

–Chase Spruill (Resident Musician)

All events take place at the RISD Museum

Thursday, December 10 at 5:00pm 
Gallery talk with Dominic Molon, RISD curator and Chase Spruill
Free with museum admission

Friday, December 11, 12:00-2:00pm 
Open rehearsal in the gallery
Free with museum admission
Saturday, December 12 at 7pm
Gallery concert
Admission is $30, $25 for museum members

Ticket reservations and information