Alternative Models Seminar


It was a real treat to be in the company of so many CMW family members recently for the annual Alternative Models fellowship seminar*. What a remarkable intentional community that welcomes the ongoing participation of so many interesting–and interested–individuals! By a quick count, I noticed 1. current staff members, 2. current board members, 3. current fellows, 4. former staff, 5. former board members, 6. former fellows, and even 7. a former student visiting while home from college on winter break. This learning community aspect of CMW–a culture of supporting professional colleagues–is probably one of the under-publicized aspects of the organization’s annual programming, and definitely one of my favorites!

–Heath Marlow
Director, Sistema Fellowship Resource Center
New England Conservatory

*Learn more about the Alternative Models Seminar on Heath’s blog.

Student Spotlight: Performance Party Preview Part 2

Our first Performance Party of the school-year is quickly approaching, so we’re sitting down with some students to ask them about their preparation for the event.  You can read part 1 of our Student Spotlight Series here.  In the following interview Laura Cetilia talks with her cello student Jay.


L: Have you played at a performance party before?

J: Yes, I have.

L: How many times?

J: I don’t know, I can’t remember but probably ever since I began.

L: You mean every year since you’ve been at CMW?

J: Yeah, every year.

L: Is this performance going to be different experience?

J: Yes.

L: Why?

J: Because I have to count everyone in.

L: Oh, for the cello quintet?

J: Yeah. Since I’m doing it for my solo piece with Sakiko I said, “Well, what the heck, I’ll do it.”

L: You volunteered?

J: Yes.

L: Wow! So you have a lot more responsibility?

J: Yes, plus I’m playing three times.

L: What are all the performances you’re doing?

J: I’m playing with Green Magic, my cello group, and I’m playing this song. (Humoresque by Dvorak)

L: Are you nervous about it?

J: Yeah.

L: How do you deal with your nerves?

J: I don’t. I dunno, it goes away. By the time I leave the stage I calm down. 

Join us for the Performance Party!
Friday, January 22 at 5pm
Calvary Baptist Church
747 Broad Street, Providence
A potluck supper will follow. Bring a dish to share!

Student Spotlight: Performance Party Preview

Our students are hard at work preparing for the upcoming Performance Party on Friday, January 22. An evening of music and food will celebrate the mid-point of a year of music-making at Community MusicWorks. CMW fellow Josie Davis recently talked with two of her violin students Ella and Genesis about how they will go about preparing for the concert. 

Ella Hidalgo

Interview with Ella: (Ella is preparing May Song from Suzuki Book 1)

What do you like about May Song?

It’s fast and energetic and it’s fun to play! It makes me feel happy and joyful!

What are you doing to prepare for the Performance Party?

I am going to practice for 20 minutes every day. I listen to the recording my teacher made for me of May Song and I try to play along. I am also working on playing the piece from memory.

Do you like performing?

Yes! Because I get used to having an audience and playing in front of people.

How old were you when you first started taking lessons at CMW?


Why did you decide to play the violin?

Because I thought it would be a fun instrument to learn and I wanted to play different kinds of fun pieces.

What’s your favorite CMW memory?

When we got to perform at the end-of-year Gala last Spring.

Genesis Pulgar

Interview with Genesis (Genesis will perform Andantino from Suzuki Book I)

What do you like about Andantino?

I like how the accents are written–they add joy. I also like how the piece has similar notes and rhythms throughout. I feel like it’s a happy piece. Especially when I play on the E string because the high-pitch section sounds flowing.

What are you doing to prepare for the Performance Party?

I go home most days and practice Andantino for around 15 minutes. I try to go through the more difficult parts.

Do you like performing?

Yes, because it gives me more confidence in everything I do.

How old were you when you first started taking lessons at CMW?

8 years-old!

Why did you decide to play the violin?

Some of the songs I liked to listen to would have the violin, so I decided it would be fun to learn how to play.

What’s your favorite CMW memory?

When all of the students went on a retreat. We played fun games and got to meet new people.

Join us for the Performance Party!
Friday, January 22 at 5pm
Calvary Baptist Church
747 Broad Street, Providence
A potluck supper will follow. Bring a dish to share!

Jessie Montgomery on Wall Street

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Over the winter break I had the opportunity to join a string orchestra led by former CMW Resident Musician Jessie Montgomery in a concert featuring Jessie’s own compositions at New York City’s historic Trinity Wall Street. It was an exciting way to bring 2015 to a close, and it was a great chance to spend time with Jessie and celebrate her work!

–Adrienne Taylor, Resident Musician and Director, Daily Orchestra Program

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Watch the full concert here.

Lauren Latessa: Lifelong Vibrant Community

This month in our Not Far from the Tree Series, former  CMW “Cello Fellow” Lauren Latessa checks in with a report on her moving and important work with the elderly in Maryland:

Landow Performance

Hello dear CMW friends and Happy 2016!

 Last February I took a position as the Musician-in-Residence for a retirement community in Rockville, MD.  It was a brand new position, and I’ve spent the past year creating a music program for the elderly based on many of the same principles on which CMW is built.  Here I run daily group classes and work individually with residents.  Additionally I run and perform on a chamber music series that has concerts on campus once a month.

Thanks to a Tarisio Trust Young Artist Grant, I was recently lucky enough to have Emmy Holmes Hicks and Ealain McMullin, now heading the Newport String Project, along with violist Isabella Mensz here for a week-long Chamber Music Festival featuring the music of Mozart and Dvorak. Here are some highlights from our week together.

Day 1:

Open Rehearsal – Residents were able to observe the quartet as they rehearsed and learn a little more about the musical process.

Q&A with the Quartet – During this question and answer session we had a fantastic discussion about the role of musicians in society and the importance of teaching kids to pass on musical traditions. Emmy and Ealain shared insight about their work with the Newport String Project in Newport, RI.

Recital: Music from the Ring House Songbook – This event was particularly special because it featured music that was chosen by Ring House residents. Twice a month, I lead a sing-along with residents at Ring and during this time we’ve been putting together a Ring House Songbook. All of the music featured in this recital came from the Songbook and included some of the Ring residents’ best-loved ballads. Many of the melodies were new to our festival musicians, and they learned so much about them from residents.

Day 2:

Open Rehearsal

Lecture/demonstration on Dvorak’s American Quartet – We explored Dvorak’s life and experiences and played excerpts from the quartet to highlight how he translated experiences and emotions into his music.

CMF Masterclass 12.15.2015, 3

Master Class – This was a particularly thrilling event for residents. During the class, two young cellists from a local high school performed and received feedback from our festival artists. The evening had a very welcoming and encouraging feel! After each student played, residents noticed their improvement and clapped and cheered. This was an inspiring day for all. In particular, it allowed residents to see more of what it takes to gain expertise with an instrument and how the right guidance can make all the difference.

Day 3:

Exploring Jewish Music – Emmy, Ealain and Isa joined our weekly Exploring Jewish Music class as observers and learners. They were all moved by how passionately the residents spoke about music that is close to their hearts. For this special class we discussed the question, “What is Jewish Music?” and focused on four examples: Shema, Kol Nidre, Bei Mir Bistu Shein, and Jerusalem of Gold.

Recital- This was the capstone event of the week! The quartet performed the music of Dvorak and Mozart for 125 residents, friends and family. It was a captivating evening.

Day 4:

Cohen-Rosen House Recital – Cohen-Rosen House provides the highest level of memory care on the campus, serving older adults with advanced cognitive needs. Because of this, I was not sure what to expect from the quartet’s visit to the residence. Part of me was preparing for a half-hour session where we would just play, but not actually interact much with residents.

But, this couldn’t have been farther from what happened. This performance turned out to be the most powerful thing that happened all week. It was a stirring moment when residents used their instruments (drums, egg shakers, tambourines) to connect thoughtfully with us. Some residents cannot converse easily, but they were nonetheless communicating and helping us to create something significant as we performed the first movement of Dvorak’s American Quartet. It’s hard to describe the impact of that moment, but all of us—quartet members, residents and staff members—could feel it. Together we produced an experience more inspiring than any of us could of have done individually.


Part of what excited me most about this particular performance was that it demonstrated how classical music might have a stronger presence in memory-care facilities. There is much well supported research on the benefits of performing recognizable popular and folk music for this population.  We saw first-hand the potential of using classical music to engage residents in the creative process, even those living with advanced stages of dementia.

Responses from residents:

Toby Loewy'S drawing of a CMF performer

“When I heard the string quartet my first reaction was that these musicians truly love and enjoy what they are playing. This Chamber Music Festival introduced me and us all at Ring House to the magic and beauty of chamber music.”

From members of the Chamber Music Festival Committee: “You know, most of us just sit around feeling like we are no longer needed. But this project has helped me to see that there are beautiful things to do in the world.”

From a community member: “This is all so wonderful. They are playing [music] with great sensitivity and beauty. What a distinguished group—and social service-minded to boot! CESLC may be unique in the USA and even the world in being able to offer something like this to residents.” 

Personal reflections: I realize the CMW community already knows this, but one of the wonderful things about chamber music is that it challenges both listeners and musicians to continue to grow. A one-time experience of a piece of chamber music may be exciting, but its real power comes from spending time with it and exploring its complexity and depth. At CMW, I saw how chamber music can foster a vibrant community and I am beyond excited to begin to see the same kinds of effects here!

The societal view of our elderly is changing rapidly as physicians and healthcare provides begin to recognize the importance of quality of life.  I believe that programming like our Chamber Music Festival is crucially important in establishing the type of living environment that we all want for our elders and for ourselves.  Moving forward, I am excited to explore this new paradigm!


Sending love from Maryland and missing you all!  Have a happy and healthy 2016!

–Lauren Latessa, CMW Fellow 2012-2014

Read more about Lauren and other Fellowship Program alums here.
Learn more about the Fellowship Program here.
Images are from Lauren Latessa and the Charles E. Smith Life Communities