CMW Senior Spotlight: Alana

As we enter the home stretch to the end of the 2015/16 school year we’ll be featuring a series of interviews with our graduating seniors here on the blog.  In today’s interview violin Fellow Josie Davis talks with violin student and Phase III member Alana about her time at CMW and her plans for the future.


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

I was 7 when I began playing violin with CMW.

Can you share a favorite CMW memory?

My favorite CMW memory is either the New York trip or a workshop with Daniel Bernard Roumain when he put his scroll on my head and played in that position on my head!

How has CMW shaped your life?

I could talk forever on this subject. CMW has sort of had the Butterfly Effect on me. If I hadn’t joined CMW, I would be a totally different person. I have learned the value of being in a community, have been fortunate to learn different aspects of music, and I have met amazing friends, who are both teachers and students. CMW has been the gateway to other outside experiences such as YUGA [Youth United for Global Action and Awareness] and Apple Hill which have impacted me greatly in their own ways. Through Phase 2, I have obtained the skills of public speaking and discussing topics with others that I probably wouldn’t normally have outside of the program. Music itself has made me a more empathetic person and learning it with other youth has a lot to do with that. Even on a smaller more practical level, learning music through CMW has benefited me in school too. I have always been more knowledgeable on musical concepts in my music courses at school. Basically, CMW has touched my life in every aspect.

Describe a performance highlight…

One of my favorite performance experiences was playing a duet with my long-time teacher, Sebastian Ruth during a Skillz Hour. We played Sonata I by Jean-Marie Leclair. The performance was strong and it’s one that I can vividly remember being fun. At the end of the performance, the crowd applauded and smiled. Jesse Holstein then took the mic and requested that the audience give us another round of applause. Then, Jesse highlighted his memory of a younger me that wanted to quit playing violin and went on to express how happy he was that I didn’t. It was really nice.

How will music be apart of your life next year and beyond?

I cannot see myself creating a career with music mostly because it is so hard to make it in that field. However, I do plan to still play, whether that be in a chamber group with friends or a local orchestra. I refuse to completely give up my playing after investing so much time into it and tapping into a talent that I genuinely enjoy.

What are your plans next year?

My plans right now are sort of up in the air. I will either be here in Rhode Island or in Portland, Oregon. Whichever destination, I will be studying English/Writing and music.


Alana in a 2014 performance of Gonzalo Grau’s Fantasia in New York City

Cultures in Harmony: William Harvey visits the Daily Orchestra Program

What is American culture?  This is the question violinist William Harvey asked the students of the Daily Orchestra Program to consider on Friday April 8th.  The answers ranged from “obesity” to “accepting of all different kinds of people.”  Using that question as a jumping off point William Harvey led the Daily Orchestra students in an hour-long workshop designed to provoke reflection and discussion on the topic.  This workshop was part of a year-long project by his nonprofit organization Cultures in Harmony.  William is spending the year visiting each of the 50 American states, asking citizens to reflect on American culture, leading workshops and performances on the topic, and documenting the experience along the way.  


Our students definitely had some strong opinions on this topic, but I could tell William was giving them things to consider that they had not thought about before.  They were intrigued.  They dazzled at the agility of his fingers as he played an elaborately ornamented version of the Star Spangled Banner, but then they thoughtfully pondered the question of “Is this piece American?”  “How could it not be, since it’s our National Anthem?!” was the response of some, but William took our minds one step further with “If the composer of the music was actually from England, can the music still be American?”  Good question!

What about the rap artist Silentó’s popular hit “Watch Me (Whip/NaeNae)”?  After William got our students dancing in their seats with his virtuosic solo violin rendition of the song, he asked us “Is the music Classical music?”  What if it’s played on a violin?  Does playing it on an instrument associated with classical music transfer the title of “Classical” to the music?  If it is Classical music, can it still be American?


As you might expect our students never came to a clear consensus on any of these questions, but that wasn’t really the point.  The point was to get them thinking about the question and to open their minds to questions they might not have considered before.  William Harvey certainly accomplished his mission, and I think he also won the heartfelt admiration of all of our students!  I’m sure we’ll be hearing more of their thoughts as the weeks continue.

As for me, like my students I’ve really come up with more questions than answers when pondering the topic.  Whether we are a melting pot or a mixing bowl, we are a vast and diverse nation.  We draw cultural influences and inspiration from everywhere, which can be a beautiful thing, except perhaps when we forget to acknowledge and honor the places and people from where those traditions came.  I would like to think that American culture is a culture in which you can comfortably ask the question “What is American culture,” never come up with a clear answer, but somehow still feel at peace with that lack of clarity, comforted that if nothing else ours is a culture that provides ample space for its wide variety of people and opinions.

–Lisa Barksdale, Resident Musician

You can read blog posts and see videos from 13 other completed states on the American Culture page of the Cultures in Harmony website.  Watch for the Rhode Island video soon, and you might see our students in action!