Renewing Our Mission: Give to the CMW Fall Appeal

When people ask, How is Community MusicWorks going?, I find myself talking about a feeling of newness. After two decades immersed in the mission of CMW, what inspires this sense of renewal?

As we mark our 20th season, the original spark has more clarity as we draw from our lived experience of the mission. We are recommitting to aligning musical excellence with social justice: work that leads to a more just world, and in return becomes a catalyst for greater artistic expression.

Your support keeps our work in motion. The impact of your gift may resonate loudly through our performances, or more subtly through our work with our students. Over time, the effects of both have been profound.

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When doing aspirational work, there is an interplay between the ideal and the real. In the beginning, the gap between the vision and the day-to-day could be so wide as to be disheartening. But that distance has narrowed. We see our vision taking shape in the activities of our musicians, students, and community members every day.

For example, as every student learns the music of We Shall Overcome this fall, they also take part in weekly discussions about the song’s history in the Civil Rights Movement. Students and their families will identify what overcoming feels like to them in their communities and how music plays a role. In this rich context of a deeper learning of music, students’ awareness of the world is changing and expanding. Their ability to discuss important issues grows more thoughtful. They are becoming citizens of the world.

Intention and effort are also coming together for us as performers. With our new ensemble name, MusicWorks Collective, we are expanding our repertoire and concert locations to reflect our vision that performances can transform audiences and musicians alike.

As we renew our mission, I invite you to also show your support and join us in celebrating our 20th season with a gift of $20, or $200 – or perhaps even $2,000.

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Your generous gift directly supports CMW’s mission to transform lives, and will be felt, seen and heard in every classroom, rehearsal space and performance hall. Your support will reach every CMW musician—from faculty to student—and audience member.

I thank you for being part of Community MusicWorks 20th season, and our shared inspiration to find meaning and make a difference in our communities.

With all best wishes for the holiday season,
Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

P.S. Please be sure to share your email address with us when you make your donation or online at You won’t want to miss our monthly e-news, including special concert announcements, photos and program updates.

Make your online donation here, or send a check to:
Community MusicWorks
1392 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02909



Healing Through Art

Reposted from the Brown Daily Herald, written by Nancy Safian.

Wednesday morning, Rhode Island National Public Radio’s political analyst Scott MacKay tweeted a link to Joe Conason’s blog post for the National Memo, “What Do We Tell the Children About Their Country Now?” As the mother of a 12-year-old and a 17-year-old who are both worried about the election outcome, I’ve been reading quite a few blog posts on this question. But what helped me the most was a meeting I attended Wednesday morning with the Providence Youth Arts Collaborative, a coalition of nonprofit organizations that offers free after-school arts programs to thousands of public school children in neighborhoods around the city.

At about 11 a.m., eight of us entered Everett’s Carriage House Theatre in Mount Hope. Sebastian Ruth ’97, artistic director of Community MusicWorks and assistant professor of the practice of music at Brown, silently took out his violin and for 15 minutes played Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Chaconne” for our small group. The reverberating sounds of his violin filled the space, sounding to me like waves of cries and sighs of loss. Ruth told us that Bach wrote the song after learning his wife had died.

We sat in silence for a long while until Anjel Newman, director of AS220 Youth, in response to the piece, read her reflections on what the election means to her as a mother and a woman of color. After that, Jan Marie, an artist at Everett Company, slowly and methodically listed all the names of the young people she works with, citing each student’s personal stories (one is gay; another’s mother recently passed away; another has brothers in jail) along with their strengths (kindness, artistry, compassion and camaraderie).

Vanessa DeNino, Americorps program director at Providence CityArts for Youth, asked the very question from MacKay’s tweet: How do we talk to the children now? Her face was etched with concern, regretful that she was not successful in convincing a middle school teacher to support an art project because the teacher was worried it was too political.
In an election when the data failed us, when the media pundits seem unmoored by what happened Tuesday, I found comfort in the people in that room. I have always been skeptical of our over-reliance on data — in education, especially — when it comes at the expense of empathy, intuition and creative thinking. In this election, I was swept away into believing that the data and polling would prove true.

But I sat in this room with seven overworked, underfunded and concerned arts leaders, and what they said in the end gave me hope. Newman was actually optimistic about President-Elect Donald Trump’s election because she believes it will now be impossible to sweep injustice, violent language and inequity under the rug. DeNino concurred that she will redouble her effort to create avenues for complex conversations on civics and social justice in school-based art classes. I found hope in Ruth’s beautifully played music and in the compassion and closeness Marie expressed toward the students at Everett.

I’m not sure what will happen next. I’m concerned about access to freedoms of expression and thought, which the young people in our communities take for granted. But I choose to remain hopeful that the creative young people in the PYAC programs along with the artists who work beside them — many of whom are Brown students — will find ways to use their art to create positive stories and images and to raise their voices with renewed energy for peace, justice and compassion.

Nancy Safian is the academic programming and facilities coordinator for the department of theatre arts and performance studies at Brown University. She can be reached at 

Post-Election Reflection

Our work with young people feels ever more urgent today, as so many today are feeling afraid, unwelcome, targeted. Paolo Freire insisted upon critical consciousness in considering the world around us. Young people need the tools and the experience to critically examine our current reality, to challenge the status quo, to come together with others to resist. We will be working yet harder to help young people understand that this election outcome can’t spell a new reality where racist, sexist, xenophobic rhetoric is acceptable or normal. We need to constantly insist upon and work toward the reality we seek. Now more than ever. Through music, through dialogue, through the pursuit of diverse and supportive community, we will dig in and work harder, with love.

–Sebastian Ruth