A Masterclass for All Play Day

Last week during All Play Day, students participated in a masterclass with special guests: renowned violinist James Buswell, violinist Ealain McMullin (a former CMW fellow and co-director of The Newport String Project), cellist Carol Ou, and violist Jason Amos (former CMW Fellow and member of the Boston Public Quartet).  A masterclass is an opportunity for students to receive feedback on their playing in front of peers. It is a great learning experience for performers and audience-members to watch a teacher in action, ask questions, and explore musical ideas together.

It has been particularly rewarding to follow up with students this week about what they learned from the class. My violin student Ella remarked “I learned that it’s important to warm-up with scales. I liked hearing him [Mr. Buswell] play for us.” Some students are already incorporating new ideas into their playing. It was a great afternoon of sharing and learning and we are grateful to the teachers for joining us at All Play!

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

I first became aware of Pauline Oliveros my first year in college (way back in 1993!). The music library at the university I attended my freshman year (U of I in Champaign-Urbana) had an extensive collection of LPs and scores by contemporary composers. This was the first time I had unlimited access to that kind of music. I don’t know how I came across her record. I think I was just flipping through the school’s massive collection and was struck by there being a woman on the cover and that she played accordion. To me, neither of these things were in line with classical music, and being the self-proclaimed black sheep wherever I go, I naturally gravitated to it. Unfortunately, I had so much studying and practicing of “standard repertoire” to do for the remainder of my education, I was unable to explore more of her music, but she was always in the back of my musical mind. It wasn’t until a decade later that I got to see her perform live as part of a sound installation in a parking garage in Santa Monica, California. She was already 72 years old at the time, eyes closed, playing accordion intently, drawing in everyone awkwardly standing around her. I was too shy to talk to her then but almost another decade later I was able to see her speak on a panel at the 80th birthday celebration of Alvin Lucier at Wesleyan University. I made a point of approaching her afterwards and telling her how much I appreciated her work. I had planned to take a trip to Troy, NY to visit her where she taught and hopefully play for her, but it never happened and sadly, Pauline Oliveros passed away at age 84 last November.

So what was so amazing about Pauline you might ask? Well, not only was she a pioneer in experimental electronic music, she coined the term “Deep Listening,” which is almost a lifestyle for some people.  She even developed a new musical theory of “sonic awareness.” This awareness is described as “the ability to consciously focus attention upon environmental and musical sound”, requiring “continual alertness and an inclination to be always listening.” This is something that I have continually practiced through my improvisations and performances of experimental music and what I’ve strived to bring to events I curate. I’m not sure running across Pauline’s LP back in 1993 planted that seed, but I’d like to think that it did. 

Saturday’s concert will begin with Oliveros’ Sonic Meditation, “Sonic Rorschach” followed by a performance by the MusicWorks Collective of Catherine Lamb’s “noise/tone (emergence patterns).” Oliveros’ work will draw listeners’ attention to a finite point after being deluged (or aurally massaged) by white noise for 30 minutes and then Cat’s piece will wallow in the overtones of 60 hz, the fundamental frequency of the ever present electronic hum of the modern world. A performance by my duo, Mem1, will bring these elements to a culmination with an improvisation with cello and electronics, steeped in a practice of intimate listening that we have developed over the last 13 years together.

–Laura Cetilia is a CMW resident musician and curator of the Ars Subtilior series

Please join us for this performance:
Saturday, February 4 at 8pm
159 Sutton Street, Providence

The We Shall Overcome Project

In recent months, CMW teachers have been working with students on an experiment we’re calling the We Shall Overcome Project.

In this project, all of our student ensembles are learning an arrangement of We Shall Overcome (with parts designed for varying skill levels), and learning more about the history and meaning of the song. Since September, the students have all taking part in weekly activities that explore the text, history, and power of this song, and have been starting to write their own verses based on things that they would like to overcome – in their schools, their neighborhoods, or in the world at large. One student-written verse reads: “We are all unique…we will be ourselves….bullying is not ok.”

The first performance of these new verses were performed at the January Performance Party at Calvary Baptist Church and were a great success. Now, we’ll continue to refine the ensemble performances, and also invite parents, Board members, and community members into the process. Stay tuned for information about ways to participate, including community sings. The culminating performance will be in late March, as part of the Emanuel Ax residency, and we’ll produce a video on the project this spring.

This experiment helps us explore our hypothesis that musical proficiency and community participation skills are mutually reinforcing. We hope that, through the We Shall Overcome Project, students, families, and teachers will work together to more deeply explore the meaning of music and the role it can have in supporting social change.

— Chloe Kline
Education Director

No One is a Stranger

Ever wonder about the history of a particular musical instrument? The musicians it has served, the venues it has seen, the audiences reached? CMW recently received a donation of two instruments from a generous donor. In this account, Karen Romer gives us the story of Carrie Teale and the violins destined for our community of music-loving youth.

Carrie Teale

It was the 1890’s and teenager Carrie Teale had a gift for music. She played the violin so beautifully that Leopold Auer, the great teacher of Jascha Heifetz and Nathan Milstein, heard her recital at Carnegie Hall and urged her parents to let him teach her in Germany. Carrie’s parents thought Germany was too far away for a girl of sixteen to go alone; however, her father wanted her to have the best possibilities in America, so he bought her a fine Italian violin.

Carrie continued to play, but not professionally. She married young and had two daughters. Chamber music and musician friends often filled Carrie’s house. Family lore tells of her second daughter, Catherine, once asking her mother how she connected with people who were strangers only minutes before, yet were soon revealing their innermost thoughts. Carrie was stopped by the question, unaware that she was anything special. “No one is a stranger,” she said.

Years later, arthritis prevented Carrie from playing even the standard folk songs and “Pop Goes the Weasel” for her grandchildren, so she entrusted her two violins to her granddaughter, Ann Chalmers Watts. “You can do whatever you want with these instruments as long as they will benefit young people,” Carrie said. Now Community MusicWorks is the fortunate recipient of those two violins. It seems the Powers That Be knew that CMW would be the perfect destination for the violins of someone who thought that “no one is a stranger”.

Recently some CMW students, staff and board members came together to meet Ann and see the two violins she offered to CMW. We sat around two very well worn cases while resident musician Jesse Holstein opened and unwrapped the violins, one by one, from faded yellow silk. One, the instrument that Carrie probably played for her recital, had a golden varnish and appeared to be from the 19th century and German, modeled after an Amati. The other was dark auburn and made by Ruggieri of Cremona in 1671. (That was fourteen years before Bach and Handel were born!) Jesse passed the violins around our circle, and we admired them, asked questions and made comments. A luthier will give them careful attention before restringing and setting them up for a new life in Providence.

One CMW student, Alex, observed that for hundreds of years people like herself had been excluded from the community of classical musicians and thus from the joys and satisfactions of learning about classical music through playing it; she said she is now part of that community because of CMW, and those joys are very much a part of her life, including playing Bach and “Papa Haydn.” She pointed out that she might be the first person of color to hold the Ruggieri violin. 

Finally, to culminate the occasion, some people played wonderfully: Alex played Bach, student Jessenia played Mazas and fellow Josie and Jesse played duos by Bach, Pleyel, and Bartok. There is a good chance you can hear these violins in 2017!

–Karen Romer
CMW supporter and former President of the Board