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Thursday, February 15 : Music in the Grand Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sonata Series Event

The Sonata Series features MusicWorks Collective musicians with guest pianists presenting works from the duo sonata repertoire. Together, musicians explore pieces from the 17th and 18th century masterworks to contemporary works.

This event features pianist Jeff Louie, performing Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, No. 3 with violinist Luke Fatora and Amy Beach’s Violin Sonata, Op. 34 with Jesse Holstein.

Thursday, February 15 at 7pm
Grand Gallery, RISD Museum
20 N. Main Street, Providence
Admission to the museum and concert is free
No reservations are necessary

CMW Celebrates 20 with Twenty Years, Twenty Stories

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This year Community MusicWorks turns 20! To mark the milestone, we are gathering the stories of 20 members of our community–musicians, students, parents, graduates and supporters. Look for new stories throughout the season.

Interviews were recorded, transcribed and edited to create personal narratives in each subject’s distinctive voice. We hope 20 Years, 20 Stories captures the many flavors and varieties of CMW experience. Join us at a concert anytime to start creating your own CMW story.

Read the interviews here.

 

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Who’s the Guy with the Curly Hair?

 

“The Last Supper” painting by Jessica Van Daam, on loan to the Trinity Brewhouse.

CMW Fellow and violinist Luke Fatora muses upon Beethoven as a pop culture icon.

Earlier this year, an unexpected downpour of cold rain unleashed itself as I was out for a walk. Passing by the Trinity Brewhouse on Fountain Street, I took refuge inside and found myself seated near a musician-themed mural riffing on The Last Supper. I was enjoying a nearby table’s particularly slurred conversation – its contents better left unexplored here – when it took a hard turn. One of the speakers interrupted a waitress, gesturing towards the mural hanging on the wall where Ludwig van Beethoven (not to confused with Beethoven the dog but more on that later) was stoically seated next to Billie Holiday in the company of other musicians like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. He asked “Who’s the guy with the curly hair??”

I found myself thinking back to this experience recently at CMW’s Phase II students’ weekly dinner and discussion. The students were exploring the interdependent relationship between a piece of art and the settings that a culture places it in. Later that night I grappled with unanswerable questions as I tossed and turned. How would Beethoven have responded to someone telling him that two centuries into the future, Americans would scarf down nachos and beer under his quasi-religious image in a brewpub in Providence, RI? How about being told that Andy Warhol, an iconic 20th century American artist, would designate Beethoven as the figure from western classical music to join the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Chairman Mao, as portrait subjects? Finally, what would he have had to say about the movie Beethoven released in the 1990’s?? My guess is as good as anyone’s as to how Beethoven would have reacted to being told that his name would become synonymous with a Hollywood movie about the adventures of a goofy, slobbering, St. Bernard.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The composer’s canine namesake.

After entertaining these hypothetical reactions, we’re left with some serious questions. Why did Andy Warhol choose Beethoven over someone like Schubert or Tchaikovsky as an iconic portrait subject? Why is the comedic reboot of Lassie centered around a St. Bernard named Beethoven (the surface explanation is here) and not Schoenberg or Bach?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Warhol’s Beethoven

Beethoven was an incredibly forward thinking composer – so much so that nearly a century after he wrote his wild Grosse Fugue, composers such as Arnold Schoenberg would look back to it as a premonition of their own radical breaks with tradition. Are we to believe that Beethoven’s seat at the table of musical disciples in the Trinity Brewhouse is a result of his technical wizardry as a composer?

Another explanation lies in his easily accessible humanity. As many people know, Beethoven lost his hearing over the course of time and had a generally tough life. His struggles led him to rail against fate in his Fifth Symphony. There is hardly a more universal human experience than struggling with circumstances that are beyond our control. Beethoven’s loss of hearing is tragic and his response to continue living for the sake of creating art is certainly heroic (you can read about it in his own words in his famed Heiligenstadt Testament). This said, other composers, being human (for now…), have certainly also struggled with circumstances beyond their control.

Popular culture’s obsession with Beethoven (the composer) risks encapsulating his image in the opening bars of his 5th Symphony and “that epic part of the 9th symphony where people are singing about something in German.” Only a sliver of Beethoven’s humanity is seen when it is through this lens. Recently, I have been working through his Third op. 12 Piano and Violin sonata and have been enjoying how starkly it contrasts popular notions of what Beethoven should sound like (“bark bark bark baaaark!”). Beethoven began working on his op. 12 Piano and Violin sonatas in 1797; he was 27 years old and had been living in Vienna for 5 years. At that point, he was 5 years away from writing the Heiligenstadt Testament and presumably contemplating suicide in the face of his worsening deafness. The Heiligenstadt Testament details the agony of Beethoven’s depression but it also mentions his lifelong heightened sensitivity to “tender feelings of affection” and his general “love for man and feelings of benevolence.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ludwig Van Beethoven, composer and guy with the curly hair.

Beethoven’s Third Piano and Violin Sonata can be seen as stemming from these general underlying dispositions; it is brimming with a particularly sparkling and playful energy, never taking itself too seriously. The beginning and ending movements are strikingly joyful romps through E flat major. The second movement is an Adagio in C major that begins with a simple melody containing an emotional pureness that becomes transformed throughout the movement. The theme passes briefly through distant and more complicated emotional landscapes, emerging to playfully evade a committed return to its original character – one gets the sense that Beethoven is exploring what it feels like to make peace with an unattainable ideal’s imaginary nature. This is the side of Beethoven that, two centuries later, keeps me warm on a slushy February day. Beethoven’s ability to probe such an extreme range of emotion leaves me in awe of his (very human) ability to reach across time and space to connect with us and – most importantly – inspires me to stop reaching for my phone to check the latest news and reach for my violin instead.

–Luke Fatora

Please join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for the Sonata Series Event at RISD Museum’s Grand Gallery as Luke Fatora performs Beethoven (the composer) along with pianist Jeff Louie. The event also features violinist Jesse Holstein performing a composition by Amy Beach.

 

A Day at the Beach

Join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for our Sonata Series Event featuring Jesse Holstein and Luke Fatora with guest pianist Jeff Louie. The evening’s program features a composition by Amy Beach. Here, Jesse talks about the composer and the piece he’ll perform at RISD Museum Grand Gallery.
 
A piece that has recently come into my orbit is the Sonata for Violin and Piano by Amy Beach. It was completely unknown to me before I performed it at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music last August. In the process of learning it, I became quite taken with the piece and subsequently asked my friend Jeff Louie to play it with me for the CMW Sonata Series Concert this February 15 at the RISD Museum at 7pm. If I may be permitted, perhaps a little background about Ms. Beach and the sonata.
 

Tucked between the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers in south-eastern New England lies the little town of Henniker, New Hampshire. Aside from being the birthplace of Red Sox legend Ted Williams, Henniker also lays claim as the birthplace of one of the most important figures in American classical music, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach.

Composer Amy Beach

Born September 5, 1867, Amy Cheney exhibited prodigious musical talent on the piano and in composition from a very young age. She advanced far beyond what teaching was available in Henniker by age seven and in order to support Amy’s talent, the family moved to the Boston suburb of Chelsea in 1875. There, she studied piano with Carl Baermann, who was himself a piano student of Franz Liszt. While Amy did receive some composition and counterpoint coaching as a young teen, she was essentially an autodidact in composition her whole life. Impressively, her “Gaelic Symphony” of 1896 received its world-premier by the Boston Symphony and was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. This is a testament to her incredible gift of melody and intuitive ability as a composer.
 
When Amy was on the verge of international stardom as a pianist and composer, she got married at age eighteen to a prominent Boston surgeon, Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, twenty-four years her senior. As was the custom of the times, he limited her performing life to just a few recitals a year and Amy received no mentoring or tutoring as a composer. When Dr. Beach died in 1910, Amy began touring as a pianist and composer in Europe and was a tremendous success. She would return to America in 1914 and was a major figure in American Classical music until her death in 1944.
 
With Amy’s piano concerto appearances with the Boston Symphony as a teenager, she gained the attention of the BSO Concertmaster, Franz Kneisel.  He invited her to perform the Schumann piano quintet with his string quartet in 1894 and he premiered her violin sonata in 1897 with Ms. Beach at the piano. Arguably the greatest Romantic Period American violin sonata, Beach’s piece is a dramatic big-boned sonata with a tremendous scope of expression and color. Cast in four movements, the first movement is a serious and dramatic voyage within the traditional sonata-form structure. In relief to the density of the first movement, the second movement is a much lighter scherzo akin to some of Mendelssohn’s “fairy music” movements. The third movement is the longest of the four chapters. Highly lyrical and emotional, it begins with an extended passage for solo piano. Several musicologists have remarked on the similarity of the melody of Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me” to the main theme of this movement. (This statement may or may not be true.) The finale has the tremendous forward drive and drama that one might expect in the concluding chapter of such a impassioned work. At the midpoint, a Bach-like fugue appears with wonderful counterpoint and dialogue between the voices before a return to the Romantic thrust to the conclusion.
 
I hope you are able to join us and hear the sonata for yourself on Thursday, February 15 at 7pm at the RISD Museum Grand Gallery. Also on the program will be Beethoven’s charming sonata in E-flat, op. 12 no. 3 with Luke Fatora, violin and Jeff Louie, piano.
 
–Jesse Holstein
Associate Director / Senior Resident Musician

Who Let the Frogs Out? A Postcard from the Newport String Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently discovered that the beloved game of skipping stones across water has a variety of other names in other countries – ducks and drakes (UK), dragonflies (Czech), throwing a sandwich (Finnish) and the Ukrainian name is zapuskaty zhabky which translates to “letting the frogs out”.

What has me thinking about skipping stones, you ask?

As musicians engaged in community residencies, we are constantly experimenting – tweaking traditional concert formats to engage new people, bringing a new game to a classroom of violin students – to build meaningful connections between people. And, that moment of trying something new in pursuit of connection, is a lot like the moment when you let go of the pebble to see how far it will bounce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



As anyone with stone-skipping prowess will tell you, much depends on finding the right pebbles. And we have been incredibly lucky with our plentiful supply! The Newport String Project is now in its fifth season – thanks to incredible community support, this year, myself and Emmy have been joined by violist Ashley Frith and cellist Jaime Feldman. Together we perform as the Newport String Quartet and curate educational programming that provides free violin, viola and cello lessons to almost forty students aging from Pre-K to fifth graders. There have been many, many “pebbles” along the way. And there have definitely been some “clunkers”– unruly frogs, you might say – but some of the more successful “pebbles” have led to signature events like the Paper Orchestra concerts (see highlights from our most recent one here) and the community barn dance series and many rich collaborations with local organizations.

Every so often, there’s the magical combination of pebble, technique and environmental conditions – and you realize that the pebbles are bouncing a lot further than you imagined, maybe in ways you hadn’t even noticed or realized. Like when our oldest students are recruiting their friends to come join the Newport String Project. Like when a younger sibling already knows a song because they’ve learnt it from an older brother or sister. Like when you notice a parent absorbed in watching their child’s lesson and marveling at the complexity of skills they’re learning. Like when an audience member finds you after a concert to ask what works by that composer they should listen to next. These moments are energizing, humbling and bring much needed detail to the sweeping Big Picture flow of this work.

-Ealain McMullin, Newport String Project Co-Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about Newport String Project here!

Hello from Newfoundland!


Our good friend from the North, Carole Bestvater (CMW Violin Fellow 2009-2011), shares the latest news from Strong Harbour Strings along with an update on a visit from our own MusicWorks Network Fellow and CMW student alum, Andrew Oung. Carole is the Director & Founder of the program, located in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
 
Wow, it’s hard to imagine that five years have passed since this program started!  Here we are, in Strong Harbour Strings’ fifth season, with so much to celebrate. This year, there are 24 students in our main centre, all coming two times a week for group and individual lessons.  We also started a satellite centre in a nearby neighbourhood across the harbour. There are 16 students who come twice a week during their lunch hour to learn the violin and viola. There are three new staff members who joined the team this season, so we’re having fun getting to know each other, teaching, and playing music together.
 
We recently played a concert of the Vivaldi Four Seasons in a downtown pub, selling out the place! People loved it! We’re planning on repeating the concert in a workshop for the SHS students, as well as in another family-friendly venue.  It’s been a very exciting time for Strong Harbour Strings.

The most exciting aspect right now is that Andrew Oung, the MusicWorks Network Fellow, is currently in St. John’s for a six week internship.  He’s working with a small group of 7th graders in developing the culture for a group inspired by CMW’s teen group, Phase II.  He’s been leading discussions, prompting conversations, and laying down a foundation for a group like this to continue after his internship here has finished. It has been exciting to see this aspect of Strong Harbour Strings develop, and feels like the missing puzzle piece is finally in place.  Now that we have students who are growing, developing critical thinking, and are completely blissed out that they get to keep on learning music and hanging out with each other, we’re finally ready to develop a Phase II-like program for them.
Sending love and hugs from the North Atlantic,

Carole Bestvater

 

Andrew Oung also sent along an update on his visit:

For the past few weeks I have been working here with Strong Harbour Strings. It has been wonderful getting to know all of the students and staff. I work with them three times a week, each day taking on a different role. I have started a small discussion group with the program’s 7th graders, I teach violin lessons, I support teachers during orchestra time, and I help students learn music theory. Strong Harbour takes place at two locations, one of which is the Cornerstone Ministry Centre. I really love that there is an open space where students and parents gather while they wait for lessons. It provides an opportunity for them to naturally interact with each other, and helps the music theory mentors be visible and accessible.
 
Outside of the educational aspect of the program, I attended a performance by the staff, named the Strong Harbour Strings Collective. They performed Vivaldi’s Four Season at The Black Sheep Pub to a full audience. I loved seeing how much the audience enjoyed the performance and I overheard somebody proudly say, “where else in the world can you hear Vivaldi in a pub”. While I can think of another city very dear to me where that could be true, I still think there is a uniqueness to the music community here. I’ll be in St. John’s for a few more weeks and I look forward to learning more about Strong Harbour Strings and the musical community here.

 

 

 

A Place to Play: Celebrating Music Haven’s New Office

We checked in with former CMW Fellow Annalisa Boerner (Viola Fellow 2012-2014), who has joined the staff of Music Haven in New Haven, CT as a full time Resident Musician and member of the Haven String Quartet. Here, Annalisa shares some news about the program’s new digs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, January 19th, Music Haven celebrated its tenth year of teaching and our move into a beautiful new space with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Our new offices are in a former factory space called Erector Square. Our suite was too small for a school, too big for a yoga studio, and just right for our organization to fit into and grow with.

Music Haven’s new location, where we rehearse, teach, and perform, is helping our program grow in ways big and small. The sense of community is palpable when our eighty students gather for group classes on Fridays, and as they filter in and out throughout the week. We love to see them doing homework and playing Uno in the lounge area as they wait for lessons. On the teaching side, I can keep a shelf of music, a jar of clothespins, and both a violin and a viola close at hand, and my students can have lessons in a calm environment that’s dedicated to music-making. We’ve hosted studio recitals with potlucks in our large performance space, and we look forward to debuting next year’s Chamber Series concerts in this area as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The program for the afternoon of the 19th included words from Mandi Jackson, Executive Director; Yaira Matyakubova, violinist and Senior Resident Musician; and Mayor Toni Harp (!) who cut the ribbon. The Music Lanterns, an ensemble of nine to twelve-year-old students, kicked off the program, and the Harmony In Action chamber orchestra concluded it with a conductorless performance of Lean on Me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is thanks to our many supporters of all varieties that we are able to sustain and grow our program in this way.  Here’s to ten more years at Music Haven!

–Annalisa Boerner

Congratulations to Annalisa and the Music Haven staff and students!

 

Unlocking Meaning: CMW Fellows’ Residency at Butler Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“I find myself saying that it doesn’t matter what the music is, or at least that the content is a trivial concern compared to the importance of making a human connection between performer and listener.”

Heath Marlow, former CMW staffer and current faculty/staff at New England Conservatory, reflects on his work with CMW Fellows in creating and implementing a performance residency at Butler Hospital, a psychiatric facility on Providence’s East Side,  in 2017:

At our first session together in Fall 2016, I asked the Fellows to come up with a new community (not the communities already served by Community MusicWorks) that could potentially benefit from interacting with a string quartet.

The group’s research led to the conclusion that it would be important to try out their ideas in an environment that had the capacity to support the quartet’s experimental activities. Butler Hospital’s Healing Arts Program was immediately receptive to hosting the quartet, and a series of three activities for distinct patient populations (adolescent, adult, geriatric) was soon decided upon.

 

​”It was personally humbling to participate in the workshops. The response in each unit was so different – but equally powerful. It felt challenging to insert ourselves into such an intense environment – having no idea where each person was on their healing path.”

Read Heath’s full account and reflection in his blog piece, here.

This year, Heath meets regularly with the current quartet of Fellows (and other interested musician colleagues) to discuss aspects of building a career as a musician at the intersection of artistry and community using the best practices associated with growing a community-based organization.

 

Investing in People and Place

For the past 20 years, Community MusicWorks has been invested in both people and place – our students, families, and professional musicians, and the community of Providence.

Last year was truly a celebratory season. Throughout our programs, we reflected on our growth and impact, and we took on important new initiatives. Some of last year’s most significant moments included the expansion of our Daily Orchestra Program to include a new daily ensemble for six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds; the We Shall Overcome Project; the graduation of our largest class of Phase II students and our tenth class of Fellows; the residency of world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax; and over 30 inspiring free performances.

Beyond the specifics, we celebrated the culture of Community MusicWorks, which supports young people, professional musicians, guest artists, and our colleagues in CMW’s Fellowship Program, to continually grow their approach to music-making in our community.

“The always-evolving organism of CMW is innovative, curious, engaged, compassionate, empathetic, generous and far-reaching. I learned more than I imagined I would in the most supportive and nurturing environment. I can’t think of a better place to incubate and grow ideas and deepen my own experience and confidence. Getting to know, teach, and learn from the most wonderful studio of students, along with performing with an exceptional ensemble of colleagues has been incredibly motivating and continues to inform my work.”
– Josie Davis, violinist, CMW Fellow 2015-17

Using our 20th season as both inspiration and motivation – and recognizing all there is still to work on in our community and world – we are beginning our third decade looking even more deeply at our mission and how we put it into practice. Consistent with our Strategic Plan, we have mapped out several significant enhancements to our programs, included below.

These new initiatives range from further developing our music education practices with young people, to deepening the experiences of our concert audiences, to developing the MusicWorks Network, a new consortium of programs around the country that were founded on CMW’s model. I am pleased to share highlights of these new program elements, which of course will be in addition to our daily work with our 160 students and our over 30 free performances in our communities.

What we know has been a key to our growth and success – our ability to create new opportunities – has been the partnerships with supporters like you who share our belief that music can be a transformative experience for our communities.

As we launch into our third decade, your donation towards our ambitious 21st season will enable us to further develop, strengthen, and deepen our work.

As you know, Community MusicWorks is committed to offering our youth programs and performances free of charge – which means we must raise our full budget each year. Your generous gift will ensure that we can maintain our commitments to students, musicians, and audiences. Your partnership will allow us to work with young people and artists in a way that has a real impact on building positive goals and futures.

I appreciate your considering a generous gift this fall to make transformational experiences possible for young people and our communities.

Sincerely,
Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director
Community MusicWorks 

Community MusicWorks
21st Season Special Programs and Projects

Phase II for All and Joy in Practice

This year, during the first semester of All Play Day – a weekly two-hour session where CMW Phase I, II and III students gather for intense lessons and rehearsals – students will be invited to select classes based on their playing ability and interest. Classes will focus on improvisation and composition, theory and sight-reading, jazz, performance anxiety and mindfulness, learning how to practice, and experimental music. This enhanced offering provides our students with many access points into the study of music, and encourages them to explore their own interests and skills as musicians.

The second half of the year will be focused on ensembles, including all students exploring a piece in depth, building on the We Shall Overcome Project. In the We Shall Overcome Project, all of our students will learn an arrangement of a historically significant song as well as learning about its origins, later uses, and meaning. Starting in January, students will take part in weekly activities that explore the text, history, and power of this song, and will write their own verses based on their personal and musical experiences in their community or in the world at large.

Music Transforms

As part of our mission to explore, hear, and perform a broad range of voices through our concerts, our programming this year has been expanded to include a theme of presenting under-represented communities. Throughout the season, we will explore the works by female composers in a broad range of genres and instrumentation.

In addition to our MusicWorks Collective concerts, CMW’s mission to present visionary artists, such as Jonathan Biss, Emanuel Ax, and this season, world-renowned violinist Johnny Gandelsman, in performances and collaborations, offers two important opportunities for CMW. First, it allows CMW to share its mission and programs with a broader base of music aficionados. Second, it offers our students an opportunity to be inspired to strive for their musical and personal goals and to find their voice as unique citizens in our world.

Leading the Conversation

In August, CMW launched MusicWorks Network, the first of three annual institutes funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Network brings together representatives from nine organizations, staffed or led by former CMW Fellows and participants in our Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service. The overarching goals for the Network include: sharing social justice programming, goals, and methodology; incorporating college-going skills development among students across the network; and building connectivity between the sites to facilitate shared learning and creating pathways for CMW students and Fellowship Program graduates to contribute and gain employment in other sites.

Several important themes emerged at the institute that challenged CMW to grow our practice. Primary among them is that CMW has an opportunity to dig deeper into the questions of organizational practice as they relate to social justice broadly, and racial justice in particular. We are energized to define more clearly how all of CMW’s practices can reflect our social justice commitment and curriculum.

Is This the One About the Pilot? Working Toward Copland’s Violin Sonata

Join us Thursday, November 16 at 7pm for our popular Sonata Series in the beautifully appointed Grand Gallery at RISD Museum. This concert features violinists Sebastian Ruth and David Rubin with guest pianist Eliko Akahori. Here, violinist David Rubin shares his notes on the piece he’ll perform at the event and his own process of discovery on the meaning and origin of Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano.

I heard about Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano years before I actually heard Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. The initial encounter looms large in my memory and — come to think of it — stands in opposition to my current experience of the piece. Tension can often be generative, as we say at CMW, so perhaps this story will be of some interest for those folks planning to attend our Sonata Series performance at the RISD Museum (Thursday, November 16 at 7pm in the Grand Gallery).

***
In 2004, pianist Karl Paulnack gave a welcome address to the parents of incoming students at Boston Conservatory. Seeking to reassure a presumably anxious crowd about the viability of their children’s chosen career path (read: financial ruin?), Paulnack shared stories about music’s healing powers, its necessity in our society, and the potential nobility of a life spent in its service. One of those anecdotes centered around Paulnack’s own performance of – you guessed it – the Copland violin sonata. This story is better in Paulnack’s telling, but I’ll briefly summarize it here.

During this performance of the Copland (let’s set the stage, actually: during the elegiac slow movement, at a small-town nursing home) a World War II veteran in the audience was clearly overcome with emotion. Later in the concert, Paulnack shared more details about the piece, including the story of its dedication to Harry Dunham, a pilot killed in battle during World War II and a close friend of Copland’s. At this point, the veteran in the audience stood up and left. He later told Paulnack that he was in shock – Copland’s music had triggered a vivid remembrance of a near-identical experience from his own wartime service, a particular trauma he hadn’t thought of in years. The veteran wanted to know how this was possible. How could Copland’s music make him remember so vividly, even though he hadn’t known about that particular connection when he first listened to the piece?

Paulnack’s story is a beautiful testament to music’s communicative powers. It’s also some heavy interpretative baggage for a performer to assimilate. From then on, I remembered the Copland sonata as the World War II piece that, by virtue of its somber American-ness, went straight to the heart.

And I’m not alone. To quote a random YouTube commenter:

“Is this the one about the pilot shot down in WWII?”

***
Now, when I play this piece, I have more information to draw on, and it makes things more complicated for me as a performer. New perspectives nudge that simple origin story out of my head, or at least force it to share space. Here’s a taste of that stew.

The ink was dry – the piece was finished – when Copland learned of Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham’s death, at which point he added the dedication. We have no way of knowing what he was thinking about while he was writing the violin sonata. It is a wartime piece because it was written during the war, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that this is a piece about war, or a piece about Dunham. It’s entirely possible that Copland didn’t think about the war – or his friend – at all while he was committing these notes to paper.

We know only what (little) Copland chose to share about it, namely: “I had little desire to compose a dissonant or virtuosic work, or one that incorporated folk materials. Nevertheless, certain qualities of the American folk tune had become part of my natural style of composing, and they are echoed in the Sonata.” Nicely put, Aaron.

We also know that the premiere drew polarized responses from critics. One damned its “rearward vision” (ouch!), while another (Copland’s friend Virgil Thomson) praised its “calm elevation… irresistibly touching.” That’s more like it. Wouldn’t we all like to be praised for our “calm elevation?”

I also know what my teachers have shared about their experience with this piece, and what various smart people have written. My mentor in graduate school was fascinated by Copland’s habit of spreading common, everyday chords across wide spans on an instrument’s range (think of a pianist playing high and low notes at the same time) – the harmony might be utterly familiar, but its presentation is unearthly. It creates the illusion of space, of solitude… of frontiers. Stan Kleppinger, in the journal of the Society for Music Theory, suggests that this piece’s special sonorities can be explained as dualities, moments when two key areas exist simultaneously – the magic lies in the ambiguity. Other scholars hear past the melodic inflections in Copland’s writing (and the related, pesky question of American-ness, which seems to dominate all conversations of this composer’s music) toward a neoclassical reading, in which canons and miniature fugues dance in 20th-century dress. Bach in Hollywood in 1943.

***
And even though the dedication was added after the piece’s completion, I can’t help but also wonder about this man, this Harry Dunham. It turns out that we know a bit about him, too, largely thanks to the work of Copland-scholar Howard Pollack.

We know that Dunham was incredibly handsome (in composer David Diamond’s words: “the most adorable, good-looking boy”), the darling of a New York arts community that starred Copland, Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles, John Latouche, and other familiar figures. We know that he came from money, that he graduated from Princeton, that he made films. We know he was, to some degree, a leftist. We know that he married a woman, Marian Chase, but we also know that he was romantically involved with several men in the artistic circles he moved in. We know that Dunham, Bowles, and Copland traveled together in Morocco. We know that he died in battle in 1943, and that Aaron Copland dedicated this stunning piece of music to his memory.

I wasn’t expecting Dunham’s story to be so rich. The anonymous “pilot” from my initial encounter with the Copland violin sonata has a lot in common with me, and with people I’ve known. His sexuality, his artistic and political leanings, his social circles – they all run contrary to the military stereotype that I conjured up upon first hearing. This speaks to my prejudices, but it also speaks to the simple fact that people are complicated. In fact, Dunham’s surprises form a nice parallel with the rich ironies of Copland’s own story. Copland, the man whose music was appropriated for “Beef! It’s What’s for Dinner!” or Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America!” was, in Alex Ross’ words, “a gay leftist of Russian-Jewish extraction.” The man who created an American identity in concert music wasn’t always particularly welcome in his own country. Chew on that for a moment. These are not new ironies, but they never cease to amaze.

***

So, in the end, what should a performer make of these accumulated, sometimes contradictory meanings and associations? Perhaps it’s a cop-out, but here’s an attempt. I’m not a historian and I’m not a theorist and I’m not a veteran, but I do know what this piece makes me feel. Now, as I type this, I think of the piece’s opening, and its particular magic: a series of plain-spoken piano chords; hanging in the air, unresolved, still. Just the thought of those chords makes me verklempt. They’re 100% Copland, and they just break your heart.

I imagine Copland’s dedication to Dunham as a monument to an individual life, yes, but also a way of life: a group of friends, and a particular moment in time and space. In the composer’s words:

“By reflecting the time in which one lives, the creative artist gives substance and meaning to life as we live it. Life seems so transitory! It is very attractive to set down some sort of permanent statement about the way we feel, so that when it’s all gone, people will be able to go to our art works to see what it was like to be alive in our time and place — twentieth-century America.”

I love that little word: our. You get the sense that Copland’s our was broad as can be. “Our” twentieth-century America was gay and Jewish and left, just as much as it was the opposite of those things.

***

For me, this is the fun of performing. You live inside of a piece, soak up its contradictions and cliches, and try to make sense of it – both the thing itself (whatever that means, God help us) – and your relationship to it. Each realization of a piece, each usage in a different context, is a fleeting act – but over time it forms a discourse, a discussion across decades. It’s a beautiful mess, but that’s where the meaning is. A generative tension.

In any case. I hope you’ll join Eliko, Sebastian and I for Thursday’s program at the RISD Museum. It’ll be a pleasure to explore this piece, in all of its contradictions. In so doing, I hope we’ll celebrate Aaron Copland’s life — Harry Dunham’s, too.

-David Rubin, Violin Fellow


Further reading & works quoted above

Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. Henry Holt, 1999.
Karl Paulnack, welcome address at The Boston Conservatory, 2004. Accessible here.
Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland Since 1943. St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Gail Levin and Judith Tick, Aaron Copland’s America. Watson-Guptill Publications, 2000.

 

MusicWorks Network: A New Initiative

Within the past twenty-one years, CMW has offered professional musicians opportunities to re-imagine the very foundations of a classical music career, and to think more broadly about music as a way of engaging in and with communities.

This year, CMW has the opportunity to deepen that work with the support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a new initiative, Citizens of the World: Forging Pathways to College and Beyond. This strategic initiative is designed to substantially increase the number of racially diverse, low-income young people who gain access to critical skills that promote success. This work builds on CMW’s 20-year history of developing music-based education programs designed to open new worlds of opportunity to low-income African-American and Latino youth. Out of this work has come Phase II, an approach to developing fundamental skills and supports that promote college-going, that has led 95% of CMW graduates to continue to college.

CMW will share CMW’s successful college-going model across a network of community-based music education sites. Called the MusicWorks Network, this project will link 10-15 community-based music sites serving over 650 young people and convene them in an annual Summer Institute for training, resource-sharing, and collaborative evaluation.

The first Summer Institute took place this past August 22-30 as educators and staff from ten different organizations gathered at the beautiful Rolling Ridge Conference Center in North Andover, MA. Connecting around the ways that social justice practices and technical and artistic work on string instruments can support one another, teachers and staff came from Community MusicWorks, MusiConnects (Boston, MA), MyCincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), Musica Franklin (Franklin, MA), Orchestra of St. Luke’s (New York, New York), MusicHaven (New Haven, CT), Newport Strings (Newport, RI), Sistema New Brunswick (New Brunswick, St. John, Canada), Strong Harbor Strings (St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada), and Neighborhood Strings (Worcester, MA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participants convened for a range of workshops and trainings, including a 2-day string pedagogy workshop with renowned violinist and teacher Mimi Zweig, a poetry and social justice workshop with poet Jonathan Mendoza, a workshop on anti-racist organizational frameworks with trainer and activist Adeola Oredola, and discussions and reflection around the creative synergy between string pedagogy and social justice teachings.

The Institute was designed and facilitated by Sebastian Ruth and Chloe Kline with the new MusicWorks Network staff: MusicWorks Network Director Jori Ketten and MusicWorks Network Fellow Andrew Oung. Part of the initiative, the MusicWorks Network Fellowship is a one-year position for alumni of CMW’s youth program or graduates of CMW’s two-year Fellowship Program to contribute to the MusicWorks Network. Andrew is our first alumni hire at CMW.

 

Archives

Thursday, February 15 : Music in the Grand Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sonata Series Event

The Sonata Series features MusicWorks Collective musicians with guest pianists presenting works from the duo sonata repertoire. Together, musicians explore pieces from the 17th and 18th century masterworks to contemporary works.

This event features pianist Jeff Louie, performing Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, No. 3 with violinist Luke Fatora and Amy Beach’s Violin Sonata, Op. 34 with Jesse Holstein.

Thursday, February 15 at 7pm
Grand Gallery, RISD Museum
20 N. Main Street, Providence
Admission to the museum and concert is free
No reservations are necessary

CMW Celebrates 20 with Twenty Years, Twenty Stories

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This year Community MusicWorks turns 20! To mark the milestone, we are gathering the stories of 20 members of our community–musicians, students, parents, graduates and supporters. Look for new stories throughout the season.

Interviews were recorded, transcribed and edited to create personal narratives in each subject’s distinctive voice. We hope 20 Years, 20 Stories captures the many flavors and varieties of CMW experience. Join us at a concert anytime to start creating your own CMW story.

Read the interviews here.

 

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Who’s the Guy with the Curly Hair?

 

“The Last Supper” painting by Jessica Van Daam, on loan to the Trinity Brewhouse.

CMW Fellow and violinist Luke Fatora muses upon Beethoven as a pop culture icon.

Earlier this year, an unexpected downpour of cold rain unleashed itself as I was out for a walk. Passing by the Trinity Brewhouse on Fountain Street, I took refuge inside and found myself seated near a musician-themed mural riffing on The Last Supper. I was enjoying a nearby table’s particularly slurred conversation – its contents better left unexplored here – when it took a hard turn. One of the speakers interrupted a waitress, gesturing towards the mural hanging on the wall where Ludwig van Beethoven (not to confused with Beethoven the dog but more on that later) was stoically seated next to Billie Holiday in the company of other musicians like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. He asked “Who’s the guy with the curly hair??”

I found myself thinking back to this experience recently at CMW’s Phase II students’ weekly dinner and discussion. The students were exploring the interdependent relationship between a piece of art and the settings that a culture places it in. Later that night I grappled with unanswerable questions as I tossed and turned. How would Beethoven have responded to someone telling him that two centuries into the future, Americans would scarf down nachos and beer under his quasi-religious image in a brewpub in Providence, RI? How about being told that Andy Warhol, an iconic 20th century American artist, would designate Beethoven as the figure from western classical music to join the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Chairman Mao, as portrait subjects? Finally, what would he have had to say about the movie Beethoven released in the 1990’s?? My guess is as good as anyone’s as to how Beethoven would have reacted to being told that his name would become synonymous with a Hollywood movie about the adventures of a goofy, slobbering, St. Bernard.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The composer’s canine namesake.

After entertaining these hypothetical reactions, we’re left with some serious questions. Why did Andy Warhol choose Beethoven over someone like Schubert or Tchaikovsky as an iconic portrait subject? Why is the comedic reboot of Lassie centered around a St. Bernard named Beethoven (the surface explanation is here) and not Schoenberg or Bach?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Warhol’s Beethoven

Beethoven was an incredibly forward thinking composer – so much so that nearly a century after he wrote his wild Grosse Fugue, composers such as Arnold Schoenberg would look back to it as a premonition of their own radical breaks with tradition. Are we to believe that Beethoven’s seat at the table of musical disciples in the Trinity Brewhouse is a result of his technical wizardry as a composer?

Another explanation lies in his easily accessible humanity. As many people know, Beethoven lost his hearing over the course of time and had a generally tough life. His struggles led him to rail against fate in his Fifth Symphony. There is hardly a more universal human experience than struggling with circumstances that are beyond our control. Beethoven’s loss of hearing is tragic and his response to continue living for the sake of creating art is certainly heroic (you can read about it in his own words in his famed Heiligenstadt Testament). This said, other composers, being human (for now…), have certainly also struggled with circumstances beyond their control.

Popular culture’s obsession with Beethoven (the composer) risks encapsulating his image in the opening bars of his 5th Symphony and “that epic part of the 9th symphony where people are singing about something in German.” Only a sliver of Beethoven’s humanity is seen when it is through this lens. Recently, I have been working through his Third op. 12 Piano and Violin sonata and have been enjoying how starkly it contrasts popular notions of what Beethoven should sound like (“bark bark bark baaaark!”). Beethoven began working on his op. 12 Piano and Violin sonatas in 1797; he was 27 years old and had been living in Vienna for 5 years. At that point, he was 5 years away from writing the Heiligenstadt Testament and presumably contemplating suicide in the face of his worsening deafness. The Heiligenstadt Testament details the agony of Beethoven’s depression but it also mentions his lifelong heightened sensitivity to “tender feelings of affection” and his general “love for man and feelings of benevolence.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ludwig Van Beethoven, composer and guy with the curly hair.

Beethoven’s Third Piano and Violin Sonata can be seen as stemming from these general underlying dispositions; it is brimming with a particularly sparkling and playful energy, never taking itself too seriously. The beginning and ending movements are strikingly joyful romps through E flat major. The second movement is an Adagio in C major that begins with a simple melody containing an emotional pureness that becomes transformed throughout the movement. The theme passes briefly through distant and more complicated emotional landscapes, emerging to playfully evade a committed return to its original character – one gets the sense that Beethoven is exploring what it feels like to make peace with an unattainable ideal’s imaginary nature. This is the side of Beethoven that, two centuries later, keeps me warm on a slushy February day. Beethoven’s ability to probe such an extreme range of emotion leaves me in awe of his (very human) ability to reach across time and space to connect with us and – most importantly – inspires me to stop reaching for my phone to check the latest news and reach for my violin instead.

–Luke Fatora

Please join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for the Sonata Series Event at RISD Museum’s Grand Gallery as Luke Fatora performs Beethoven (the composer) along with pianist Jeff Louie. The event also features violinist Jesse Holstein performing a composition by Amy Beach.

 

A Day at the Beach

Join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for our Sonata Series Event featuring Jesse Holstein and Luke Fatora with guest pianist Jeff Louie. The evening’s program features a composition by Amy Beach. Here, Jesse talks about the composer and the piece he’ll perform at RISD Museum Grand Gallery.
 
A piece that has recently come into my orbit is the Sonata for Violin and Piano by Amy Beach. It was completely unknown to me before I performed it at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music last August. In the process of learning it, I became quite taken with the piece and subsequently asked my friend Jeff Louie to play it with me for the CMW Sonata Series Concert this February 15 at the RISD Museum at 7pm. If I may be permitted, perhaps a little background about Ms. Beach and the sonata.
 

Tucked between the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers in south-eastern New England lies the little town of Henniker, New Hampshire. Aside from being the birthplace of Red Sox legend Ted Williams, Henniker also lays claim as the birthplace of one of the most important figures in American classical music, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach.

Composer Amy Beach

Born September 5, 1867, Amy Cheney exhibited prodigious musical talent on the piano and in composition from a very young age. She advanced far beyond what teaching was available in Henniker by age seven and in order to support Amy’s talent, the family moved to the Boston suburb of Chelsea in 1875. There, she studied piano with Carl Baermann, who was himself a piano student of Franz Liszt. While Amy did receive some composition and counterpoint coaching as a young teen, she was essentially an autodidact in composition her whole life. Impressively, her “Gaelic Symphony” of 1896 received its world-premier by the Boston Symphony and was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. This is a testament to her incredible gift of melody and intuitive ability as a composer.
 
When Amy was on the verge of international stardom as a pianist and composer, she got married at age eighteen to a prominent Boston surgeon, Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, twenty-four years her senior. As was the custom of the times, he limited her performing life to just a few recitals a year and Amy received no mentoring or tutoring as a composer. When Dr. Beach died in 1910, Amy began touring as a pianist and composer in Europe and was a tremendous success. She would return to America in 1914 and was a major figure in American Classical music until her death in 1944.
 
With Amy’s piano concerto appearances with the Boston Symphony as a teenager, she gained the attention of the BSO Concertmaster, Franz Kneisel.  He invited her to perform the Schumann piano quintet with his string quartet in 1894 and he premiered her violin sonata in 1897 with Ms. Beach at the piano. Arguably the greatest Romantic Period American violin sonata, Beach’s piece is a dramatic big-boned sonata with a tremendous scope of expression and color. Cast in four movements, the first movement is a serious and dramatic voyage within the traditional sonata-form structure. In relief to the density of the first movement, the second movement is a much lighter scherzo akin to some of Mendelssohn’s “fairy music” movements. The third movement is the longest of the four chapters. Highly lyrical and emotional, it begins with an extended passage for solo piano. Several musicologists have remarked on the similarity of the melody of Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me” to the main theme of this movement. (This statement may or may not be true.) The finale has the tremendous forward drive and drama that one might expect in the concluding chapter of such a impassioned work. At the midpoint, a Bach-like fugue appears with wonderful counterpoint and dialogue between the voices before a return to the Romantic thrust to the conclusion.
 
I hope you are able to join us and hear the sonata for yourself on Thursday, February 15 at 7pm at the RISD Museum Grand Gallery. Also on the program will be Beethoven’s charming sonata in E-flat, op. 12 no. 3 with Luke Fatora, violin and Jeff Louie, piano.
 
–Jesse Holstein
Associate Director / Senior Resident Musician

Who Let the Frogs Out? A Postcard from the Newport String Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently discovered that the beloved game of skipping stones across water has a variety of other names in other countries – ducks and drakes (UK), dragonflies (Czech), throwing a sandwich (Finnish) and the Ukrainian name is zapuskaty zhabky which translates to “letting the frogs out”.

What has me thinking about skipping stones, you ask?

As musicians engaged in community residencies, we are constantly experimenting – tweaking traditional concert formats to engage new people, bringing a new game to a classroom of violin students – to build meaningful connections between people. And, that moment of trying something new in pursuit of connection, is a lot like the moment when you let go of the pebble to see how far it will bounce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



As anyone with stone-skipping prowess will tell you, much depends on finding the right pebbles. And we have been incredibly lucky with our plentiful supply! The Newport String Project is now in its fifth season – thanks to incredible community support, this year, myself and Emmy have been joined by violist Ashley Frith and cellist Jaime Feldman. Together we perform as the Newport String Quartet and curate educational programming that provides free violin, viola and cello lessons to almost forty students aging from Pre-K to fifth graders. There have been many, many “pebbles” along the way. And there have definitely been some “clunkers”– unruly frogs, you might say – but some of the more successful “pebbles” have led to signature events like the Paper Orchestra concerts (see highlights from our most recent one here) and the community barn dance series and many rich collaborations with local organizations.

Every so often, there’s the magical combination of pebble, technique and environmental conditions – and you realize that the pebbles are bouncing a lot further than you imagined, maybe in ways you hadn’t even noticed or realized. Like when our oldest students are recruiting their friends to come join the Newport String Project. Like when a younger sibling already knows a song because they’ve learnt it from an older brother or sister. Like when you notice a parent absorbed in watching their child’s lesson and marveling at the complexity of skills they’re learning. Like when an audience member finds you after a concert to ask what works by that composer they should listen to next. These moments are energizing, humbling and bring much needed detail to the sweeping Big Picture flow of this work.

-Ealain McMullin, Newport String Project Co-Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about Newport String Project here!

Hello from Newfoundland!


Our good friend from the North, Carole Bestvater (CMW Violin Fellow 2009-2011), shares the latest news from Strong Harbour Strings along with an update on a visit from our own MusicWorks Network Fellow and CMW student alum, Andrew Oung. Carole is the Director & Founder of the program, located in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
 
Wow, it’s hard to imagine that five years have passed since this program started!  Here we are, in Strong Harbour Strings’ fifth season, with so much to celebrate. This year, there are 24 students in our main centre, all coming two times a week for group and individual lessons.  We also started a satellite centre in a nearby neighbourhood across the harbour. There are 16 students who come twice a week during their lunch hour to learn the violin and viola. There are three new staff members who joined the team this season, so we’re having fun getting to know each other, teaching, and playing music together.
 
We recently played a concert of the Vivaldi Four Seasons in a downtown pub, selling out the place! People loved it! We’re planning on repeating the concert in a workshop for the SHS students, as well as in another family-friendly venue.  It’s been a very exciting time for Strong Harbour Strings.

The most exciting aspect right now is that Andrew Oung, the MusicWorks Network Fellow, is currently in St. John’s for a six week internship.  He’s working with a small group of 7th graders in developing the culture for a group inspired by CMW’s teen group, Phase II.  He’s been leading discussions, prompting conversations, and laying down a foundation for a group like this to continue after his internship here has finished. It has been exciting to see this aspect of Strong Harbour Strings develop, and feels like the missing puzzle piece is finally in place.  Now that we have students who are growing, developing critical thinking, and are completely blissed out that they get to keep on learning music and hanging out with each other, we’re finally ready to develop a Phase II-like program for them.
Sending love and hugs from the North Atlantic,

Carole Bestvater

 

Andrew Oung also sent along an update on his visit:

For the past few weeks I have been working here with Strong Harbour Strings. It has been wonderful getting to know all of the students and staff. I work with them three times a week, each day taking on a different role. I have started a small discussion group with the program’s 7th graders, I teach violin lessons, I support teachers during orchestra time, and I help students learn music theory. Strong Harbour takes place at two locations, one of which is the Cornerstone Ministry Centre. I really love that there is an open space where students and parents gather while they wait for lessons. It provides an opportunity for them to naturally interact with each other, and helps the music theory mentors be visible and accessible.
 
Outside of the educational aspect of the program, I attended a performance by the staff, named the Strong Harbour Strings Collective. They performed Vivaldi’s Four Season at The Black Sheep Pub to a full audience. I loved seeing how much the audience enjoyed the performance and I overheard somebody proudly say, “where else in the world can you hear Vivaldi in a pub”. While I can think of another city very dear to me where that could be true, I still think there is a uniqueness to the music community here. I’ll be in St. John’s for a few more weeks and I look forward to learning more about Strong Harbour Strings and the musical community here.

 

 

 

A Place to Play: Celebrating Music Haven’s New Office

We checked in with former CMW Fellow Annalisa Boerner (Viola Fellow 2012-2014), who has joined the staff of Music Haven in New Haven, CT as a full time Resident Musician and member of the Haven String Quartet. Here, Annalisa shares some news about the program’s new digs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, January 19th, Music Haven celebrated its tenth year of teaching and our move into a beautiful new space with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Our new offices are in a former factory space called Erector Square. Our suite was too small for a school, too big for a yoga studio, and just right for our organization to fit into and grow with.

Music Haven’s new location, where we rehearse, teach, and perform, is helping our program grow in ways big and small. The sense of community is palpable when our eighty students gather for group classes on Fridays, and as they filter in and out throughout the week. We love to see them doing homework and playing Uno in the lounge area as they wait for lessons. On the teaching side, I can keep a shelf of music, a jar of clothespins, and both a violin and a viola close at hand, and my students can have lessons in a calm environment that’s dedicated to music-making. We’ve hosted studio recitals with potlucks in our large performance space, and we look forward to debuting next year’s Chamber Series concerts in this area as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The program for the afternoon of the 19th included words from Mandi Jackson, Executive Director; Yaira Matyakubova, violinist and Senior Resident Musician; and Mayor Toni Harp (!) who cut the ribbon. The Music Lanterns, an ensemble of nine to twelve-year-old students, kicked off the program, and the Harmony In Action chamber orchestra concluded it with a conductorless performance of Lean on Me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is thanks to our many supporters of all varieties that we are able to sustain and grow our program in this way.  Here’s to ten more years at Music Haven!

–Annalisa Boerner

Congratulations to Annalisa and the Music Haven staff and students!

 

Unlocking Meaning: CMW Fellows’ Residency at Butler Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“I find myself saying that it doesn’t matter what the music is, or at least that the content is a trivial concern compared to the importance of making a human connection between performer and listener.”

Heath Marlow, former CMW staffer and current faculty/staff at New England Conservatory, reflects on his work with CMW Fellows in creating and implementing a performance residency at Butler Hospital, a psychiatric facility on Providence’s East Side,  in 2017:

At our first session together in Fall 2016, I asked the Fellows to come up with a new community (not the communities already served by Community MusicWorks) that could potentially benefit from interacting with a string quartet.

The group’s research led to the conclusion that it would be important to try out their ideas in an environment that had the capacity to support the quartet’s experimental activities. Butler Hospital’s Healing Arts Program was immediately receptive to hosting the quartet, and a series of three activities for distinct patient populations (adolescent, adult, geriatric) was soon decided upon.

 

​”It was personally humbling to participate in the workshops. The response in each unit was so different – but equally powerful. It felt challenging to insert ourselves into such an intense environment – having no idea where each person was on their healing path.”

Read Heath’s full account and reflection in his blog piece, here.

This year, Heath meets regularly with the current quartet of Fellows (and other interested musician colleagues) to discuss aspects of building a career as a musician at the intersection of artistry and community using the best practices associated with growing a community-based organization.

 

Investing in People and Place

For the past 20 years, Community MusicWorks has been invested in both people and place – our students, families, and professional musicians, and the community of Providence.

Last year was truly a celebratory season. Throughout our programs, we reflected on our growth and impact, and we took on important new initiatives. Some of last year’s most significant moments included the expansion of our Daily Orchestra Program to include a new daily ensemble for six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds; the We Shall Overcome Project; the graduation of our largest class of Phase II students and our tenth class of Fellows; the residency of world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax; and over 30 inspiring free performances.

Beyond the specifics, we celebrated the culture of Community MusicWorks, which supports young people, professional musicians, guest artists, and our colleagues in CMW’s Fellowship Program, to continually grow their approach to music-making in our community.

“The always-evolving organism of CMW is innovative, curious, engaged, compassionate, empathetic, generous and far-reaching. I learned more than I imagined I would in the most supportive and nurturing environment. I can’t think of a better place to incubate and grow ideas and deepen my own experience and confidence. Getting to know, teach, and learn from the most wonderful studio of students, along with performing with an exceptional ensemble of colleagues has been incredibly motivating and continues to inform my work.”
– Josie Davis, violinist, CMW Fellow 2015-17

Using our 20th season as both inspiration and motivation – and recognizing all there is still to work on in our community and world – we are beginning our third decade looking even more deeply at our mission and how we put it into practice. Consistent with our Strategic Plan, we have mapped out several significant enhancements to our programs, included below.

These new initiatives range from further developing our music education practices with young people, to deepening the experiences of our concert audiences, to developing the MusicWorks Network, a new consortium of programs around the country that were founded on CMW’s model. I am pleased to share highlights of these new program elements, which of course will be in addition to our daily work with our 160 students and our over 30 free performances in our communities.

What we know has been a key to our growth and success – our ability to create new opportunities – has been the partnerships with supporters like you who share our belief that music can be a transformative experience for our communities.

As we launch into our third decade, your donation towards our ambitious 21st season will enable us to further develop, strengthen, and deepen our work.

As you know, Community MusicWorks is committed to offering our youth programs and performances free of charge – which means we must raise our full budget each year. Your generous gift will ensure that we can maintain our commitments to students, musicians, and audiences. Your partnership will allow us to work with young people and artists in a way that has a real impact on building positive goals and futures.

I appreciate your considering a generous gift this fall to make transformational experiences possible for young people and our communities.

Sincerely,
Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director
Community MusicWorks 

Community MusicWorks
21st Season Special Programs and Projects

Phase II for All and Joy in Practice

This year, during the first semester of All Play Day – a weekly two-hour session where CMW Phase I, II and III students gather for intense lessons and rehearsals – students will be invited to select classes based on their playing ability and interest. Classes will focus on improvisation and composition, theory and sight-reading, jazz, performance anxiety and mindfulness, learning how to practice, and experimental music. This enhanced offering provides our students with many access points into the study of music, and encourages them to explore their own interests and skills as musicians.

The second half of the year will be focused on ensembles, including all students exploring a piece in depth, building on the We Shall Overcome Project. In the We Shall Overcome Project, all of our students will learn an arrangement of a historically significant song as well as learning about its origins, later uses, and meaning. Starting in January, students will take part in weekly activities that explore the text, history, and power of this song, and will write their own verses based on their personal and musical experiences in their community or in the world at large.

Music Transforms

As part of our mission to explore, hear, and perform a broad range of voices through our concerts, our programming this year has been expanded to include a theme of presenting under-represented communities. Throughout the season, we will explore the works by female composers in a broad range of genres and instrumentation.

In addition to our MusicWorks Collective concerts, CMW’s mission to present visionary artists, such as Jonathan Biss, Emanuel Ax, and this season, world-renowned violinist Johnny Gandelsman, in performances and collaborations, offers two important opportunities for CMW. First, it allows CMW to share its mission and programs with a broader base of music aficionados. Second, it offers our students an opportunity to be inspired to strive for their musical and personal goals and to find their voice as unique citizens in our world.

Leading the Conversation

In August, CMW launched MusicWorks Network, the first of three annual institutes funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Network brings together representatives from nine organizations, staffed or led by former CMW Fellows and participants in our Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service. The overarching goals for the Network include: sharing social justice programming, goals, and methodology; incorporating college-going skills development among students across the network; and building connectivity between the sites to facilitate shared learning and creating pathways for CMW students and Fellowship Program graduates to contribute and gain employment in other sites.

Several important themes emerged at the institute that challenged CMW to grow our practice. Primary among them is that CMW has an opportunity to dig deeper into the questions of organizational practice as they relate to social justice broadly, and racial justice in particular. We are energized to define more clearly how all of CMW’s practices can reflect our social justice commitment and curriculum.

Is This the One About the Pilot? Working Toward Copland’s Violin Sonata

Join us Thursday, November 16 at 7pm for our popular Sonata Series in the beautifully appointed Grand Gallery at RISD Museum. This concert features violinists Sebastian Ruth and David Rubin with guest pianist Eliko Akahori. Here, violinist David Rubin shares his notes on the piece he’ll perform at the event and his own process of discovery on the meaning and origin of Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano.

I heard about Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano years before I actually heard Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. The initial encounter looms large in my memory and — come to think of it — stands in opposition to my current experience of the piece. Tension can often be generative, as we say at CMW, so perhaps this story will be of some interest for those folks planning to attend our Sonata Series performance at the RISD Museum (Thursday, November 16 at 7pm in the Grand Gallery).

***
In 2004, pianist Karl Paulnack gave a welcome address to the parents of incoming students at Boston Conservatory. Seeking to reassure a presumably anxious crowd about the viability of their children’s chosen career path (read: financial ruin?), Paulnack shared stories about music’s healing powers, its necessity in our society, and the potential nobility of a life spent in its service. One of those anecdotes centered around Paulnack’s own performance of – you guessed it – the Copland violin sonata. This story is better in Paulnack’s telling, but I’ll briefly summarize it here.

During this performance of the Copland (let’s set the stage, actually: during the elegiac slow movement, at a small-town nursing home) a World War II veteran in the audience was clearly overcome with emotion. Later in the concert, Paulnack shared more details about the piece, including the story of its dedication to Harry Dunham, a pilot killed in battle during World War II and a close friend of Copland’s. At this point, the veteran in the audience stood up and left. He later told Paulnack that he was in shock – Copland’s music had triggered a vivid remembrance of a near-identical experience from his own wartime service, a particular trauma he hadn’t thought of in years. The veteran wanted to know how this was possible. How could Copland’s music make him remember so vividly, even though he hadn’t known about that particular connection when he first listened to the piece?

Paulnack’s story is a beautiful testament to music’s communicative powers. It’s also some heavy interpretative baggage for a performer to assimilate. From then on, I remembered the Copland sonata as the World War II piece that, by virtue of its somber American-ness, went straight to the heart.

And I’m not alone. To quote a random YouTube commenter:

“Is this the one about the pilot shot down in WWII?”

***
Now, when I play this piece, I have more information to draw on, and it makes things more complicated for me as a performer. New perspectives nudge that simple origin story out of my head, or at least force it to share space. Here’s a taste of that stew.

The ink was dry – the piece was finished – when Copland learned of Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham’s death, at which point he added the dedication. We have no way of knowing what he was thinking about while he was writing the violin sonata. It is a wartime piece because it was written during the war, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that this is a piece about war, or a piece about Dunham. It’s entirely possible that Copland didn’t think about the war – or his friend – at all while he was committing these notes to paper.

We know only what (little) Copland chose to share about it, namely: “I had little desire to compose a dissonant or virtuosic work, or one that incorporated folk materials. Nevertheless, certain qualities of the American folk tune had become part of my natural style of composing, and they are echoed in the Sonata.” Nicely put, Aaron.

We also know that the premiere drew polarized responses from critics. One damned its “rearward vision” (ouch!), while another (Copland’s friend Virgil Thomson) praised its “calm elevation… irresistibly touching.” That’s more like it. Wouldn’t we all like to be praised for our “calm elevation?”

I also know what my teachers have shared about their experience with this piece, and what various smart people have written. My mentor in graduate school was fascinated by Copland’s habit of spreading common, everyday chords across wide spans on an instrument’s range (think of a pianist playing high and low notes at the same time) – the harmony might be utterly familiar, but its presentation is unearthly. It creates the illusion of space, of solitude… of frontiers. Stan Kleppinger, in the journal of the Society for Music Theory, suggests that this piece’s special sonorities can be explained as dualities, moments when two key areas exist simultaneously – the magic lies in the ambiguity. Other scholars hear past the melodic inflections in Copland’s writing (and the related, pesky question of American-ness, which seems to dominate all conversations of this composer’s music) toward a neoclassical reading, in which canons and miniature fugues dance in 20th-century dress. Bach in Hollywood in 1943.

***
And even though the dedication was added after the piece’s completion, I can’t help but also wonder about this man, this Harry Dunham. It turns out that we know a bit about him, too, largely thanks to the work of Copland-scholar Howard Pollack.

We know that Dunham was incredibly handsome (in composer David Diamond’s words: “the most adorable, good-looking boy”), the darling of a New York arts community that starred Copland, Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles, John Latouche, and other familiar figures. We know that he came from money, that he graduated from Princeton, that he made films. We know he was, to some degree, a leftist. We know that he married a woman, Marian Chase, but we also know that he was romantically involved with several men in the artistic circles he moved in. We know that Dunham, Bowles, and Copland traveled together in Morocco. We know that he died in battle in 1943, and that Aaron Copland dedicated this stunning piece of music to his memory.

I wasn’t expecting Dunham’s story to be so rich. The anonymous “pilot” from my initial encounter with the Copland violin sonata has a lot in common with me, and with people I’ve known. His sexuality, his artistic and political leanings, his social circles – they all run contrary to the military stereotype that I conjured up upon first hearing. This speaks to my prejudices, but it also speaks to the simple fact that people are complicated. In fact, Dunham’s surprises form a nice parallel with the rich ironies of Copland’s own story. Copland, the man whose music was appropriated for “Beef! It’s What’s for Dinner!” or Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America!” was, in Alex Ross’ words, “a gay leftist of Russian-Jewish extraction.” The man who created an American identity in concert music wasn’t always particularly welcome in his own country. Chew on that for a moment. These are not new ironies, but they never cease to amaze.

***

So, in the end, what should a performer make of these accumulated, sometimes contradictory meanings and associations? Perhaps it’s a cop-out, but here’s an attempt. I’m not a historian and I’m not a theorist and I’m not a veteran, but I do know what this piece makes me feel. Now, as I type this, I think of the piece’s opening, and its particular magic: a series of plain-spoken piano chords; hanging in the air, unresolved, still. Just the thought of those chords makes me verklempt. They’re 100% Copland, and they just break your heart.

I imagine Copland’s dedication to Dunham as a monument to an individual life, yes, but also a way of life: a group of friends, and a particular moment in time and space. In the composer’s words:

“By reflecting the time in which one lives, the creative artist gives substance and meaning to life as we live it. Life seems so transitory! It is very attractive to set down some sort of permanent statement about the way we feel, so that when it’s all gone, people will be able to go to our art works to see what it was like to be alive in our time and place — twentieth-century America.”

I love that little word: our. You get the sense that Copland’s our was broad as can be. “Our” twentieth-century America was gay and Jewish and left, just as much as it was the opposite of those things.

***

For me, this is the fun of performing. You live inside of a piece, soak up its contradictions and cliches, and try to make sense of it – both the thing itself (whatever that means, God help us) – and your relationship to it. Each realization of a piece, each usage in a different context, is a fleeting act – but over time it forms a discourse, a discussion across decades. It’s a beautiful mess, but that’s where the meaning is. A generative tension.

In any case. I hope you’ll join Eliko, Sebastian and I for Thursday’s program at the RISD Museum. It’ll be a pleasure to explore this piece, in all of its contradictions. In so doing, I hope we’ll celebrate Aaron Copland’s life — Harry Dunham’s, too.

-David Rubin, Violin Fellow


Further reading & works quoted above

Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. Henry Holt, 1999.
Karl Paulnack, welcome address at The Boston Conservatory, 2004. Accessible here.
Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland Since 1943. St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Gail Levin and Judith Tick, Aaron Copland’s America. Watson-Guptill Publications, 2000.

 

MusicWorks Network: A New Initiative

Within the past twenty-one years, CMW has offered professional musicians opportunities to re-imagine the very foundations of a classical music career, and to think more broadly about music as a way of engaging in and with communities.

This year, CMW has the opportunity to deepen that work with the support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a new initiative, Citizens of the World: Forging Pathways to College and Beyond. This strategic initiative is designed to substantially increase the number of racially diverse, low-income young people who gain access to critical skills that promote success. This work builds on CMW’s 20-year history of developing music-based education programs designed to open new worlds of opportunity to low-income African-American and Latino youth. Out of this work has come Phase II, an approach to developing fundamental skills and supports that promote college-going, that has led 95% of CMW graduates to continue to college.

CMW will share CMW’s successful college-going model across a network of community-based music education sites. Called the MusicWorks Network, this project will link 10-15 community-based music sites serving over 650 young people and convene them in an annual Summer Institute for training, resource-sharing, and collaborative evaluation.

The first Summer Institute took place this past August 22-30 as educators and staff from ten different organizations gathered at the beautiful Rolling Ridge Conference Center in North Andover, MA. Connecting around the ways that social justice practices and technical and artistic work on string instruments can support one another, teachers and staff came from Community MusicWorks, MusiConnects (Boston, MA), MyCincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), Musica Franklin (Franklin, MA), Orchestra of St. Luke’s (New York, New York), MusicHaven (New Haven, CT), Newport Strings (Newport, RI), Sistema New Brunswick (New Brunswick, St. John, Canada), Strong Harbor Strings (St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada), and Neighborhood Strings (Worcester, MA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participants convened for a range of workshops and trainings, including a 2-day string pedagogy workshop with renowned violinist and teacher Mimi Zweig, a poetry and social justice workshop with poet Jonathan Mendoza, a workshop on anti-racist organizational frameworks with trainer and activist Adeola Oredola, and discussions and reflection around the creative synergy between string pedagogy and social justice teachings.

The Institute was designed and facilitated by Sebastian Ruth and Chloe Kline with the new MusicWorks Network staff: MusicWorks Network Director Jori Ketten and MusicWorks Network Fellow Andrew Oung. Part of the initiative, the MusicWorks Network Fellowship is a one-year position for alumni of CMW’s youth program or graduates of CMW’s two-year Fellowship Program to contribute to the MusicWorks Network. Andrew is our first alumni hire at CMW.

 

Archives

Thursday, February 15 : Music in the Grand Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sonata Series Event

The Sonata Series features MusicWorks Collective musicians with guest pianists presenting works from the duo sonata repertoire. Together, musicians explore pieces from the 17th and 18th century masterworks to contemporary works.

This event features pianist Jeff Louie, performing Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, No. 3 with violinist Luke Fatora and Amy Beach’s Violin Sonata, Op. 34 with Jesse Holstein.

Thursday, February 15 at 7pm
Grand Gallery, RISD Museum
20 N. Main Street, Providence
Admission to the museum and concert is free
No reservations are necessary

CMW Celebrates 20 with Twenty Years, Twenty Stories

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This year Community MusicWorks turns 20! To mark the milestone, we are gathering the stories of 20 members of our community–musicians, students, parents, graduates and supporters. Look for new stories throughout the season.

Interviews were recorded, transcribed and edited to create personal narratives in each subject’s distinctive voice. We hope 20 Years, 20 Stories captures the many flavors and varieties of CMW experience. Join us at a concert anytime to start creating your own CMW story.

Read the interviews here.

 

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Who’s the Guy with the Curly Hair?

 

“The Last Supper” painting by Jessica Van Daam, on loan to the Trinity Brewhouse.

CMW Fellow and violinist Luke Fatora muses upon Beethoven as a pop culture icon.

Earlier this year, an unexpected downpour of cold rain unleashed itself as I was out for a walk. Passing by the Trinity Brewhouse on Fountain Street, I took refuge inside and found myself seated near a musician-themed mural riffing on The Last Supper. I was enjoying a nearby table’s particularly slurred conversation – its contents better left unexplored here – when it took a hard turn. One of the speakers interrupted a waitress, gesturing towards the mural hanging on the wall where Ludwig van Beethoven (not to confused with Beethoven the dog but more on that later) was stoically seated next to Billie Holiday in the company of other musicians like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. He asked “Who’s the guy with the curly hair??”

I found myself thinking back to this experience recently at CMW’s Phase II students’ weekly dinner and discussion. The students were exploring the interdependent relationship between a piece of art and the settings that a culture places it in. Later that night I grappled with unanswerable questions as I tossed and turned. How would Beethoven have responded to someone telling him that two centuries into the future, Americans would scarf down nachos and beer under his quasi-religious image in a brewpub in Providence, RI? How about being told that Andy Warhol, an iconic 20th century American artist, would designate Beethoven as the figure from western classical music to join the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Chairman Mao, as portrait subjects? Finally, what would he have had to say about the movie Beethoven released in the 1990’s?? My guess is as good as anyone’s as to how Beethoven would have reacted to being told that his name would become synonymous with a Hollywood movie about the adventures of a goofy, slobbering, St. Bernard.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The composer’s canine namesake.

After entertaining these hypothetical reactions, we’re left with some serious questions. Why did Andy Warhol choose Beethoven over someone like Schubert or Tchaikovsky as an iconic portrait subject? Why is the comedic reboot of Lassie centered around a St. Bernard named Beethoven (the surface explanation is here) and not Schoenberg or Bach?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Warhol’s Beethoven

Beethoven was an incredibly forward thinking composer – so much so that nearly a century after he wrote his wild Grosse Fugue, composers such as Arnold Schoenberg would look back to it as a premonition of their own radical breaks with tradition. Are we to believe that Beethoven’s seat at the table of musical disciples in the Trinity Brewhouse is a result of his technical wizardry as a composer?

Another explanation lies in his easily accessible humanity. As many people know, Beethoven lost his hearing over the course of time and had a generally tough life. His struggles led him to rail against fate in his Fifth Symphony. There is hardly a more universal human experience than struggling with circumstances that are beyond our control. Beethoven’s loss of hearing is tragic and his response to continue living for the sake of creating art is certainly heroic (you can read about it in his own words in his famed Heiligenstadt Testament). This said, other composers, being human (for now…), have certainly also struggled with circumstances beyond their control.

Popular culture’s obsession with Beethoven (the composer) risks encapsulating his image in the opening bars of his 5th Symphony and “that epic part of the 9th symphony where people are singing about something in German.” Only a sliver of Beethoven’s humanity is seen when it is through this lens. Recently, I have been working through his Third op. 12 Piano and Violin sonata and have been enjoying how starkly it contrasts popular notions of what Beethoven should sound like (“bark bark bark baaaark!”). Beethoven began working on his op. 12 Piano and Violin sonatas in 1797; he was 27 years old and had been living in Vienna for 5 years. At that point, he was 5 years away from writing the Heiligenstadt Testament and presumably contemplating suicide in the face of his worsening deafness. The Heiligenstadt Testament details the agony of Beethoven’s depression but it also mentions his lifelong heightened sensitivity to “tender feelings of affection” and his general “love for man and feelings of benevolence.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ludwig Van Beethoven, composer and guy with the curly hair.

Beethoven’s Third Piano and Violin Sonata can be seen as stemming from these general underlying dispositions; it is brimming with a particularly sparkling and playful energy, never taking itself too seriously. The beginning and ending movements are strikingly joyful romps through E flat major. The second movement is an Adagio in C major that begins with a simple melody containing an emotional pureness that becomes transformed throughout the movement. The theme passes briefly through distant and more complicated emotional landscapes, emerging to playfully evade a committed return to its original character – one gets the sense that Beethoven is exploring what it feels like to make peace with an unattainable ideal’s imaginary nature. This is the side of Beethoven that, two centuries later, keeps me warm on a slushy February day. Beethoven’s ability to probe such an extreme range of emotion leaves me in awe of his (very human) ability to reach across time and space to connect with us and – most importantly – inspires me to stop reaching for my phone to check the latest news and reach for my violin instead.

–Luke Fatora

Please join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for the Sonata Series Event at RISD Museum’s Grand Gallery as Luke Fatora performs Beethoven (the composer) along with pianist Jeff Louie. The event also features violinist Jesse Holstein performing a composition by Amy Beach.

 

A Day at the Beach

Join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for our Sonata Series Event featuring Jesse Holstein and Luke Fatora with guest pianist Jeff Louie. The evening’s program features a composition by Amy Beach. Here, Jesse talks about the composer and the piece he’ll perform at RISD Museum Grand Gallery.
 
A piece that has recently come into my orbit is the Sonata for Violin and Piano by Amy Beach. It was completely unknown to me before I performed it at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music last August. In the process of learning it, I became quite taken with the piece and subsequently asked my friend Jeff Louie to play it with me for the CMW Sonata Series Concert this February 15 at the RISD Museum at 7pm. If I may be permitted, perhaps a little background about Ms. Beach and the sonata.
 

Tucked between the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers in south-eastern New England lies the little town of Henniker, New Hampshire. Aside from being the birthplace of Red Sox legend Ted Williams, Henniker also lays claim as the birthplace of one of the most important figures in American classical music, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach.

Composer Amy Beach

Born September 5, 1867, Amy Cheney exhibited prodigious musical talent on the piano and in composition from a very young age. She advanced far beyond what teaching was available in Henniker by age seven and in order to support Amy’s talent, the family moved to the Boston suburb of Chelsea in 1875. There, she studied piano with Carl Baermann, who was himself a piano student of Franz Liszt. While Amy did receive some composition and counterpoint coaching as a young teen, she was essentially an autodidact in composition her whole life. Impressively, her “Gaelic Symphony” of 1896 received its world-premier by the Boston Symphony and was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. This is a testament to her incredible gift of melody and intuitive ability as a composer.
 
When Amy was on the verge of international stardom as a pianist and composer, she got married at age eighteen to a prominent Boston surgeon, Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, twenty-four years her senior. As was the custom of the times, he limited her performing life to just a few recitals a year and Amy received no mentoring or tutoring as a composer. When Dr. Beach died in 1910, Amy began touring as a pianist and composer in Europe and was a tremendous success. She would return to America in 1914 and was a major figure in American Classical music until her death in 1944.
 
With Amy’s piano concerto appearances with the Boston Symphony as a teenager, she gained the attention of the BSO Concertmaster, Franz Kneisel.  He invited her to perform the Schumann piano quintet with his string quartet in 1894 and he premiered her violin sonata in 1897 with Ms. Beach at the piano. Arguably the greatest Romantic Period American violin sonata, Beach’s piece is a dramatic big-boned sonata with a tremendous scope of expression and color. Cast in four movements, the first movement is a serious and dramatic voyage within the traditional sonata-form structure. In relief to the density of the first movement, the second movement is a much lighter scherzo akin to some of Mendelssohn’s “fairy music” movements. The third movement is the longest of the four chapters. Highly lyrical and emotional, it begins with an extended passage for solo piano. Several musicologists have remarked on the similarity of the melody of Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me” to the main theme of this movement. (This statement may or may not be true.) The finale has the tremendous forward drive and drama that one might expect in the concluding chapter of such a impassioned work. At the midpoint, a Bach-like fugue appears with wonderful counterpoint and dialogue between the voices before a return to the Romantic thrust to the conclusion.
 
I hope you are able to join us and hear the sonata for yourself on Thursday, February 15 at 7pm at the RISD Museum Grand Gallery. Also on the program will be Beethoven’s charming sonata in E-flat, op. 12 no. 3 with Luke Fatora, violin and Jeff Louie, piano.
 
–Jesse Holstein
Associate Director / Senior Resident Musician

Who Let the Frogs Out? A Postcard from the Newport String Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently discovered that the beloved game of skipping stones across water has a variety of other names in other countries – ducks and drakes (UK), dragonflies (Czech), throwing a sandwich (Finnish) and the Ukrainian name is zapuskaty zhabky which translates to “letting the frogs out”.

What has me thinking about skipping stones, you ask?

As musicians engaged in community residencies, we are constantly experimenting – tweaking traditional concert formats to engage new people, bringing a new game to a classroom of violin students – to build meaningful connections between people. And, that moment of trying something new in pursuit of connection, is a lot like the moment when you let go of the pebble to see how far it will bounce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



As anyone with stone-skipping prowess will tell you, much depends on finding the right pebbles. And we have been incredibly lucky with our plentiful supply! The Newport String Project is now in its fifth season – thanks to incredible community support, this year, myself and Emmy have been joined by violist Ashley Frith and cellist Jaime Feldman. Together we perform as the Newport String Quartet and curate educational programming that provides free violin, viola and cello lessons to almost forty students aging from Pre-K to fifth graders. There have been many, many “pebbles” along the way. And there have definitely been some “clunkers”– unruly frogs, you might say – but some of the more successful “pebbles” have led to signature events like the Paper Orchestra concerts (see highlights from our most recent one here) and the community barn dance series and many rich collaborations with local organizations.

Every so often, there’s the magical combination of pebble, technique and environmental conditions – and you realize that the pebbles are bouncing a lot further than you imagined, maybe in ways you hadn’t even noticed or realized. Like when our oldest students are recruiting their friends to come join the Newport String Project. Like when a younger sibling already knows a song because they’ve learnt it from an older brother or sister. Like when you notice a parent absorbed in watching their child’s lesson and marveling at the complexity of skills they’re learning. Like when an audience member finds you after a concert to ask what works by that composer they should listen to next. These moments are energizing, humbling and bring much needed detail to the sweeping Big Picture flow of this work.

-Ealain McMullin, Newport String Project Co-Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about Newport String Project here!

Hello from Newfoundland!


Our good friend from the North, Carole Bestvater (CMW Violin Fellow 2009-2011), shares the latest news from Strong Harbour Strings along with an update on a visit from our own MusicWorks Network Fellow and CMW student alum, Andrew Oung. Carole is the Director & Founder of the program, located in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
 
Wow, it’s hard to imagine that five years have passed since this program started!  Here we are, in Strong Harbour Strings’ fifth season, with so much to celebrate. This year, there are 24 students in our main centre, all coming two times a week for group and individual lessons.  We also started a satellite centre in a nearby neighbourhood across the harbour. There are 16 students who come twice a week during their lunch hour to learn the violin and viola. There are three new staff members who joined the team this season, so we’re having fun getting to know each other, teaching, and playing music together.
 
We recently played a concert of the Vivaldi Four Seasons in a downtown pub, selling out the place! People loved it! We’re planning on repeating the concert in a workshop for the SHS students, as well as in another family-friendly venue.  It’s been a very exciting time for Strong Harbour Strings.

The most exciting aspect right now is that Andrew Oung, the MusicWorks Network Fellow, is currently in St. John’s for a six week internship.  He’s working with a small group of 7th graders in developing the culture for a group inspired by CMW’s teen group, Phase II.  He’s been leading discussions, prompting conversations, and laying down a foundation for a group like this to continue after his internship here has finished. It has been exciting to see this aspect of Strong Harbour Strings develop, and feels like the missing puzzle piece is finally in place.  Now that we have students who are growing, developing critical thinking, and are completely blissed out that they get to keep on learning music and hanging out with each other, we’re finally ready to develop a Phase II-like program for them.
Sending love and hugs from the North Atlantic,

Carole Bestvater

 

Andrew Oung also sent along an update on his visit:

For the past few weeks I have been working here with Strong Harbour Strings. It has been wonderful getting to know all of the students and staff. I work with them three times a week, each day taking on a different role. I have started a small discussion group with the program’s 7th graders, I teach violin lessons, I support teachers during orchestra time, and I help students learn music theory. Strong Harbour takes place at two locations, one of which is the Cornerstone Ministry Centre. I really love that there is an open space where students and parents gather while they wait for lessons. It provides an opportunity for them to naturally interact with each other, and helps the music theory mentors be visible and accessible.
 
Outside of the educational aspect of the program, I attended a performance by the staff, named the Strong Harbour Strings Collective. They performed Vivaldi’s Four Season at The Black Sheep Pub to a full audience. I loved seeing how much the audience enjoyed the performance and I overheard somebody proudly say, “where else in the world can you hear Vivaldi in a pub”. While I can think of another city very dear to me where that could be true, I still think there is a uniqueness to the music community here. I’ll be in St. John’s for a few more weeks and I look forward to learning more about Strong Harbour Strings and the musical community here.

 

 

 

A Place to Play: Celebrating Music Haven’s New Office

We checked in with former CMW Fellow Annalisa Boerner (Viola Fellow 2012-2014), who has joined the staff of Music Haven in New Haven, CT as a full time Resident Musician and member of the Haven String Quartet. Here, Annalisa shares some news about the program’s new digs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, January 19th, Music Haven celebrated its tenth year of teaching and our move into a beautiful new space with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Our new offices are in a former factory space called Erector Square. Our suite was too small for a school, too big for a yoga studio, and just right for our organization to fit into and grow with.

Music Haven’s new location, where we rehearse, teach, and perform, is helping our program grow in ways big and small. The sense of community is palpable when our eighty students gather for group classes on Fridays, and as they filter in and out throughout the week. We love to see them doing homework and playing Uno in the lounge area as they wait for lessons. On the teaching side, I can keep a shelf of music, a jar of clothespins, and both a violin and a viola close at hand, and my students can have lessons in a calm environment that’s dedicated to music-making. We’ve hosted studio recitals with potlucks in our large performance space, and we look forward to debuting next year’s Chamber Series concerts in this area as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The program for the afternoon of the 19th included words from Mandi Jackson, Executive Director; Yaira Matyakubova, violinist and Senior Resident Musician; and Mayor Toni Harp (!) who cut the ribbon. The Music Lanterns, an ensemble of nine to twelve-year-old students, kicked off the program, and the Harmony In Action chamber orchestra concluded it with a conductorless performance of Lean on Me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is thanks to our many supporters of all varieties that we are able to sustain and grow our program in this way.  Here’s to ten more years at Music Haven!

–Annalisa Boerner

Congratulations to Annalisa and the Music Haven staff and students!

 

Unlocking Meaning: CMW Fellows’ Residency at Butler Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“I find myself saying that it doesn’t matter what the music is, or at least that the content is a trivial concern compared to the importance of making a human connection between performer and listener.”

Heath Marlow, former CMW staffer and current faculty/staff at New England Conservatory, reflects on his work with CMW Fellows in creating and implementing a performance residency at Butler Hospital, a psychiatric facility on Providence’s East Side,  in 2017:

At our first session together in Fall 2016, I asked the Fellows to come up with a new community (not the communities already served by Community MusicWorks) that could potentially benefit from interacting with a string quartet.

The group’s research led to the conclusion that it would be important to try out their ideas in an environment that had the capacity to support the quartet’s experimental activities. Butler Hospital’s Healing Arts Program was immediately receptive to hosting the quartet, and a series of three activities for distinct patient populations (adolescent, adult, geriatric) was soon decided upon.

 

​”It was personally humbling to participate in the workshops. The response in each unit was so different – but equally powerful. It felt challenging to insert ourselves into such an intense environment – having no idea where each person was on their healing path.”

Read Heath’s full account and reflection in his blog piece, here.

This year, Heath meets regularly with the current quartet of Fellows (and other interested musician colleagues) to discuss aspects of building a career as a musician at the intersection of artistry and community using the best practices associated with growing a community-based organization.

 

Investing in People and Place

For the past 20 years, Community MusicWorks has been invested in both people and place – our students, families, and professional musicians, and the community of Providence.

Last year was truly a celebratory season. Throughout our programs, we reflected on our growth and impact, and we took on important new initiatives. Some of last year’s most significant moments included the expansion of our Daily Orchestra Program to include a new daily ensemble for six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds; the We Shall Overcome Project; the graduation of our largest class of Phase II students and our tenth class of Fellows; the residency of world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax; and over 30 inspiring free performances.

Beyond the specifics, we celebrated the culture of Community MusicWorks, which supports young people, professional musicians, guest artists, and our colleagues in CMW’s Fellowship Program, to continually grow their approach to music-making in our community.

“The always-evolving organism of CMW is innovative, curious, engaged, compassionate, empathetic, generous and far-reaching. I learned more than I imagined I would in the most supportive and nurturing environment. I can’t think of a better place to incubate and grow ideas and deepen my own experience and confidence. Getting to know, teach, and learn from the most wonderful studio of students, along with performing with an exceptional ensemble of colleagues has been incredibly motivating and continues to inform my work.”
– Josie Davis, violinist, CMW Fellow 2015-17

Using our 20th season as both inspiration and motivation – and recognizing all there is still to work on in our community and world – we are beginning our third decade looking even more deeply at our mission and how we put it into practice. Consistent with our Strategic Plan, we have mapped out several significant enhancements to our programs, included below.

These new initiatives range from further developing our music education practices with young people, to deepening the experiences of our concert audiences, to developing the MusicWorks Network, a new consortium of programs around the country that were founded on CMW’s model. I am pleased to share highlights of these new program elements, which of course will be in addition to our daily work with our 160 students and our over 30 free performances in our communities.

What we know has been a key to our growth and success – our ability to create new opportunities – has been the partnerships with supporters like you who share our belief that music can be a transformative experience for our communities.

As we launch into our third decade, your donation towards our ambitious 21st season will enable us to further develop, strengthen, and deepen our work.

As you know, Community MusicWorks is committed to offering our youth programs and performances free of charge – which means we must raise our full budget each year. Your generous gift will ensure that we can maintain our commitments to students, musicians, and audiences. Your partnership will allow us to work with young people and artists in a way that has a real impact on building positive goals and futures.

I appreciate your considering a generous gift this fall to make transformational experiences possible for young people and our communities.

Sincerely,
Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director
Community MusicWorks 

Community MusicWorks
21st Season Special Programs and Projects

Phase II for All and Joy in Practice

This year, during the first semester of All Play Day – a weekly two-hour session where CMW Phase I, II and III students gather for intense lessons and rehearsals – students will be invited to select classes based on their playing ability and interest. Classes will focus on improvisation and composition, theory and sight-reading, jazz, performance anxiety and mindfulness, learning how to practice, and experimental music. This enhanced offering provides our students with many access points into the study of music, and encourages them to explore their own interests and skills as musicians.

The second half of the year will be focused on ensembles, including all students exploring a piece in depth, building on the We Shall Overcome Project. In the We Shall Overcome Project, all of our students will learn an arrangement of a historically significant song as well as learning about its origins, later uses, and meaning. Starting in January, students will take part in weekly activities that explore the text, history, and power of this song, and will write their own verses based on their personal and musical experiences in their community or in the world at large.

Music Transforms

As part of our mission to explore, hear, and perform a broad range of voices through our concerts, our programming this year has been expanded to include a theme of presenting under-represented communities. Throughout the season, we will explore the works by female composers in a broad range of genres and instrumentation.

In addition to our MusicWorks Collective concerts, CMW’s mission to present visionary artists, such as Jonathan Biss, Emanuel Ax, and this season, world-renowned violinist Johnny Gandelsman, in performances and collaborations, offers two important opportunities for CMW. First, it allows CMW to share its mission and programs with a broader base of music aficionados. Second, it offers our students an opportunity to be inspired to strive for their musical and personal goals and to find their voice as unique citizens in our world.

Leading the Conversation

In August, CMW launched MusicWorks Network, the first of three annual institutes funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Network brings together representatives from nine organizations, staffed or led by former CMW Fellows and participants in our Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service. The overarching goals for the Network include: sharing social justice programming, goals, and methodology; incorporating college-going skills development among students across the network; and building connectivity between the sites to facilitate shared learning and creating pathways for CMW students and Fellowship Program graduates to contribute and gain employment in other sites.

Several important themes emerged at the institute that challenged CMW to grow our practice. Primary among them is that CMW has an opportunity to dig deeper into the questions of organizational practice as they relate to social justice broadly, and racial justice in particular. We are energized to define more clearly how all of CMW’s practices can reflect our social justice commitment and curriculum.

Is This the One About the Pilot? Working Toward Copland’s Violin Sonata

Join us Thursday, November 16 at 7pm for our popular Sonata Series in the beautifully appointed Grand Gallery at RISD Museum. This concert features violinists Sebastian Ruth and David Rubin with guest pianist Eliko Akahori. Here, violinist David Rubin shares his notes on the piece he’ll perform at the event and his own process of discovery on the meaning and origin of Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano.

I heard about Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano years before I actually heard Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. The initial encounter looms large in my memory and — come to think of it — stands in opposition to my current experience of the piece. Tension can often be generative, as we say at CMW, so perhaps this story will be of some interest for those folks planning to attend our Sonata Series performance at the RISD Museum (Thursday, November 16 at 7pm in the Grand Gallery).

***
In 2004, pianist Karl Paulnack gave a welcome address to the parents of incoming students at Boston Conservatory. Seeking to reassure a presumably anxious crowd about the viability of their children’s chosen career path (read: financial ruin?), Paulnack shared stories about music’s healing powers, its necessity in our society, and the potential nobility of a life spent in its service. One of those anecdotes centered around Paulnack’s own performance of – you guessed it – the Copland violin sonata. This story is better in Paulnack’s telling, but I’ll briefly summarize it here.

During this performance of the Copland (let’s set the stage, actually: during the elegiac slow movement, at a small-town nursing home) a World War II veteran in the audience was clearly overcome with emotion. Later in the concert, Paulnack shared more details about the piece, including the story of its dedication to Harry Dunham, a pilot killed in battle during World War II and a close friend of Copland’s. At this point, the veteran in the audience stood up and left. He later told Paulnack that he was in shock – Copland’s music had triggered a vivid remembrance of a near-identical experience from his own wartime service, a particular trauma he hadn’t thought of in years. The veteran wanted to know how this was possible. How could Copland’s music make him remember so vividly, even though he hadn’t known about that particular connection when he first listened to the piece?

Paulnack’s story is a beautiful testament to music’s communicative powers. It’s also some heavy interpretative baggage for a performer to assimilate. From then on, I remembered the Copland sonata as the World War II piece that, by virtue of its somber American-ness, went straight to the heart.

And I’m not alone. To quote a random YouTube commenter:

“Is this the one about the pilot shot down in WWII?”

***
Now, when I play this piece, I have more information to draw on, and it makes things more complicated for me as a performer. New perspectives nudge that simple origin story out of my head, or at least force it to share space. Here’s a taste of that stew.

The ink was dry – the piece was finished – when Copland learned of Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham’s death, at which point he added the dedication. We have no way of knowing what he was thinking about while he was writing the violin sonata. It is a wartime piece because it was written during the war, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that this is a piece about war, or a piece about Dunham. It’s entirely possible that Copland didn’t think about the war – or his friend – at all while he was committing these notes to paper.

We know only what (little) Copland chose to share about it, namely: “I had little desire to compose a dissonant or virtuosic work, or one that incorporated folk materials. Nevertheless, certain qualities of the American folk tune had become part of my natural style of composing, and they are echoed in the Sonata.” Nicely put, Aaron.

We also know that the premiere drew polarized responses from critics. One damned its “rearward vision” (ouch!), while another (Copland’s friend Virgil Thomson) praised its “calm elevation… irresistibly touching.” That’s more like it. Wouldn’t we all like to be praised for our “calm elevation?”

I also know what my teachers have shared about their experience with this piece, and what various smart people have written. My mentor in graduate school was fascinated by Copland’s habit of spreading common, everyday chords across wide spans on an instrument’s range (think of a pianist playing high and low notes at the same time) – the harmony might be utterly familiar, but its presentation is unearthly. It creates the illusion of space, of solitude… of frontiers. Stan Kleppinger, in the journal of the Society for Music Theory, suggests that this piece’s special sonorities can be explained as dualities, moments when two key areas exist simultaneously – the magic lies in the ambiguity. Other scholars hear past the melodic inflections in Copland’s writing (and the related, pesky question of American-ness, which seems to dominate all conversations of this composer’s music) toward a neoclassical reading, in which canons and miniature fugues dance in 20th-century dress. Bach in Hollywood in 1943.

***
And even though the dedication was added after the piece’s completion, I can’t help but also wonder about this man, this Harry Dunham. It turns out that we know a bit about him, too, largely thanks to the work of Copland-scholar Howard Pollack.

We know that Dunham was incredibly handsome (in composer David Diamond’s words: “the most adorable, good-looking boy”), the darling of a New York arts community that starred Copland, Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles, John Latouche, and other familiar figures. We know that he came from money, that he graduated from Princeton, that he made films. We know he was, to some degree, a leftist. We know that he married a woman, Marian Chase, but we also know that he was romantically involved with several men in the artistic circles he moved in. We know that Dunham, Bowles, and Copland traveled together in Morocco. We know that he died in battle in 1943, and that Aaron Copland dedicated this stunning piece of music to his memory.

I wasn’t expecting Dunham’s story to be so rich. The anonymous “pilot” from my initial encounter with the Copland violin sonata has a lot in common with me, and with people I’ve known. His sexuality, his artistic and political leanings, his social circles – they all run contrary to the military stereotype that I conjured up upon first hearing. This speaks to my prejudices, but it also speaks to the simple fact that people are complicated. In fact, Dunham’s surprises form a nice parallel with the rich ironies of Copland’s own story. Copland, the man whose music was appropriated for “Beef! It’s What’s for Dinner!” or Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America!” was, in Alex Ross’ words, “a gay leftist of Russian-Jewish extraction.” The man who created an American identity in concert music wasn’t always particularly welcome in his own country. Chew on that for a moment. These are not new ironies, but they never cease to amaze.

***

So, in the end, what should a performer make of these accumulated, sometimes contradictory meanings and associations? Perhaps it’s a cop-out, but here’s an attempt. I’m not a historian and I’m not a theorist and I’m not a veteran, but I do know what this piece makes me feel. Now, as I type this, I think of the piece’s opening, and its particular magic: a series of plain-spoken piano chords; hanging in the air, unresolved, still. Just the thought of those chords makes me verklempt. They’re 100% Copland, and they just break your heart.

I imagine Copland’s dedication to Dunham as a monument to an individual life, yes, but also a way of life: a group of friends, and a particular moment in time and space. In the composer’s words:

“By reflecting the time in which one lives, the creative artist gives substance and meaning to life as we live it. Life seems so transitory! It is very attractive to set down some sort of permanent statement about the way we feel, so that when it’s all gone, people will be able to go to our art works to see what it was like to be alive in our time and place — twentieth-century America.”

I love that little word: our. You get the sense that Copland’s our was broad as can be. “Our” twentieth-century America was gay and Jewish and left, just as much as it was the opposite of those things.

***

For me, this is the fun of performing. You live inside of a piece, soak up its contradictions and cliches, and try to make sense of it – both the thing itself (whatever that means, God help us) – and your relationship to it. Each realization of a piece, each usage in a different context, is a fleeting act – but over time it forms a discourse, a discussion across decades. It’s a beautiful mess, but that’s where the meaning is. A generative tension.

In any case. I hope you’ll join Eliko, Sebastian and I for Thursday’s program at the RISD Museum. It’ll be a pleasure to explore this piece, in all of its contradictions. In so doing, I hope we’ll celebrate Aaron Copland’s life — Harry Dunham’s, too.

-David Rubin, Violin Fellow


Further reading & works quoted above

Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. Henry Holt, 1999.
Karl Paulnack, welcome address at The Boston Conservatory, 2004. Accessible here.
Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland Since 1943. St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Gail Levin and Judith Tick, Aaron Copland’s America. Watson-Guptill Publications, 2000.

 

MusicWorks Network: A New Initiative

Within the past twenty-one years, CMW has offered professional musicians opportunities to re-imagine the very foundations of a classical music career, and to think more broadly about music as a way of engaging in and with communities.

This year, CMW has the opportunity to deepen that work with the support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a new initiative, Citizens of the World: Forging Pathways to College and Beyond. This strategic initiative is designed to substantially increase the number of racially diverse, low-income young people who gain access to critical skills that promote success. This work builds on CMW’s 20-year history of developing music-based education programs designed to open new worlds of opportunity to low-income African-American and Latino youth. Out of this work has come Phase II, an approach to developing fundamental skills and supports that promote college-going, that has led 95% of CMW graduates to continue to college.

CMW will share CMW’s successful college-going model across a network of community-based music education sites. Called the MusicWorks Network, this project will link 10-15 community-based music sites serving over 650 young people and convene them in an annual Summer Institute for training, resource-sharing, and collaborative evaluation.

The first Summer Institute took place this past August 22-30 as educators and staff from ten different organizations gathered at the beautiful Rolling Ridge Conference Center in North Andover, MA. Connecting around the ways that social justice practices and technical and artistic work on string instruments can support one another, teachers and staff came from Community MusicWorks, MusiConnects (Boston, MA), MyCincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), Musica Franklin (Franklin, MA), Orchestra of St. Luke’s (New York, New York), MusicHaven (New Haven, CT), Newport Strings (Newport, RI), Sistema New Brunswick (New Brunswick, St. John, Canada), Strong Harbor Strings (St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada), and Neighborhood Strings (Worcester, MA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participants convened for a range of workshops and trainings, including a 2-day string pedagogy workshop with renowned violinist and teacher Mimi Zweig, a poetry and social justice workshop with poet Jonathan Mendoza, a workshop on anti-racist organizational frameworks with trainer and activist Adeola Oredola, and discussions and reflection around the creative synergy between string pedagogy and social justice teachings.

The Institute was designed and facilitated by Sebastian Ruth and Chloe Kline with the new MusicWorks Network staff: MusicWorks Network Director Jori Ketten and MusicWorks Network Fellow Andrew Oung. Part of the initiative, the MusicWorks Network Fellowship is a one-year position for alumni of CMW’s youth program or graduates of CMW’s two-year Fellowship Program to contribute to the MusicWorks Network. Andrew is our first alumni hire at CMW.

 

Archives

Thursday, February 15 : Music in the Grand Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sonata Series Event

The Sonata Series features MusicWorks Collective musicians with guest pianists presenting works from the duo sonata repertoire. Together, musicians explore pieces from the 17th and 18th century masterworks to contemporary works.

This event features pianist Jeff Louie, performing Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, No. 3 with violinist Luke Fatora and Amy Beach’s Violin Sonata, Op. 34 with Jesse Holstein.

Thursday, February 15 at 7pm
Grand Gallery, RISD Museum
20 N. Main Street, Providence
Admission to the museum and concert is free
No reservations are necessary

CMW Celebrates 20 with Twenty Years, Twenty Stories

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This year Community MusicWorks turns 20! To mark the milestone, we are gathering the stories of 20 members of our community–musicians, students, parents, graduates and supporters. Look for new stories throughout the season.

Interviews were recorded, transcribed and edited to create personal narratives in each subject’s distinctive voice. We hope 20 Years, 20 Stories captures the many flavors and varieties of CMW experience. Join us at a concert anytime to start creating your own CMW story.

Read the interviews here.

 

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Who’s the Guy with the Curly Hair?

 

“The Last Supper” painting by Jessica Van Daam, on loan to the Trinity Brewhouse.

CMW Fellow and violinist Luke Fatora muses upon Beethoven as a pop culture icon.

Earlier this year, an unexpected downpour of cold rain unleashed itself as I was out for a walk. Passing by the Trinity Brewhouse on Fountain Street, I took refuge inside and found myself seated near a musician-themed mural riffing on The Last Supper. I was enjoying a nearby table’s particularly slurred conversation – its contents better left unexplored here – when it took a hard turn. One of the speakers interrupted a waitress, gesturing towards the mural hanging on the wall where Ludwig van Beethoven (not to confused with Beethoven the dog but more on that later) was stoically seated next to Billie Holiday in the company of other musicians like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. He asked “Who’s the guy with the curly hair??”

I found myself thinking back to this experience recently at CMW’s Phase II students’ weekly dinner and discussion. The students were exploring the interdependent relationship between a piece of art and the settings that a culture places it in. Later that night I grappled with unanswerable questions as I tossed and turned. How would Beethoven have responded to someone telling him that two centuries into the future, Americans would scarf down nachos and beer under his quasi-religious image in a brewpub in Providence, RI? How about being told that Andy Warhol, an iconic 20th century American artist, would designate Beethoven as the figure from western classical music to join the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Chairman Mao, as portrait subjects? Finally, what would he have had to say about the movie Beethoven released in the 1990’s?? My guess is as good as anyone’s as to how Beethoven would have reacted to being told that his name would become synonymous with a Hollywood movie about the adventures of a goofy, slobbering, St. Bernard.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The composer’s canine namesake.

After entertaining these hypothetical reactions, we’re left with some serious questions. Why did Andy Warhol choose Beethoven over someone like Schubert or Tchaikovsky as an iconic portrait subject? Why is the comedic reboot of Lassie centered around a St. Bernard named Beethoven (the surface explanation is here) and not Schoenberg or Bach?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Warhol’s Beethoven

Beethoven was an incredibly forward thinking composer – so much so that nearly a century after he wrote his wild Grosse Fugue, composers such as Arnold Schoenberg would look back to it as a premonition of their own radical breaks with tradition. Are we to believe that Beethoven’s seat at the table of musical disciples in the Trinity Brewhouse is a result of his technical wizardry as a composer?

Another explanation lies in his easily accessible humanity. As many people know, Beethoven lost his hearing over the course of time and had a generally tough life. His struggles led him to rail against fate in his Fifth Symphony. There is hardly a more universal human experience than struggling with circumstances that are beyond our control. Beethoven’s loss of hearing is tragic and his response to continue living for the sake of creating art is certainly heroic (you can read about it in his own words in his famed Heiligenstadt Testament). This said, other composers, being human (for now…), have certainly also struggled with circumstances beyond their control.

Popular culture’s obsession with Beethoven (the composer) risks encapsulating his image in the opening bars of his 5th Symphony and “that epic part of the 9th symphony where people are singing about something in German.” Only a sliver of Beethoven’s humanity is seen when it is through this lens. Recently, I have been working through his Third op. 12 Piano and Violin sonata and have been enjoying how starkly it contrasts popular notions of what Beethoven should sound like (“bark bark bark baaaark!”). Beethoven began working on his op. 12 Piano and Violin sonatas in 1797; he was 27 years old and had been living in Vienna for 5 years. At that point, he was 5 years away from writing the Heiligenstadt Testament and presumably contemplating suicide in the face of his worsening deafness. The Heiligenstadt Testament details the agony of Beethoven’s depression but it also mentions his lifelong heightened sensitivity to “tender feelings of affection” and his general “love for man and feelings of benevolence.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ludwig Van Beethoven, composer and guy with the curly hair.

Beethoven’s Third Piano and Violin Sonata can be seen as stemming from these general underlying dispositions; it is brimming with a particularly sparkling and playful energy, never taking itself too seriously. The beginning and ending movements are strikingly joyful romps through E flat major. The second movement is an Adagio in C major that begins with a simple melody containing an emotional pureness that becomes transformed throughout the movement. The theme passes briefly through distant and more complicated emotional landscapes, emerging to playfully evade a committed return to its original character – one gets the sense that Beethoven is exploring what it feels like to make peace with an unattainable ideal’s imaginary nature. This is the side of Beethoven that, two centuries later, keeps me warm on a slushy February day. Beethoven’s ability to probe such an extreme range of emotion leaves me in awe of his (very human) ability to reach across time and space to connect with us and – most importantly – inspires me to stop reaching for my phone to check the latest news and reach for my violin instead.

–Luke Fatora

Please join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for the Sonata Series Event at RISD Museum’s Grand Gallery as Luke Fatora performs Beethoven (the composer) along with pianist Jeff Louie. The event also features violinist Jesse Holstein performing a composition by Amy Beach.

 

A Day at the Beach

Join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for our Sonata Series Event featuring Jesse Holstein and Luke Fatora with guest pianist Jeff Louie. The evening’s program features a composition by Amy Beach. Here, Jesse talks about the composer and the piece he’ll perform at RISD Museum Grand Gallery.
 
A piece that has recently come into my orbit is the Sonata for Violin and Piano by Amy Beach. It was completely unknown to me before I performed it at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music last August. In the process of learning it, I became quite taken with the piece and subsequently asked my friend Jeff Louie to play it with me for the CMW Sonata Series Concert this February 15 at the RISD Museum at 7pm. If I may be permitted, perhaps a little background about Ms. Beach and the sonata.
 

Tucked between the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers in south-eastern New England lies the little town of Henniker, New Hampshire. Aside from being the birthplace of Red Sox legend Ted Williams, Henniker also lays claim as the birthplace of one of the most important figures in American classical music, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach.

Composer Amy Beach

Born September 5, 1867, Amy Cheney exhibited prodigious musical talent on the piano and in composition from a very young age. She advanced far beyond what teaching was available in Henniker by age seven and in order to support Amy’s talent, the family moved to the Boston suburb of Chelsea in 1875. There, she studied piano with Carl Baermann, who was himself a piano student of Franz Liszt. While Amy did receive some composition and counterpoint coaching as a young teen, she was essentially an autodidact in composition her whole life. Impressively, her “Gaelic Symphony” of 1896 received its world-premier by the Boston Symphony and was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. This is a testament to her incredible gift of melody and intuitive ability as a composer.
 
When Amy was on the verge of international stardom as a pianist and composer, she got married at age eighteen to a prominent Boston surgeon, Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, twenty-four years her senior. As was the custom of the times, he limited her performing life to just a few recitals a year and Amy received no mentoring or tutoring as a composer. When Dr. Beach died in 1910, Amy began touring as a pianist and composer in Europe and was a tremendous success. She would return to America in 1914 and was a major figure in American Classical music until her death in 1944.
 
With Amy’s piano concerto appearances with the Boston Symphony as a teenager, she gained the attention of the BSO Concertmaster, Franz Kneisel.  He invited her to perform the Schumann piano quintet with his string quartet in 1894 and he premiered her violin sonata in 1897 with Ms. Beach at the piano. Arguably the greatest Romantic Period American violin sonata, Beach’s piece is a dramatic big-boned sonata with a tremendous scope of expression and color. Cast in four movements, the first movement is a serious and dramatic voyage within the traditional sonata-form structure. In relief to the density of the first movement, the second movement is a much lighter scherzo akin to some of Mendelssohn’s “fairy music” movements. The third movement is the longest of the four chapters. Highly lyrical and emotional, it begins with an extended passage for solo piano. Several musicologists have remarked on the similarity of the melody of Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me” to the main theme of this movement. (This statement may or may not be true.) The finale has the tremendous forward drive and drama that one might expect in the concluding chapter of such a impassioned work. At the midpoint, a Bach-like fugue appears with wonderful counterpoint and dialogue between the voices before a return to the Romantic thrust to the conclusion.
 
I hope you are able to join us and hear the sonata for yourself on Thursday, February 15 at 7pm at the RISD Museum Grand Gallery. Also on the program will be Beethoven’s charming sonata in E-flat, op. 12 no. 3 with Luke Fatora, violin and Jeff Louie, piano.
 
–Jesse Holstein
Associate Director / Senior Resident Musician

Who Let the Frogs Out? A Postcard from the Newport String Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently discovered that the beloved game of skipping stones across water has a variety of other names in other countries – ducks and drakes (UK), dragonflies (Czech), throwing a sandwich (Finnish) and the Ukrainian name is zapuskaty zhabky which translates to “letting the frogs out”.

What has me thinking about skipping stones, you ask?

As musicians engaged in community residencies, we are constantly experimenting – tweaking traditional concert formats to engage new people, bringing a new game to a classroom of violin students – to build meaningful connections between people. And, that moment of trying something new in pursuit of connection, is a lot like the moment when you let go of the pebble to see how far it will bounce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



As anyone with stone-skipping prowess will tell you, much depends on finding the right pebbles. And we have been incredibly lucky with our plentiful supply! The Newport String Project is now in its fifth season – thanks to incredible community support, this year, myself and Emmy have been joined by violist Ashley Frith and cellist Jaime Feldman. Together we perform as the Newport String Quartet and curate educational programming that provides free violin, viola and cello lessons to almost forty students aging from Pre-K to fifth graders. There have been many, many “pebbles” along the way. And there have definitely been some “clunkers”– unruly frogs, you might say – but some of the more successful “pebbles” have led to signature events like the Paper Orchestra concerts (see highlights from our most recent one here) and the community barn dance series and many rich collaborations with local organizations.

Every so often, there’s the magical combination of pebble, technique and environmental conditions – and you realize that the pebbles are bouncing a lot further than you imagined, maybe in ways you hadn’t even noticed or realized. Like when our oldest students are recruiting their friends to come join the Newport String Project. Like when a younger sibling already knows a song because they’ve learnt it from an older brother or sister. Like when you notice a parent absorbed in watching their child’s lesson and marveling at the complexity of skills they’re learning. Like when an audience member finds you after a concert to ask what works by that composer they should listen to next. These moments are energizing, humbling and bring much needed detail to the sweeping Big Picture flow of this work.

-Ealain McMullin, Newport String Project Co-Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about Newport String Project here!

Hello from Newfoundland!


Our good friend from the North, Carole Bestvater (CMW Violin Fellow 2009-2011), shares the latest news from Strong Harbour Strings along with an update on a visit from our own MusicWorks Network Fellow and CMW student alum, Andrew Oung. Carole is the Director & Founder of the program, located in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
 
Wow, it’s hard to imagine that five years have passed since this program started!  Here we are, in Strong Harbour Strings’ fifth season, with so much to celebrate. This year, there are 24 students in our main centre, all coming two times a week for group and individual lessons.  We also started a satellite centre in a nearby neighbourhood across the harbour. There are 16 students who come twice a week during their lunch hour to learn the violin and viola. There are three new staff members who joined the team this season, so we’re having fun getting to know each other, teaching, and playing music together.
 
We recently played a concert of the Vivaldi Four Seasons in a downtown pub, selling out the place! People loved it! We’re planning on repeating the concert in a workshop for the SHS students, as well as in another family-friendly venue.  It’s been a very exciting time for Strong Harbour Strings.

The most exciting aspect right now is that Andrew Oung, the MusicWorks Network Fellow, is currently in St. John’s for a six week internship.  He’s working with a small group of 7th graders in developing the culture for a group inspired by CMW’s teen group, Phase II.  He’s been leading discussions, prompting conversations, and laying down a foundation for a group like this to continue after his internship here has finished. It has been exciting to see this aspect of Strong Harbour Strings develop, and feels like the missing puzzle piece is finally in place.  Now that we have students who are growing, developing critical thinking, and are completely blissed out that they get to keep on learning music and hanging out with each other, we’re finally ready to develop a Phase II-like program for them.
Sending love and hugs from the North Atlantic,

Carole Bestvater

 

Andrew Oung also sent along an update on his visit:

For the past few weeks I have been working here with Strong Harbour Strings. It has been wonderful getting to know all of the students and staff. I work with them three times a week, each day taking on a different role. I have started a small discussion group with the program’s 7th graders, I teach violin lessons, I support teachers during orchestra time, and I help students learn music theory. Strong Harbour takes place at two locations, one of which is the Cornerstone Ministry Centre. I really love that there is an open space where students and parents gather while they wait for lessons. It provides an opportunity for them to naturally interact with each other, and helps the music theory mentors be visible and accessible.
 
Outside of the educational aspect of the program, I attended a performance by the staff, named the Strong Harbour Strings Collective. They performed Vivaldi’s Four Season at The Black Sheep Pub to a full audience. I loved seeing how much the audience enjoyed the performance and I overheard somebody proudly say, “where else in the world can you hear Vivaldi in a pub”. While I can think of another city very dear to me where that could be true, I still think there is a uniqueness to the music community here. I’ll be in St. John’s for a few more weeks and I look forward to learning more about Strong Harbour Strings and the musical community here.

 

 

 

A Place to Play: Celebrating Music Haven’s New Office

We checked in with former CMW Fellow Annalisa Boerner (Viola Fellow 2012-2014), who has joined the staff of Music Haven in New Haven, CT as a full time Resident Musician and member of the Haven String Quartet. Here, Annalisa shares some news about the program’s new digs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, January 19th, Music Haven celebrated its tenth year of teaching and our move into a beautiful new space with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Our new offices are in a former factory space called Erector Square. Our suite was too small for a school, too big for a yoga studio, and just right for our organization to fit into and grow with.

Music Haven’s new location, where we rehearse, teach, and perform, is helping our program grow in ways big and small. The sense of community is palpable when our eighty students gather for group classes on Fridays, and as they filter in and out throughout the week. We love to see them doing homework and playing Uno in the lounge area as they wait for lessons. On the teaching side, I can keep a shelf of music, a jar of clothespins, and both a violin and a viola close at hand, and my students can have lessons in a calm environment that’s dedicated to music-making. We’ve hosted studio recitals with potlucks in our large performance space, and we look forward to debuting next year’s Chamber Series concerts in this area as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The program for the afternoon of the 19th included words from Mandi Jackson, Executive Director; Yaira Matyakubova, violinist and Senior Resident Musician; and Mayor Toni Harp (!) who cut the ribbon. The Music Lanterns, an ensemble of nine to twelve-year-old students, kicked off the program, and the Harmony In Action chamber orchestra concluded it with a conductorless performance of Lean on Me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is thanks to our many supporters of all varieties that we are able to sustain and grow our program in this way.  Here’s to ten more years at Music Haven!

–Annalisa Boerner

Congratulations to Annalisa and the Music Haven staff and students!

 

Unlocking Meaning: CMW Fellows’ Residency at Butler Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“I find myself saying that it doesn’t matter what the music is, or at least that the content is a trivial concern compared to the importance of making a human connection between performer and listener.”

Heath Marlow, former CMW staffer and current faculty/staff at New England Conservatory, reflects on his work with CMW Fellows in creating and implementing a performance residency at Butler Hospital, a psychiatric facility on Providence’s East Side,  in 2017:

At our first session together in Fall 2016, I asked the Fellows to come up with a new community (not the communities already served by Community MusicWorks) that could potentially benefit from interacting with a string quartet.

The group’s research led to the conclusion that it would be important to try out their ideas in an environment that had the capacity to support the quartet’s experimental activities. Butler Hospital’s Healing Arts Program was immediately receptive to hosting the quartet, and a series of three activities for distinct patient populations (adolescent, adult, geriatric) was soon decided upon.

 

​”It was personally humbling to participate in the workshops. The response in each unit was so different – but equally powerful. It felt challenging to insert ourselves into such an intense environment – having no idea where each person was on their healing path.”

Read Heath’s full account and reflection in his blog piece, here.

This year, Heath meets regularly with the current quartet of Fellows (and other interested musician colleagues) to discuss aspects of building a career as a musician at the intersection of artistry and community using the best practices associated with growing a community-based organization.

 

Investing in People and Place

For the past 20 years, Community MusicWorks has been invested in both people and place – our students, families, and professional musicians, and the community of Providence.

Last year was truly a celebratory season. Throughout our programs, we reflected on our growth and impact, and we took on important new initiatives. Some of last year’s most significant moments included the expansion of our Daily Orchestra Program to include a new daily ensemble for six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds; the We Shall Overcome Project; the graduation of our largest class of Phase II students and our tenth class of Fellows; the residency of world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax; and over 30 inspiring free performances.

Beyond the specifics, we celebrated the culture of Community MusicWorks, which supports young people, professional musicians, guest artists, and our colleagues in CMW’s Fellowship Program, to continually grow their approach to music-making in our community.

“The always-evolving organism of CMW is innovative, curious, engaged, compassionate, empathetic, generous and far-reaching. I learned more than I imagined I would in the most supportive and nurturing environment. I can’t think of a better place to incubate and grow ideas and deepen my own experience and confidence. Getting to know, teach, and learn from the most wonderful studio of students, along with performing with an exceptional ensemble of colleagues has been incredibly motivating and continues to inform my work.”
– Josie Davis, violinist, CMW Fellow 2015-17

Using our 20th season as both inspiration and motivation – and recognizing all there is still to work on in our community and world – we are beginning our third decade looking even more deeply at our mission and how we put it into practice. Consistent with our Strategic Plan, we have mapped out several significant enhancements to our programs, included below.

These new initiatives range from further developing our music education practices with young people, to deepening the experiences of our concert audiences, to developing the MusicWorks Network, a new consortium of programs around the country that were founded on CMW’s model. I am pleased to share highlights of these new program elements, which of course will be in addition to our daily work with our 160 students and our over 30 free performances in our communities.

What we know has been a key to our growth and success – our ability to create new opportunities – has been the partnerships with supporters like you who share our belief that music can be a transformative experience for our communities.

As we launch into our third decade, your donation towards our ambitious 21st season will enable us to further develop, strengthen, and deepen our work.

As you know, Community MusicWorks is committed to offering our youth programs and performances free of charge – which means we must raise our full budget each year. Your generous gift will ensure that we can maintain our commitments to students, musicians, and audiences. Your partnership will allow us to work with young people and artists in a way that has a real impact on building positive goals and futures.

I appreciate your considering a generous gift this fall to make transformational experiences possible for young people and our communities.

Sincerely,
Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director
Community MusicWorks 

Community MusicWorks
21st Season Special Programs and Projects

Phase II for All and Joy in Practice

This year, during the first semester of All Play Day – a weekly two-hour session where CMW Phase I, II and III students gather for intense lessons and rehearsals – students will be invited to select classes based on their playing ability and interest. Classes will focus on improvisation and composition, theory and sight-reading, jazz, performance anxiety and mindfulness, learning how to practice, and experimental music. This enhanced offering provides our students with many access points into the study of music, and encourages them to explore their own interests and skills as musicians.

The second half of the year will be focused on ensembles, including all students exploring a piece in depth, building on the We Shall Overcome Project. In the We Shall Overcome Project, all of our students will learn an arrangement of a historically significant song as well as learning about its origins, later uses, and meaning. Starting in January, students will take part in weekly activities that explore the text, history, and power of this song, and will write their own verses based on their personal and musical experiences in their community or in the world at large.

Music Transforms

As part of our mission to explore, hear, and perform a broad range of voices through our concerts, our programming this year has been expanded to include a theme of presenting under-represented communities. Throughout the season, we will explore the works by female composers in a broad range of genres and instrumentation.

In addition to our MusicWorks Collective concerts, CMW’s mission to present visionary artists, such as Jonathan Biss, Emanuel Ax, and this season, world-renowned violinist Johnny Gandelsman, in performances and collaborations, offers two important opportunities for CMW. First, it allows CMW to share its mission and programs with a broader base of music aficionados. Second, it offers our students an opportunity to be inspired to strive for their musical and personal goals and to find their voice as unique citizens in our world.

Leading the Conversation

In August, CMW launched MusicWorks Network, the first of three annual institutes funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Network brings together representatives from nine organizations, staffed or led by former CMW Fellows and participants in our Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service. The overarching goals for the Network include: sharing social justice programming, goals, and methodology; incorporating college-going skills development among students across the network; and building connectivity between the sites to facilitate shared learning and creating pathways for CMW students and Fellowship Program graduates to contribute and gain employment in other sites.

Several important themes emerged at the institute that challenged CMW to grow our practice. Primary among them is that CMW has an opportunity to dig deeper into the questions of organizational practice as they relate to social justice broadly, and racial justice in particular. We are energized to define more clearly how all of CMW’s practices can reflect our social justice commitment and curriculum.

Is This the One About the Pilot? Working Toward Copland’s Violin Sonata

Join us Thursday, November 16 at 7pm for our popular Sonata Series in the beautifully appointed Grand Gallery at RISD Museum. This concert features violinists Sebastian Ruth and David Rubin with guest pianist Eliko Akahori. Here, violinist David Rubin shares his notes on the piece he’ll perform at the event and his own process of discovery on the meaning and origin of Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano.

I heard about Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano years before I actually heard Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. The initial encounter looms large in my memory and — come to think of it — stands in opposition to my current experience of the piece. Tension can often be generative, as we say at CMW, so perhaps this story will be of some interest for those folks planning to attend our Sonata Series performance at the RISD Museum (Thursday, November 16 at 7pm in the Grand Gallery).

***
In 2004, pianist Karl Paulnack gave a welcome address to the parents of incoming students at Boston Conservatory. Seeking to reassure a presumably anxious crowd about the viability of their children’s chosen career path (read: financial ruin?), Paulnack shared stories about music’s healing powers, its necessity in our society, and the potential nobility of a life spent in its service. One of those anecdotes centered around Paulnack’s own performance of – you guessed it – the Copland violin sonata. This story is better in Paulnack’s telling, but I’ll briefly summarize it here.

During this performance of the Copland (let’s set the stage, actually: during the elegiac slow movement, at a small-town nursing home) a World War II veteran in the audience was clearly overcome with emotion. Later in the concert, Paulnack shared more details about the piece, including the story of its dedication to Harry Dunham, a pilot killed in battle during World War II and a close friend of Copland’s. At this point, the veteran in the audience stood up and left. He later told Paulnack that he was in shock – Copland’s music had triggered a vivid remembrance of a near-identical experience from his own wartime service, a particular trauma he hadn’t thought of in years. The veteran wanted to know how this was possible. How could Copland’s music make him remember so vividly, even though he hadn’t known about that particular connection when he first listened to the piece?

Paulnack’s story is a beautiful testament to music’s communicative powers. It’s also some heavy interpretative baggage for a performer to assimilate. From then on, I remembered the Copland sonata as the World War II piece that, by virtue of its somber American-ness, went straight to the heart.

And I’m not alone. To quote a random YouTube commenter:

“Is this the one about the pilot shot down in WWII?”

***
Now, when I play this piece, I have more information to draw on, and it makes things more complicated for me as a performer. New perspectives nudge that simple origin story out of my head, or at least force it to share space. Here’s a taste of that stew.

The ink was dry – the piece was finished – when Copland learned of Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham’s death, at which point he added the dedication. We have no way of knowing what he was thinking about while he was writing the violin sonata. It is a wartime piece because it was written during the war, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that this is a piece about war, or a piece about Dunham. It’s entirely possible that Copland didn’t think about the war – or his friend – at all while he was committing these notes to paper.

We know only what (little) Copland chose to share about it, namely: “I had little desire to compose a dissonant or virtuosic work, or one that incorporated folk materials. Nevertheless, certain qualities of the American folk tune had become part of my natural style of composing, and they are echoed in the Sonata.” Nicely put, Aaron.

We also know that the premiere drew polarized responses from critics. One damned its “rearward vision” (ouch!), while another (Copland’s friend Virgil Thomson) praised its “calm elevation… irresistibly touching.” That’s more like it. Wouldn’t we all like to be praised for our “calm elevation?”

I also know what my teachers have shared about their experience with this piece, and what various smart people have written. My mentor in graduate school was fascinated by Copland’s habit of spreading common, everyday chords across wide spans on an instrument’s range (think of a pianist playing high and low notes at the same time) – the harmony might be utterly familiar, but its presentation is unearthly. It creates the illusion of space, of solitude… of frontiers. Stan Kleppinger, in the journal of the Society for Music Theory, suggests that this piece’s special sonorities can be explained as dualities, moments when two key areas exist simultaneously – the magic lies in the ambiguity. Other scholars hear past the melodic inflections in Copland’s writing (and the related, pesky question of American-ness, which seems to dominate all conversations of this composer’s music) toward a neoclassical reading, in which canons and miniature fugues dance in 20th-century dress. Bach in Hollywood in 1943.

***
And even though the dedication was added after the piece’s completion, I can’t help but also wonder about this man, this Harry Dunham. It turns out that we know a bit about him, too, largely thanks to the work of Copland-scholar Howard Pollack.

We know that Dunham was incredibly handsome (in composer David Diamond’s words: “the most adorable, good-looking boy”), the darling of a New York arts community that starred Copland, Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles, John Latouche, and other familiar figures. We know that he came from money, that he graduated from Princeton, that he made films. We know he was, to some degree, a leftist. We know that he married a woman, Marian Chase, but we also know that he was romantically involved with several men in the artistic circles he moved in. We know that Dunham, Bowles, and Copland traveled together in Morocco. We know that he died in battle in 1943, and that Aaron Copland dedicated this stunning piece of music to his memory.

I wasn’t expecting Dunham’s story to be so rich. The anonymous “pilot” from my initial encounter with the Copland violin sonata has a lot in common with me, and with people I’ve known. His sexuality, his artistic and political leanings, his social circles – they all run contrary to the military stereotype that I conjured up upon first hearing. This speaks to my prejudices, but it also speaks to the simple fact that people are complicated. In fact, Dunham’s surprises form a nice parallel with the rich ironies of Copland’s own story. Copland, the man whose music was appropriated for “Beef! It’s What’s for Dinner!” or Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America!” was, in Alex Ross’ words, “a gay leftist of Russian-Jewish extraction.” The man who created an American identity in concert music wasn’t always particularly welcome in his own country. Chew on that for a moment. These are not new ironies, but they never cease to amaze.

***

So, in the end, what should a performer make of these accumulated, sometimes contradictory meanings and associations? Perhaps it’s a cop-out, but here’s an attempt. I’m not a historian and I’m not a theorist and I’m not a veteran, but I do know what this piece makes me feel. Now, as I type this, I think of the piece’s opening, and its particular magic: a series of plain-spoken piano chords; hanging in the air, unresolved, still. Just the thought of those chords makes me verklempt. They’re 100% Copland, and they just break your heart.

I imagine Copland’s dedication to Dunham as a monument to an individual life, yes, but also a way of life: a group of friends, and a particular moment in time and space. In the composer’s words:

“By reflecting the time in which one lives, the creative artist gives substance and meaning to life as we live it. Life seems so transitory! It is very attractive to set down some sort of permanent statement about the way we feel, so that when it’s all gone, people will be able to go to our art works to see what it was like to be alive in our time and place — twentieth-century America.”

I love that little word: our. You get the sense that Copland’s our was broad as can be. “Our” twentieth-century America was gay and Jewish and left, just as much as it was the opposite of those things.

***

For me, this is the fun of performing. You live inside of a piece, soak up its contradictions and cliches, and try to make sense of it – both the thing itself (whatever that means, God help us) – and your relationship to it. Each realization of a piece, each usage in a different context, is a fleeting act – but over time it forms a discourse, a discussion across decades. It’s a beautiful mess, but that’s where the meaning is. A generative tension.

In any case. I hope you’ll join Eliko, Sebastian and I for Thursday’s program at the RISD Museum. It’ll be a pleasure to explore this piece, in all of its contradictions. In so doing, I hope we’ll celebrate Aaron Copland’s life — Harry Dunham’s, too.

-David Rubin, Violin Fellow


Further reading & works quoted above

Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. Henry Holt, 1999.
Karl Paulnack, welcome address at The Boston Conservatory, 2004. Accessible here.
Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland Since 1943. St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Gail Levin and Judith Tick, Aaron Copland’s America. Watson-Guptill Publications, 2000.

 

MusicWorks Network: A New Initiative

Within the past twenty-one years, CMW has offered professional musicians opportunities to re-imagine the very foundations of a classical music career, and to think more broadly about music as a way of engaging in and with communities.

This year, CMW has the opportunity to deepen that work with the support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a new initiative, Citizens of the World: Forging Pathways to College and Beyond. This strategic initiative is designed to substantially increase the number of racially diverse, low-income young people who gain access to critical skills that promote success. This work builds on CMW’s 20-year history of developing music-based education programs designed to open new worlds of opportunity to low-income African-American and Latino youth. Out of this work has come Phase II, an approach to developing fundamental skills and supports that promote college-going, that has led 95% of CMW graduates to continue to college.

CMW will share CMW’s successful college-going model across a network of community-based music education sites. Called the MusicWorks Network, this project will link 10-15 community-based music sites serving over 650 young people and convene them in an annual Summer Institute for training, resource-sharing, and collaborative evaluation.

The first Summer Institute took place this past August 22-30 as educators and staff from ten different organizations gathered at the beautiful Rolling Ridge Conference Center in North Andover, MA. Connecting around the ways that social justice practices and technical and artistic work on string instruments can support one another, teachers and staff came from Community MusicWorks, MusiConnects (Boston, MA), MyCincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), Musica Franklin (Franklin, MA), Orchestra of St. Luke’s (New York, New York), MusicHaven (New Haven, CT), Newport Strings (Newport, RI), Sistema New Brunswick (New Brunswick, St. John, Canada), Strong Harbor Strings (St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada), and Neighborhood Strings (Worcester, MA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participants convened for a range of workshops and trainings, including a 2-day string pedagogy workshop with renowned violinist and teacher Mimi Zweig, a poetry and social justice workshop with poet Jonathan Mendoza, a workshop on anti-racist organizational frameworks with trainer and activist Adeola Oredola, and discussions and reflection around the creative synergy between string pedagogy and social justice teachings.

The Institute was designed and facilitated by Sebastian Ruth and Chloe Kline with the new MusicWorks Network staff: MusicWorks Network Director Jori Ketten and MusicWorks Network Fellow Andrew Oung. Part of the initiative, the MusicWorks Network Fellowship is a one-year position for alumni of CMW’s youth program or graduates of CMW’s two-year Fellowship Program to contribute to the MusicWorks Network. Andrew is our first alumni hire at CMW.

 

Archives

Thursday, February 15 : Music in the Grand Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sonata Series Event

The Sonata Series features MusicWorks Collective musicians with guest pianists presenting works from the duo sonata repertoire. Together, musicians explore pieces from the 17th and 18th century masterworks to contemporary works.

This event features pianist Jeff Louie, performing Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, No. 3 with violinist Luke Fatora and Amy Beach’s Violin Sonata, Op. 34 with Jesse Holstein.

Thursday, February 15 at 7pm
Grand Gallery, RISD Museum
20 N. Main Street, Providence
Admission to the museum and concert is free
No reservations are necessary

CMW Celebrates 20 with Twenty Years, Twenty Stories

cmw20_header

 

 

 

This year Community MusicWorks turns 20! To mark the milestone, we are gathering the stories of 20 members of our community–musicians, students, parents, graduates and supporters. Look for new stories throughout the season.

Interviews were recorded, transcribed and edited to create personal narratives in each subject’s distinctive voice. We hope 20 Years, 20 Stories captures the many flavors and varieties of CMW experience. Join us at a concert anytime to start creating your own CMW story.

Read the interviews here.

 

community-day-cake

 

Who’s the Guy with the Curly Hair?

 

“The Last Supper” painting by Jessica Van Daam, on loan to the Trinity Brewhouse.

CMW Fellow and violinist Luke Fatora muses upon Beethoven as a pop culture icon.

Earlier this year, an unexpected downpour of cold rain unleashed itself as I was out for a walk. Passing by the Trinity Brewhouse on Fountain Street, I took refuge inside and found myself seated near a musician-themed mural riffing on The Last Supper. I was enjoying a nearby table’s particularly slurred conversation – its contents better left unexplored here – when it took a hard turn. One of the speakers interrupted a waitress, gesturing towards the mural hanging on the wall where Ludwig van Beethoven (not to confused with Beethoven the dog but more on that later) was stoically seated next to Billie Holiday in the company of other musicians like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. He asked “Who’s the guy with the curly hair??”

I found myself thinking back to this experience recently at CMW’s Phase II students’ weekly dinner and discussion. The students were exploring the interdependent relationship between a piece of art and the settings that a culture places it in. Later that night I grappled with unanswerable questions as I tossed and turned. How would Beethoven have responded to someone telling him that two centuries into the future, Americans would scarf down nachos and beer under his quasi-religious image in a brewpub in Providence, RI? How about being told that Andy Warhol, an iconic 20th century American artist, would designate Beethoven as the figure from western classical music to join the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Chairman Mao, as portrait subjects? Finally, what would he have had to say about the movie Beethoven released in the 1990’s?? My guess is as good as anyone’s as to how Beethoven would have reacted to being told that his name would become synonymous with a Hollywood movie about the adventures of a goofy, slobbering, St. Bernard.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The composer’s canine namesake.

After entertaining these hypothetical reactions, we’re left with some serious questions. Why did Andy Warhol choose Beethoven over someone like Schubert or Tchaikovsky as an iconic portrait subject? Why is the comedic reboot of Lassie centered around a St. Bernard named Beethoven (the surface explanation is here) and not Schoenberg or Bach?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Warhol’s Beethoven

Beethoven was an incredibly forward thinking composer – so much so that nearly a century after he wrote his wild Grosse Fugue, composers such as Arnold Schoenberg would look back to it as a premonition of their own radical breaks with tradition. Are we to believe that Beethoven’s seat at the table of musical disciples in the Trinity Brewhouse is a result of his technical wizardry as a composer?

Another explanation lies in his easily accessible humanity. As many people know, Beethoven lost his hearing over the course of time and had a generally tough life. His struggles led him to rail against fate in his Fifth Symphony. There is hardly a more universal human experience than struggling with circumstances that are beyond our control. Beethoven’s loss of hearing is tragic and his response to continue living for the sake of creating art is certainly heroic (you can read about it in his own words in his famed Heiligenstadt Testament). This said, other composers, being human (for now…), have certainly also struggled with circumstances beyond their control.

Popular culture’s obsession with Beethoven (the composer) risks encapsulating his image in the opening bars of his 5th Symphony and “that epic part of the 9th symphony where people are singing about something in German.” Only a sliver of Beethoven’s humanity is seen when it is through this lens. Recently, I have been working through his Third op. 12 Piano and Violin sonata and have been enjoying how starkly it contrasts popular notions of what Beethoven should sound like (“bark bark bark baaaark!”). Beethoven began working on his op. 12 Piano and Violin sonatas in 1797; he was 27 years old and had been living in Vienna for 5 years. At that point, he was 5 years away from writing the Heiligenstadt Testament and presumably contemplating suicide in the face of his worsening deafness. The Heiligenstadt Testament details the agony of Beethoven’s depression but it also mentions his lifelong heightened sensitivity to “tender feelings of affection” and his general “love for man and feelings of benevolence.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ludwig Van Beethoven, composer and guy with the curly hair.

Beethoven’s Third Piano and Violin Sonata can be seen as stemming from these general underlying dispositions; it is brimming with a particularly sparkling and playful energy, never taking itself too seriously. The beginning and ending movements are strikingly joyful romps through E flat major. The second movement is an Adagio in C major that begins with a simple melody containing an emotional pureness that becomes transformed throughout the movement. The theme passes briefly through distant and more complicated emotional landscapes, emerging to playfully evade a committed return to its original character – one gets the sense that Beethoven is exploring what it feels like to make peace with an unattainable ideal’s imaginary nature. This is the side of Beethoven that, two centuries later, keeps me warm on a slushy February day. Beethoven’s ability to probe such an extreme range of emotion leaves me in awe of his (very human) ability to reach across time and space to connect with us and – most importantly – inspires me to stop reaching for my phone to check the latest news and reach for my violin instead.

–Luke Fatora

Please join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for the Sonata Series Event at RISD Museum’s Grand Gallery as Luke Fatora performs Beethoven (the composer) along with pianist Jeff Louie. The event also features violinist Jesse Holstein performing a composition by Amy Beach.

 

A Day at the Beach

Join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for our Sonata Series Event featuring Jesse Holstein and Luke Fatora with guest pianist Jeff Louie. The evening’s program features a composition by Amy Beach. Here, Jesse talks about the composer and the piece he’ll perform at RISD Museum Grand Gallery.
 
A piece that has recently come into my orbit is the Sonata for Violin and Piano by Amy Beach. It was completely unknown to me before I performed it at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music last August. In the process of learning it, I became quite taken with the piece and subsequently asked my friend Jeff Louie to play it with me for the CMW Sonata Series Concert this February 15 at the RISD Museum at 7pm. If I may be permitted, perhaps a little background about Ms. Beach and the sonata.
 

Tucked between the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers in south-eastern New England lies the little town of Henniker, New Hampshire. Aside from being the birthplace of Red Sox legend Ted Williams, Henniker also lays claim as the birthplace of one of the most important figures in American classical music, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach.

Composer Amy Beach

Born September 5, 1867, Amy Cheney exhibited prodigious musical talent on the piano and in composition from a very young age. She advanced far beyond what teaching was available in Henniker by age seven and in order to support Amy’s talent, the family moved to the Boston suburb of Chelsea in 1875. There, she studied piano with Carl Baermann, who was himself a piano student of Franz Liszt. While Amy did receive some composition and counterpoint coaching as a young teen, she was essentially an autodidact in composition her whole life. Impressively, her “Gaelic Symphony” of 1896 received its world-premier by the Boston Symphony and was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. This is a testament to her incredible gift of melody and intuitive ability as a composer.
 
When Amy was on the verge of international stardom as a pianist and composer, she got married at age eighteen to a prominent Boston surgeon, Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, twenty-four years her senior. As was the custom of the times, he limited her performing life to just a few recitals a year and Amy received no mentoring or tutoring as a composer. When Dr. Beach died in 1910, Amy began touring as a pianist and composer in Europe and was a tremendous success. She would return to America in 1914 and was a major figure in American Classical music until her death in 1944.
 
With Amy’s piano concerto appearances with the Boston Symphony as a teenager, she gained the attention of the BSO Concertmaster, Franz Kneisel.  He invited her to perform the Schumann piano quintet with his string quartet in 1894 and he premiered her violin sonata in 1897 with Ms. Beach at the piano. Arguably the greatest Romantic Period American violin sonata, Beach’s piece is a dramatic big-boned sonata with a tremendous scope of expression and color. Cast in four movements, the first movement is a serious and dramatic voyage within the traditional sonata-form structure. In relief to the density of the first movement, the second movement is a much lighter scherzo akin to some of Mendelssohn’s “fairy music” movements. The third movement is the longest of the four chapters. Highly lyrical and emotional, it begins with an extended passage for solo piano. Several musicologists have remarked on the similarity of the melody of Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me” to the main theme of this movement. (This statement may or may not be true.) The finale has the tremendous forward drive and drama that one might expect in the concluding chapter of such a impassioned work. At the midpoint, a Bach-like fugue appears with wonderful counterpoint and dialogue between the voices before a return to the Romantic thrust to the conclusion.
 
I hope you are able to join us and hear the sonata for yourself on Thursday, February 15 at 7pm at the RISD Museum Grand Gallery. Also on the program will be Beethoven’s charming sonata in E-flat, op. 12 no. 3 with Luke Fatora, violin and Jeff Louie, piano.
 
–Jesse Holstein
Associate Director / Senior Resident Musician

Who Let the Frogs Out? A Postcard from the Newport String Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently discovered that the beloved game of skipping stones across water has a variety of other names in other countries – ducks and drakes (UK), dragonflies (Czech), throwing a sandwich (Finnish) and the Ukrainian name is zapuskaty zhabky which translates to “letting the frogs out”.

What has me thinking about skipping stones, you ask?

As musicians engaged in community residencies, we are constantly experimenting – tweaking traditional concert formats to engage new people, bringing a new game to a classroom of violin students – to build meaningful connections between people. And, that moment of trying something new in pursuit of connection, is a lot like the moment when you let go of the pebble to see how far it will bounce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



As anyone with stone-skipping prowess will tell you, much depends on finding the right pebbles. And we have been incredibly lucky with our plentiful supply! The Newport String Project is now in its fifth season – thanks to incredible community support, this year, myself and Emmy have been joined by violist Ashley Frith and cellist Jaime Feldman. Together we perform as the Newport String Quartet and curate educational programming that provides free violin, viola and cello lessons to almost forty students aging from Pre-K to fifth graders. There have been many, many “pebbles” along the way. And there have definitely been some “clunkers”– unruly frogs, you might say – but some of the more successful “pebbles” have led to signature events like the Paper Orchestra concerts (see highlights from our most recent one here) and the community barn dance series and many rich collaborations with local organizations.

Every so often, there’s the magical combination of pebble, technique and environmental conditions – and you realize that the pebbles are bouncing a lot further than you imagined, maybe in ways you hadn’t even noticed or realized. Like when our oldest students are recruiting their friends to come join the Newport String Project. Like when a younger sibling already knows a song because they’ve learnt it from an older brother or sister. Like when you notice a parent absorbed in watching their child’s lesson and marveling at the complexity of skills they’re learning. Like when an audience member finds you after a concert to ask what works by that composer they should listen to next. These moments are energizing, humbling and bring much needed detail to the sweeping Big Picture flow of this work.

-Ealain McMullin, Newport String Project Co-Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about Newport String Project here!

Hello from Newfoundland!


Our good friend from the North, Carole Bestvater (CMW Violin Fellow 2009-2011), shares the latest news from Strong Harbour Strings along with an update on a visit from our own MusicWorks Network Fellow and CMW student alum, Andrew Oung. Carole is the Director & Founder of the program, located in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
 
Wow, it’s hard to imagine that five years have passed since this program started!  Here we are, in Strong Harbour Strings’ fifth season, with so much to celebrate. This year, there are 24 students in our main centre, all coming two times a week for group and individual lessons.  We also started a satellite centre in a nearby neighbourhood across the harbour. There are 16 students who come twice a week during their lunch hour to learn the violin and viola. There are three new staff members who joined the team this season, so we’re having fun getting to know each other, teaching, and playing music together.
 
We recently played a concert of the Vivaldi Four Seasons in a downtown pub, selling out the place! People loved it! We’re planning on repeating the concert in a workshop for the SHS students, as well as in another family-friendly venue.  It’s been a very exciting time for Strong Harbour Strings.

The most exciting aspect right now is that Andrew Oung, the MusicWorks Network Fellow, is currently in St. John’s for a six week internship.  He’s working with a small group of 7th graders in developing the culture for a group inspired by CMW’s teen group, Phase II.  He’s been leading discussions, prompting conversations, and laying down a foundation for a group like this to continue after his internship here has finished. It has been exciting to see this aspect of Strong Harbour Strings develop, and feels like the missing puzzle piece is finally in place.  Now that we have students who are growing, developing critical thinking, and are completely blissed out that they get to keep on learning music and hanging out with each other, we’re finally ready to develop a Phase II-like program for them.
Sending love and hugs from the North Atlantic,

Carole Bestvater

 

Andrew Oung also sent along an update on his visit:

For the past few weeks I have been working here with Strong Harbour Strings. It has been wonderful getting to know all of the students and staff. I work with them three times a week, each day taking on a different role. I have started a small discussion group with the program’s 7th graders, I teach violin lessons, I support teachers during orchestra time, and I help students learn music theory. Strong Harbour takes place at two locations, one of which is the Cornerstone Ministry Centre. I really love that there is an open space where students and parents gather while they wait for lessons. It provides an opportunity for them to naturally interact with each other, and helps the music theory mentors be visible and accessible.
 
Outside of the educational aspect of the program, I attended a performance by the staff, named the Strong Harbour Strings Collective. They performed Vivaldi’s Four Season at The Black Sheep Pub to a full audience. I loved seeing how much the audience enjoyed the performance and I overheard somebody proudly say, “where else in the world can you hear Vivaldi in a pub”. While I can think of another city very dear to me where that could be true, I still think there is a uniqueness to the music community here. I’ll be in St. John’s for a few more weeks and I look forward to learning more about Strong Harbour Strings and the musical community here.

 

 

 

A Place to Play: Celebrating Music Haven’s New Office

We checked in with former CMW Fellow Annalisa Boerner (Viola Fellow 2012-2014), who has joined the staff of Music Haven in New Haven, CT as a full time Resident Musician and member of the Haven String Quartet. Here, Annalisa shares some news about the program’s new digs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, January 19th, Music Haven celebrated its tenth year of teaching and our move into a beautiful new space with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Our new offices are in a former factory space called Erector Square. Our suite was too small for a school, too big for a yoga studio, and just right for our organization to fit into and grow with.

Music Haven’s new location, where we rehearse, teach, and perform, is helping our program grow in ways big and small. The sense of community is palpable when our eighty students gather for group classes on Fridays, and as they filter in and out throughout the week. We love to see them doing homework and playing Uno in the lounge area as they wait for lessons. On the teaching side, I can keep a shelf of music, a jar of clothespins, and both a violin and a viola close at hand, and my students can have lessons in a calm environment that’s dedicated to music-making. We’ve hosted studio recitals with potlucks in our large performance space, and we look forward to debuting next year’s Chamber Series concerts in this area as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The program for the afternoon of the 19th included words from Mandi Jackson, Executive Director; Yaira Matyakubova, violinist and Senior Resident Musician; and Mayor Toni Harp (!) who cut the ribbon. The Music Lanterns, an ensemble of nine to twelve-year-old students, kicked off the program, and the Harmony In Action chamber orchestra concluded it with a conductorless performance of Lean on Me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is thanks to our many supporters of all varieties that we are able to sustain and grow our program in this way.  Here’s to ten more years at Music Haven!

–Annalisa Boerner

Congratulations to Annalisa and the Music Haven staff and students!

 

Unlocking Meaning: CMW Fellows’ Residency at Butler Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“I find myself saying that it doesn’t matter what the music is, or at least that the content is a trivial concern compared to the importance of making a human connection between performer and listener.”

Heath Marlow, former CMW staffer and current faculty/staff at New England Conservatory, reflects on his work with CMW Fellows in creating and implementing a performance residency at Butler Hospital, a psychiatric facility on Providence’s East Side,  in 2017:

At our first session together in Fall 2016, I asked the Fellows to come up with a new community (not the communities already served by Community MusicWorks) that could potentially benefit from interacting with a string quartet.

The group’s research led to the conclusion that it would be important to try out their ideas in an environment that had the capacity to support the quartet’s experimental activities. Butler Hospital’s Healing Arts Program was immediately receptive to hosting the quartet, and a series of three activities for distinct patient populations (adolescent, adult, geriatric) was soon decided upon.

 

​”It was personally humbling to participate in the workshops. The response in each unit was so different – but equally powerful. It felt challenging to insert ourselves into such an intense environment – having no idea where each person was on their healing path.”

Read Heath’s full account and reflection in his blog piece, here.

This year, Heath meets regularly with the current quartet of Fellows (and other interested musician colleagues) to discuss aspects of building a career as a musician at the intersection of artistry and community using the best practices associated with growing a community-based organization.

 

Investing in People and Place

For the past 20 years, Community MusicWorks has been invested in both people and place – our students, families, and professional musicians, and the community of Providence.

Last year was truly a celebratory season. Throughout our programs, we reflected on our growth and impact, and we took on important new initiatives. Some of last year’s most significant moments included the expansion of our Daily Orchestra Program to include a new daily ensemble for six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds; the We Shall Overcome Project; the graduation of our largest class of Phase II students and our tenth class of Fellows; the residency of world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax; and over 30 inspiring free performances.

Beyond the specifics, we celebrated the culture of Community MusicWorks, which supports young people, professional musicians, guest artists, and our colleagues in CMW’s Fellowship Program, to continually grow their approach to music-making in our community.

“The always-evolving organism of CMW is innovative, curious, engaged, compassionate, empathetic, generous and far-reaching. I learned more than I imagined I would in the most supportive and nurturing environment. I can’t think of a better place to incubate and grow ideas and deepen my own experience and confidence. Getting to know, teach, and learn from the most wonderful studio of students, along with performing with an exceptional ensemble of colleagues has been incredibly motivating and continues to inform my work.”
– Josie Davis, violinist, CMW Fellow 2015-17

Using our 20th season as both inspiration and motivation – and recognizing all there is still to work on in our community and world – we are beginning our third decade looking even more deeply at our mission and how we put it into practice. Consistent with our Strategic Plan, we have mapped out several significant enhancements to our programs, included below.

These new initiatives range from further developing our music education practices with young people, to deepening the experiences of our concert audiences, to developing the MusicWorks Network, a new consortium of programs around the country that were founded on CMW’s model. I am pleased to share highlights of these new program elements, which of course will be in addition to our daily work with our 160 students and our over 30 free performances in our communities.

What we know has been a key to our growth and success – our ability to create new opportunities – has been the partnerships with supporters like you who share our belief that music can be a transformative experience for our communities.

As we launch into our third decade, your donation towards our ambitious 21st season will enable us to further develop, strengthen, and deepen our work.

As you know, Community MusicWorks is committed to offering our youth programs and performances free of charge – which means we must raise our full budget each year. Your generous gift will ensure that we can maintain our commitments to students, musicians, and audiences. Your partnership will allow us to work with young people and artists in a way that has a real impact on building positive goals and futures.

I appreciate your considering a generous gift this fall to make transformational experiences possible for young people and our communities.

Sincerely,
Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director
Community MusicWorks 

Community MusicWorks
21st Season Special Programs and Projects

Phase II for All and Joy in Practice

This year, during the first semester of All Play Day – a weekly two-hour session where CMW Phase I, II and III students gather for intense lessons and rehearsals – students will be invited to select classes based on their playing ability and interest. Classes will focus on improvisation and composition, theory and sight-reading, jazz, performance anxiety and mindfulness, learning how to practice, and experimental music. This enhanced offering provides our students with many access points into the study of music, and encourages them to explore their own interests and skills as musicians.

The second half of the year will be focused on ensembles, including all students exploring a piece in depth, building on the We Shall Overcome Project. In the We Shall Overcome Project, all of our students will learn an arrangement of a historically significant song as well as learning about its origins, later uses, and meaning. Starting in January, students will take part in weekly activities that explore the text, history, and power of this song, and will write their own verses based on their personal and musical experiences in their community or in the world at large.

Music Transforms

As part of our mission to explore, hear, and perform a broad range of voices through our concerts, our programming this year has been expanded to include a theme of presenting under-represented communities. Throughout the season, we will explore the works by female composers in a broad range of genres and instrumentation.

In addition to our MusicWorks Collective concerts, CMW’s mission to present visionary artists, such as Jonathan Biss, Emanuel Ax, and this season, world-renowned violinist Johnny Gandelsman, in performances and collaborations, offers two important opportunities for CMW. First, it allows CMW to share its mission and programs with a broader base of music aficionados. Second, it offers our students an opportunity to be inspired to strive for their musical and personal goals and to find their voice as unique citizens in our world.

Leading the Conversation

In August, CMW launched MusicWorks Network, the first of three annual institutes funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Network brings together representatives from nine organizations, staffed or led by former CMW Fellows and participants in our Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service. The overarching goals for the Network include: sharing social justice programming, goals, and methodology; incorporating college-going skills development among students across the network; and building connectivity between the sites to facilitate shared learning and creating pathways for CMW students and Fellowship Program graduates to contribute and gain employment in other sites.

Several important themes emerged at the institute that challenged CMW to grow our practice. Primary among them is that CMW has an opportunity to dig deeper into the questions of organizational practice as they relate to social justice broadly, and racial justice in particular. We are energized to define more clearly how all of CMW’s practices can reflect our social justice commitment and curriculum.

Is This the One About the Pilot? Working Toward Copland’s Violin Sonata

Join us Thursday, November 16 at 7pm for our popular Sonata Series in the beautifully appointed Grand Gallery at RISD Museum. This concert features violinists Sebastian Ruth and David Rubin with guest pianist Eliko Akahori. Here, violinist David Rubin shares his notes on the piece he’ll perform at the event and his own process of discovery on the meaning and origin of Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano.

I heard about Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano years before I actually heard Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. The initial encounter looms large in my memory and — come to think of it — stands in opposition to my current experience of the piece. Tension can often be generative, as we say at CMW, so perhaps this story will be of some interest for those folks planning to attend our Sonata Series performance at the RISD Museum (Thursday, November 16 at 7pm in the Grand Gallery).

***
In 2004, pianist Karl Paulnack gave a welcome address to the parents of incoming students at Boston Conservatory. Seeking to reassure a presumably anxious crowd about the viability of their children’s chosen career path (read: financial ruin?), Paulnack shared stories about music’s healing powers, its necessity in our society, and the potential nobility of a life spent in its service. One of those anecdotes centered around Paulnack’s own performance of – you guessed it – the Copland violin sonata. This story is better in Paulnack’s telling, but I’ll briefly summarize it here.

During this performance of the Copland (let’s set the stage, actually: during the elegiac slow movement, at a small-town nursing home) a World War II veteran in the audience was clearly overcome with emotion. Later in the concert, Paulnack shared more details about the piece, including the story of its dedication to Harry Dunham, a pilot killed in battle during World War II and a close friend of Copland’s. At this point, the veteran in the audience stood up and left. He later told Paulnack that he was in shock – Copland’s music had triggered a vivid remembrance of a near-identical experience from his own wartime service, a particular trauma he hadn’t thought of in years. The veteran wanted to know how this was possible. How could Copland’s music make him remember so vividly, even though he hadn’t known about that particular connection when he first listened to the piece?

Paulnack’s story is a beautiful testament to music’s communicative powers. It’s also some heavy interpretative baggage for a performer to assimilate. From then on, I remembered the Copland sonata as the World War II piece that, by virtue of its somber American-ness, went straight to the heart.

And I’m not alone. To quote a random YouTube commenter:

“Is this the one about the pilot shot down in WWII?”

***
Now, when I play this piece, I have more information to draw on, and it makes things more complicated for me as a performer. New perspectives nudge that simple origin story out of my head, or at least force it to share space. Here’s a taste of that stew.

The ink was dry – the piece was finished – when Copland learned of Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham’s death, at which point he added the dedication. We have no way of knowing what he was thinking about while he was writing the violin sonata. It is a wartime piece because it was written during the war, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that this is a piece about war, or a piece about Dunham. It’s entirely possible that Copland didn’t think about the war – or his friend – at all while he was committing these notes to paper.

We know only what (little) Copland chose to share about it, namely: “I had little desire to compose a dissonant or virtuosic work, or one that incorporated folk materials. Nevertheless, certain qualities of the American folk tune had become part of my natural style of composing, and they are echoed in the Sonata.” Nicely put, Aaron.

We also know that the premiere drew polarized responses from critics. One damned its “rearward vision” (ouch!), while another (Copland’s friend Virgil Thomson) praised its “calm elevation… irresistibly touching.” That’s more like it. Wouldn’t we all like to be praised for our “calm elevation?”

I also know what my teachers have shared about their experience with this piece, and what various smart people have written. My mentor in graduate school was fascinated by Copland’s habit of spreading common, everyday chords across wide spans on an instrument’s range (think of a pianist playing high and low notes at the same time) – the harmony might be utterly familiar, but its presentation is unearthly. It creates the illusion of space, of solitude… of frontiers. Stan Kleppinger, in the journal of the Society for Music Theory, suggests that this piece’s special sonorities can be explained as dualities, moments when two key areas exist simultaneously – the magic lies in the ambiguity. Other scholars hear past the melodic inflections in Copland’s writing (and the related, pesky question of American-ness, which seems to dominate all conversations of this composer’s music) toward a neoclassical reading, in which canons and miniature fugues dance in 20th-century dress. Bach in Hollywood in 1943.

***
And even though the dedication was added after the piece’s completion, I can’t help but also wonder about this man, this Harry Dunham. It turns out that we know a bit about him, too, largely thanks to the work of Copland-scholar Howard Pollack.

We know that Dunham was incredibly handsome (in composer David Diamond’s words: “the most adorable, good-looking boy”), the darling of a New York arts community that starred Copland, Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles, John Latouche, and other familiar figures. We know that he came from money, that he graduated from Princeton, that he made films. We know he was, to some degree, a leftist. We know that he married a woman, Marian Chase, but we also know that he was romantically involved with several men in the artistic circles he moved in. We know that Dunham, Bowles, and Copland traveled together in Morocco. We know that he died in battle in 1943, and that Aaron Copland dedicated this stunning piece of music to his memory.

I wasn’t expecting Dunham’s story to be so rich. The anonymous “pilot” from my initial encounter with the Copland violin sonata has a lot in common with me, and with people I’ve known. His sexuality, his artistic and political leanings, his social circles – they all run contrary to the military stereotype that I conjured up upon first hearing. This speaks to my prejudices, but it also speaks to the simple fact that people are complicated. In fact, Dunham’s surprises form a nice parallel with the rich ironies of Copland’s own story. Copland, the man whose music was appropriated for “Beef! It’s What’s for Dinner!” or Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America!” was, in Alex Ross’ words, “a gay leftist of Russian-Jewish extraction.” The man who created an American identity in concert music wasn’t always particularly welcome in his own country. Chew on that for a moment. These are not new ironies, but they never cease to amaze.

***

So, in the end, what should a performer make of these accumulated, sometimes contradictory meanings and associations? Perhaps it’s a cop-out, but here’s an attempt. I’m not a historian and I’m not a theorist and I’m not a veteran, but I do know what this piece makes me feel. Now, as I type this, I think of the piece’s opening, and its particular magic: a series of plain-spoken piano chords; hanging in the air, unresolved, still. Just the thought of those chords makes me verklempt. They’re 100% Copland, and they just break your heart.

I imagine Copland’s dedication to Dunham as a monument to an individual life, yes, but also a way of life: a group of friends, and a particular moment in time and space. In the composer’s words:

“By reflecting the time in which one lives, the creative artist gives substance and meaning to life as we live it. Life seems so transitory! It is very attractive to set down some sort of permanent statement about the way we feel, so that when it’s all gone, people will be able to go to our art works to see what it was like to be alive in our time and place — twentieth-century America.”

I love that little word: our. You get the sense that Copland’s our was broad as can be. “Our” twentieth-century America was gay and Jewish and left, just as much as it was the opposite of those things.

***

For me, this is the fun of performing. You live inside of a piece, soak up its contradictions and cliches, and try to make sense of it – both the thing itself (whatever that means, God help us) – and your relationship to it. Each realization of a piece, each usage in a different context, is a fleeting act – but over time it forms a discourse, a discussion across decades. It’s a beautiful mess, but that’s where the meaning is. A generative tension.

In any case. I hope you’ll join Eliko, Sebastian and I for Thursday’s program at the RISD Museum. It’ll be a pleasure to explore this piece, in all of its contradictions. In so doing, I hope we’ll celebrate Aaron Copland’s life — Harry Dunham’s, too.

-David Rubin, Violin Fellow


Further reading & works quoted above

Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. Henry Holt, 1999.
Karl Paulnack, welcome address at The Boston Conservatory, 2004. Accessible here.
Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland Since 1943. St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Gail Levin and Judith Tick, Aaron Copland’s America. Watson-Guptill Publications, 2000.

 

MusicWorks Network: A New Initiative

Within the past twenty-one years, CMW has offered professional musicians opportunities to re-imagine the very foundations of a classical music career, and to think more broadly about music as a way of engaging in and with communities.

This year, CMW has the opportunity to deepen that work with the support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a new initiative, Citizens of the World: Forging Pathways to College and Beyond. This strategic initiative is designed to substantially increase the number of racially diverse, low-income young people who gain access to critical skills that promote success. This work builds on CMW’s 20-year history of developing music-based education programs designed to open new worlds of opportunity to low-income African-American and Latino youth. Out of this work has come Phase II, an approach to developing fundamental skills and supports that promote college-going, that has led 95% of CMW graduates to continue to college.

CMW will share CMW’s successful college-going model across a network of community-based music education sites. Called the MusicWorks Network, this project will link 10-15 community-based music sites serving over 650 young people and convene them in an annual Summer Institute for training, resource-sharing, and collaborative evaluation.

The first Summer Institute took place this past August 22-30 as educators and staff from ten different organizations gathered at the beautiful Rolling Ridge Conference Center in North Andover, MA. Connecting around the ways that social justice practices and technical and artistic work on string instruments can support one another, teachers and staff came from Community MusicWorks, MusiConnects (Boston, MA), MyCincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), Musica Franklin (Franklin, MA), Orchestra of St. Luke’s (New York, New York), MusicHaven (New Haven, CT), Newport Strings (Newport, RI), Sistema New Brunswick (New Brunswick, St. John, Canada), Strong Harbor Strings (St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada), and Neighborhood Strings (Worcester, MA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participants convened for a range of workshops and trainings, including a 2-day string pedagogy workshop with renowned violinist and teacher Mimi Zweig, a poetry and social justice workshop with poet Jonathan Mendoza, a workshop on anti-racist organizational frameworks with trainer and activist Adeola Oredola, and discussions and reflection around the creative synergy between string pedagogy and social justice teachings.

The Institute was designed and facilitated by Sebastian Ruth and Chloe Kline with the new MusicWorks Network staff: MusicWorks Network Director Jori Ketten and MusicWorks Network Fellow Andrew Oung. Part of the initiative, the MusicWorks Network Fellowship is a one-year position for alumni of CMW’s youth program or graduates of CMW’s two-year Fellowship Program to contribute to the MusicWorks Network. Andrew is our first alumni hire at CMW.

 

Archives

Thursday, February 15 : Music in the Grand Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sonata Series Event

The Sonata Series features MusicWorks Collective musicians with guest pianists presenting works from the duo sonata repertoire. Together, musicians explore pieces from the 17th and 18th century masterworks to contemporary works.

This event features pianist Jeff Louie, performing Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, No. 3 with violinist Luke Fatora and Amy Beach’s Violin Sonata, Op. 34 with Jesse Holstein.

Thursday, February 15 at 7pm
Grand Gallery, RISD Museum
20 N. Main Street, Providence
Admission to the museum and concert is free
No reservations are necessary

CMW Celebrates 20 with Twenty Years, Twenty Stories

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This year Community MusicWorks turns 20! To mark the milestone, we are gathering the stories of 20 members of our community–musicians, students, parents, graduates and supporters. Look for new stories throughout the season.

Interviews were recorded, transcribed and edited to create personal narratives in each subject’s distinctive voice. We hope 20 Years, 20 Stories captures the many flavors and varieties of CMW experience. Join us at a concert anytime to start creating your own CMW story.

Read the interviews here.

 

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Who’s the Guy with the Curly Hair?

 

“The Last Supper” painting by Jessica Van Daam, on loan to the Trinity Brewhouse.

CMW Fellow and violinist Luke Fatora muses upon Beethoven as a pop culture icon.

Earlier this year, an unexpected downpour of cold rain unleashed itself as I was out for a walk. Passing by the Trinity Brewhouse on Fountain Street, I took refuge inside and found myself seated near a musician-themed mural riffing on The Last Supper. I was enjoying a nearby table’s particularly slurred conversation – its contents better left unexplored here – when it took a hard turn. One of the speakers interrupted a waitress, gesturing towards the mural hanging on the wall where Ludwig van Beethoven (not to confused with Beethoven the dog but more on that later) was stoically seated next to Billie Holiday in the company of other musicians like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. He asked “Who’s the guy with the curly hair??”

I found myself thinking back to this experience recently at CMW’s Phase II students’ weekly dinner and discussion. The students were exploring the interdependent relationship between a piece of art and the settings that a culture places it in. Later that night I grappled with unanswerable questions as I tossed and turned. How would Beethoven have responded to someone telling him that two centuries into the future, Americans would scarf down nachos and beer under his quasi-religious image in a brewpub in Providence, RI? How about being told that Andy Warhol, an iconic 20th century American artist, would designate Beethoven as the figure from western classical music to join the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Chairman Mao, as portrait subjects? Finally, what would he have had to say about the movie Beethoven released in the 1990’s?? My guess is as good as anyone’s as to how Beethoven would have reacted to being told that his name would become synonymous with a Hollywood movie about the adventures of a goofy, slobbering, St. Bernard.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The composer’s canine namesake.

After entertaining these hypothetical reactions, we’re left with some serious questions. Why did Andy Warhol choose Beethoven over someone like Schubert or Tchaikovsky as an iconic portrait subject? Why is the comedic reboot of Lassie centered around a St. Bernard named Beethoven (the surface explanation is here) and not Schoenberg or Bach?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Warhol’s Beethoven

Beethoven was an incredibly forward thinking composer – so much so that nearly a century after he wrote his wild Grosse Fugue, composers such as Arnold Schoenberg would look back to it as a premonition of their own radical breaks with tradition. Are we to believe that Beethoven’s seat at the table of musical disciples in the Trinity Brewhouse is a result of his technical wizardry as a composer?

Another explanation lies in his easily accessible humanity. As many people know, Beethoven lost his hearing over the course of time and had a generally tough life. His struggles led him to rail against fate in his Fifth Symphony. There is hardly a more universal human experience than struggling with circumstances that are beyond our control. Beethoven’s loss of hearing is tragic and his response to continue living for the sake of creating art is certainly heroic (you can read about it in his own words in his famed Heiligenstadt Testament). This said, other composers, being human (for now…), have certainly also struggled with circumstances beyond their control.

Popular culture’s obsession with Beethoven (the composer) risks encapsulating his image in the opening bars of his 5th Symphony and “that epic part of the 9th symphony where people are singing about something in German.” Only a sliver of Beethoven’s humanity is seen when it is through this lens. Recently, I have been working through his Third op. 12 Piano and Violin sonata and have been enjoying how starkly it contrasts popular notions of what Beethoven should sound like (“bark bark bark baaaark!”). Beethoven began working on his op. 12 Piano and Violin sonatas in 1797; he was 27 years old and had been living in Vienna for 5 years. At that point, he was 5 years away from writing the Heiligenstadt Testament and presumably contemplating suicide in the face of his worsening deafness. The Heiligenstadt Testament details the agony of Beethoven’s depression but it also mentions his lifelong heightened sensitivity to “tender feelings of affection” and his general “love for man and feelings of benevolence.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ludwig Van Beethoven, composer and guy with the curly hair.

Beethoven’s Third Piano and Violin Sonata can be seen as stemming from these general underlying dispositions; it is brimming with a particularly sparkling and playful energy, never taking itself too seriously. The beginning and ending movements are strikingly joyful romps through E flat major. The second movement is an Adagio in C major that begins with a simple melody containing an emotional pureness that becomes transformed throughout the movement. The theme passes briefly through distant and more complicated emotional landscapes, emerging to playfully evade a committed return to its original character – one gets the sense that Beethoven is exploring what it feels like to make peace with an unattainable ideal’s imaginary nature. This is the side of Beethoven that, two centuries later, keeps me warm on a slushy February day. Beethoven’s ability to probe such an extreme range of emotion leaves me in awe of his (very human) ability to reach across time and space to connect with us and – most importantly – inspires me to stop reaching for my phone to check the latest news and reach for my violin instead.

–Luke Fatora

Please join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for the Sonata Series Event at RISD Museum’s Grand Gallery as Luke Fatora performs Beethoven (the composer) along with pianist Jeff Louie. The event also features violinist Jesse Holstein performing a composition by Amy Beach.

 

A Day at the Beach

Join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for our Sonata Series Event featuring Jesse Holstein and Luke Fatora with guest pianist Jeff Louie. The evening’s program features a composition by Amy Beach. Here, Jesse talks about the composer and the piece he’ll perform at RISD Museum Grand Gallery.
 
A piece that has recently come into my orbit is the Sonata for Violin and Piano by Amy Beach. It was completely unknown to me before I performed it at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music last August. In the process of learning it, I became quite taken with the piece and subsequently asked my friend Jeff Louie to play it with me for the CMW Sonata Series Concert this February 15 at the RISD Museum at 7pm. If I may be permitted, perhaps a little background about Ms. Beach and the sonata.
 

Tucked between the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers in south-eastern New England lies the little town of Henniker, New Hampshire. Aside from being the birthplace of Red Sox legend Ted Williams, Henniker also lays claim as the birthplace of one of the most important figures in American classical music, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach.

Composer Amy Beach

Born September 5, 1867, Amy Cheney exhibited prodigious musical talent on the piano and in composition from a very young age. She advanced far beyond what teaching was available in Henniker by age seven and in order to support Amy’s talent, the family moved to the Boston suburb of Chelsea in 1875. There, she studied piano with Carl Baermann, who was himself a piano student of Franz Liszt. While Amy did receive some composition and counterpoint coaching as a young teen, she was essentially an autodidact in composition her whole life. Impressively, her “Gaelic Symphony” of 1896 received its world-premier by the Boston Symphony and was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. This is a testament to her incredible gift of melody and intuitive ability as a composer.
 
When Amy was on the verge of international stardom as a pianist and composer, she got married at age eighteen to a prominent Boston surgeon, Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, twenty-four years her senior. As was the custom of the times, he limited her performing life to just a few recitals a year and Amy received no mentoring or tutoring as a composer. When Dr. Beach died in 1910, Amy began touring as a pianist and composer in Europe and was a tremendous success. She would return to America in 1914 and was a major figure in American Classical music until her death in 1944.
 
With Amy’s piano concerto appearances with the Boston Symphony as a teenager, she gained the attention of the BSO Concertmaster, Franz Kneisel.  He invited her to perform the Schumann piano quintet with his string quartet in 1894 and he premiered her violin sonata in 1897 with Ms. Beach at the piano. Arguably the greatest Romantic Period American violin sonata, Beach’s piece is a dramatic big-boned sonata with a tremendous scope of expression and color. Cast in four movements, the first movement is a serious and dramatic voyage within the traditional sonata-form structure. In relief to the density of the first movement, the second movement is a much lighter scherzo akin to some of Mendelssohn’s “fairy music” movements. The third movement is the longest of the four chapters. Highly lyrical and emotional, it begins with an extended passage for solo piano. Several musicologists have remarked on the similarity of the melody of Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me” to the main theme of this movement. (This statement may or may not be true.) The finale has the tremendous forward drive and drama that one might expect in the concluding chapter of such a impassioned work. At the midpoint, a Bach-like fugue appears with wonderful counterpoint and dialogue between the voices before a return to the Romantic thrust to the conclusion.
 
I hope you are able to join us and hear the sonata for yourself on Thursday, February 15 at 7pm at the RISD Museum Grand Gallery. Also on the program will be Beethoven’s charming sonata in E-flat, op. 12 no. 3 with Luke Fatora, violin and Jeff Louie, piano.
 
–Jesse Holstein
Associate Director / Senior Resident Musician

Who Let the Frogs Out? A Postcard from the Newport String Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently discovered that the beloved game of skipping stones across water has a variety of other names in other countries – ducks and drakes (UK), dragonflies (Czech), throwing a sandwich (Finnish) and the Ukrainian name is zapuskaty zhabky which translates to “letting the frogs out”.

What has me thinking about skipping stones, you ask?

As musicians engaged in community residencies, we are constantly experimenting – tweaking traditional concert formats to engage new people, bringing a new game to a classroom of violin students – to build meaningful connections between people. And, that moment of trying something new in pursuit of connection, is a lot like the moment when you let go of the pebble to see how far it will bounce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



As anyone with stone-skipping prowess will tell you, much depends on finding the right pebbles. And we have been incredibly lucky with our plentiful supply! The Newport String Project is now in its fifth season – thanks to incredible community support, this year, myself and Emmy have been joined by violist Ashley Frith and cellist Jaime Feldman. Together we perform as the Newport String Quartet and curate educational programming that provides free violin, viola and cello lessons to almost forty students aging from Pre-K to fifth graders. There have been many, many “pebbles” along the way. And there have definitely been some “clunkers”– unruly frogs, you might say – but some of the more successful “pebbles” have led to signature events like the Paper Orchestra concerts (see highlights from our most recent one here) and the community barn dance series and many rich collaborations with local organizations.

Every so often, there’s the magical combination of pebble, technique and environmental conditions – and you realize that the pebbles are bouncing a lot further than you imagined, maybe in ways you hadn’t even noticed or realized. Like when our oldest students are recruiting their friends to come join the Newport String Project. Like when a younger sibling already knows a song because they’ve learnt it from an older brother or sister. Like when you notice a parent absorbed in watching their child’s lesson and marveling at the complexity of skills they’re learning. Like when an audience member finds you after a concert to ask what works by that composer they should listen to next. These moments are energizing, humbling and bring much needed detail to the sweeping Big Picture flow of this work.

-Ealain McMullin, Newport String Project Co-Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about Newport String Project here!

Hello from Newfoundland!


Our good friend from the North, Carole Bestvater (CMW Violin Fellow 2009-2011), shares the latest news from Strong Harbour Strings along with an update on a visit from our own MusicWorks Network Fellow and CMW student alum, Andrew Oung. Carole is the Director & Founder of the program, located in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
 
Wow, it’s hard to imagine that five years have passed since this program started!  Here we are, in Strong Harbour Strings’ fifth season, with so much to celebrate. This year, there are 24 students in our main centre, all coming two times a week for group and individual lessons.  We also started a satellite centre in a nearby neighbourhood across the harbour. There are 16 students who come twice a week during their lunch hour to learn the violin and viola. There are three new staff members who joined the team this season, so we’re having fun getting to know each other, teaching, and playing music together.
 
We recently played a concert of the Vivaldi Four Seasons in a downtown pub, selling out the place! People loved it! We’re planning on repeating the concert in a workshop for the SHS students, as well as in another family-friendly venue.  It’s been a very exciting time for Strong Harbour Strings.

The most exciting aspect right now is that Andrew Oung, the MusicWorks Network Fellow, is currently in St. John’s for a six week internship.  He’s working with a small group of 7th graders in developing the culture for a group inspired by CMW’s teen group, Phase II.  He’s been leading discussions, prompting conversations, and laying down a foundation for a group like this to continue after his internship here has finished. It has been exciting to see this aspect of Strong Harbour Strings develop, and feels like the missing puzzle piece is finally in place.  Now that we have students who are growing, developing critical thinking, and are completely blissed out that they get to keep on learning music and hanging out with each other, we’re finally ready to develop a Phase II-like program for them.
Sending love and hugs from the North Atlantic,

Carole Bestvater

 

Andrew Oung also sent along an update on his visit:

For the past few weeks I have been working here with Strong Harbour Strings. It has been wonderful getting to know all of the students and staff. I work with them three times a week, each day taking on a different role. I have started a small discussion group with the program’s 7th graders, I teach violin lessons, I support teachers during orchestra time, and I help students learn music theory. Strong Harbour takes place at two locations, one of which is the Cornerstone Ministry Centre. I really love that there is an open space where students and parents gather while they wait for lessons. It provides an opportunity for them to naturally interact with each other, and helps the music theory mentors be visible and accessible.
 
Outside of the educational aspect of the program, I attended a performance by the staff, named the Strong Harbour Strings Collective. They performed Vivaldi’s Four Season at The Black Sheep Pub to a full audience. I loved seeing how much the audience enjoyed the performance and I overheard somebody proudly say, “where else in the world can you hear Vivaldi in a pub”. While I can think of another city very dear to me where that could be true, I still think there is a uniqueness to the music community here. I’ll be in St. John’s for a few more weeks and I look forward to learning more about Strong Harbour Strings and the musical community here.

 

 

 

A Place to Play: Celebrating Music Haven’s New Office

We checked in with former CMW Fellow Annalisa Boerner (Viola Fellow 2012-2014), who has joined the staff of Music Haven in New Haven, CT as a full time Resident Musician and member of the Haven String Quartet. Here, Annalisa shares some news about the program’s new digs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, January 19th, Music Haven celebrated its tenth year of teaching and our move into a beautiful new space with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Our new offices are in a former factory space called Erector Square. Our suite was too small for a school, too big for a yoga studio, and just right for our organization to fit into and grow with.

Music Haven’s new location, where we rehearse, teach, and perform, is helping our program grow in ways big and small. The sense of community is palpable when our eighty students gather for group classes on Fridays, and as they filter in and out throughout the week. We love to see them doing homework and playing Uno in the lounge area as they wait for lessons. On the teaching side, I can keep a shelf of music, a jar of clothespins, and both a violin and a viola close at hand, and my students can have lessons in a calm environment that’s dedicated to music-making. We’ve hosted studio recitals with potlucks in our large performance space, and we look forward to debuting next year’s Chamber Series concerts in this area as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The program for the afternoon of the 19th included words from Mandi Jackson, Executive Director; Yaira Matyakubova, violinist and Senior Resident Musician; and Mayor Toni Harp (!) who cut the ribbon. The Music Lanterns, an ensemble of nine to twelve-year-old students, kicked off the program, and the Harmony In Action chamber orchestra concluded it with a conductorless performance of Lean on Me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is thanks to our many supporters of all varieties that we are able to sustain and grow our program in this way.  Here’s to ten more years at Music Haven!

–Annalisa Boerner

Congratulations to Annalisa and the Music Haven staff and students!

 

Unlocking Meaning: CMW Fellows’ Residency at Butler Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“I find myself saying that it doesn’t matter what the music is, or at least that the content is a trivial concern compared to the importance of making a human connection between performer and listener.”

Heath Marlow, former CMW staffer and current faculty/staff at New England Conservatory, reflects on his work with CMW Fellows in creating and implementing a performance residency at Butler Hospital, a psychiatric facility on Providence’s East Side,  in 2017:

At our first session together in Fall 2016, I asked the Fellows to come up with a new community (not the communities already served by Community MusicWorks) that could potentially benefit from interacting with a string quartet.

The group’s research led to the conclusion that it would be important to try out their ideas in an environment that had the capacity to support the quartet’s experimental activities. Butler Hospital’s Healing Arts Program was immediately receptive to hosting the quartet, and a series of three activities for distinct patient populations (adolescent, adult, geriatric) was soon decided upon.

 

​”It was personally humbling to participate in the workshops. The response in each unit was so different – but equally powerful. It felt challenging to insert ourselves into such an intense environment – having no idea where each person was on their healing path.”

Read Heath’s full account and reflection in his blog piece, here.

This year, Heath meets regularly with the current quartet of Fellows (and other interested musician colleagues) to discuss aspects of building a career as a musician at the intersection of artistry and community using the best practices associated with growing a community-based organization.

 

Investing in People and Place

For the past 20 years, Community MusicWorks has been invested in both people and place – our students, families, and professional musicians, and the community of Providence.

Last year was truly a celebratory season. Throughout our programs, we reflected on our growth and impact, and we took on important new initiatives. Some of last year’s most significant moments included the expansion of our Daily Orchestra Program to include a new daily ensemble for six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds; the We Shall Overcome Project; the graduation of our largest class of Phase II students and our tenth class of Fellows; the residency of world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax; and over 30 inspiring free performances.

Beyond the specifics, we celebrated the culture of Community MusicWorks, which supports young people, professional musicians, guest artists, and our colleagues in CMW’s Fellowship Program, to continually grow their approach to music-making in our community.

“The always-evolving organism of CMW is innovative, curious, engaged, compassionate, empathetic, generous and far-reaching. I learned more than I imagined I would in the most supportive and nurturing environment. I can’t think of a better place to incubate and grow ideas and deepen my own experience and confidence. Getting to know, teach, and learn from the most wonderful studio of students, along with performing with an exceptional ensemble of colleagues has been incredibly motivating and continues to inform my work.”
– Josie Davis, violinist, CMW Fellow 2015-17

Using our 20th season as both inspiration and motivation – and recognizing all there is still to work on in our community and world – we are beginning our third decade looking even more deeply at our mission and how we put it into practice. Consistent with our Strategic Plan, we have mapped out several significant enhancements to our programs, included below.

These new initiatives range from further developing our music education practices with young people, to deepening the experiences of our concert audiences, to developing the MusicWorks Network, a new consortium of programs around the country that were founded on CMW’s model. I am pleased to share highlights of these new program elements, which of course will be in addition to our daily work with our 160 students and our over 30 free performances in our communities.

What we know has been a key to our growth and success – our ability to create new opportunities – has been the partnerships with supporters like you who share our belief that music can be a transformative experience for our communities.

As we launch into our third decade, your donation towards our ambitious 21st season will enable us to further develop, strengthen, and deepen our work.

As you know, Community MusicWorks is committed to offering our youth programs and performances free of charge – which means we must raise our full budget each year. Your generous gift will ensure that we can maintain our commitments to students, musicians, and audiences. Your partnership will allow us to work with young people and artists in a way that has a real impact on building positive goals and futures.

I appreciate your considering a generous gift this fall to make transformational experiences possible for young people and our communities.

Sincerely,
Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director
Community MusicWorks 

Community MusicWorks
21st Season Special Programs and Projects

Phase II for All and Joy in Practice

This year, during the first semester of All Play Day – a weekly two-hour session where CMW Phase I, II and III students gather for intense lessons and rehearsals – students will be invited to select classes based on their playing ability and interest. Classes will focus on improvisation and composition, theory and sight-reading, jazz, performance anxiety and mindfulness, learning how to practice, and experimental music. This enhanced offering provides our students with many access points into the study of music, and encourages them to explore their own interests and skills as musicians.

The second half of the year will be focused on ensembles, including all students exploring a piece in depth, building on the We Shall Overcome Project. In the We Shall Overcome Project, all of our students will learn an arrangement of a historically significant song as well as learning about its origins, later uses, and meaning. Starting in January, students will take part in weekly activities that explore the text, history, and power of this song, and will write their own verses based on their personal and musical experiences in their community or in the world at large.

Music Transforms

As part of our mission to explore, hear, and perform a broad range of voices through our concerts, our programming this year has been expanded to include a theme of presenting under-represented communities. Throughout the season, we will explore the works by female composers in a broad range of genres and instrumentation.

In addition to our MusicWorks Collective concerts, CMW’s mission to present visionary artists, such as Jonathan Biss, Emanuel Ax, and this season, world-renowned violinist Johnny Gandelsman, in performances and collaborations, offers two important opportunities for CMW. First, it allows CMW to share its mission and programs with a broader base of music aficionados. Second, it offers our students an opportunity to be inspired to strive for their musical and personal goals and to find their voice as unique citizens in our world.

Leading the Conversation

In August, CMW launched MusicWorks Network, the first of three annual institutes funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Network brings together representatives from nine organizations, staffed or led by former CMW Fellows and participants in our Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service. The overarching goals for the Network include: sharing social justice programming, goals, and methodology; incorporating college-going skills development among students across the network; and building connectivity between the sites to facilitate shared learning and creating pathways for CMW students and Fellowship Program graduates to contribute and gain employment in other sites.

Several important themes emerged at the institute that challenged CMW to grow our practice. Primary among them is that CMW has an opportunity to dig deeper into the questions of organizational practice as they relate to social justice broadly, and racial justice in particular. We are energized to define more clearly how all of CMW’s practices can reflect our social justice commitment and curriculum.

Is This the One About the Pilot? Working Toward Copland’s Violin Sonata

Join us Thursday, November 16 at 7pm for our popular Sonata Series in the beautifully appointed Grand Gallery at RISD Museum. This concert features violinists Sebastian Ruth and David Rubin with guest pianist Eliko Akahori. Here, violinist David Rubin shares his notes on the piece he’ll perform at the event and his own process of discovery on the meaning and origin of Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano.

I heard about Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano years before I actually heard Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. The initial encounter looms large in my memory and — come to think of it — stands in opposition to my current experience of the piece. Tension can often be generative, as we say at CMW, so perhaps this story will be of some interest for those folks planning to attend our Sonata Series performance at the RISD Museum (Thursday, November 16 at 7pm in the Grand Gallery).

***
In 2004, pianist Karl Paulnack gave a welcome address to the parents of incoming students at Boston Conservatory. Seeking to reassure a presumably anxious crowd about the viability of their children’s chosen career path (read: financial ruin?), Paulnack shared stories about music’s healing powers, its necessity in our society, and the potential nobility of a life spent in its service. One of those anecdotes centered around Paulnack’s own performance of – you guessed it – the Copland violin sonata. This story is better in Paulnack’s telling, but I’ll briefly summarize it here.

During this performance of the Copland (let’s set the stage, actually: during the elegiac slow movement, at a small-town nursing home) a World War II veteran in the audience was clearly overcome with emotion. Later in the concert, Paulnack shared more details about the piece, including the story of its dedication to Harry Dunham, a pilot killed in battle during World War II and a close friend of Copland’s. At this point, the veteran in the audience stood up and left. He later told Paulnack that he was in shock – Copland’s music had triggered a vivid remembrance of a near-identical experience from his own wartime service, a particular trauma he hadn’t thought of in years. The veteran wanted to know how this was possible. How could Copland’s music make him remember so vividly, even though he hadn’t known about that particular connection when he first listened to the piece?

Paulnack’s story is a beautiful testament to music’s communicative powers. It’s also some heavy interpretative baggage for a performer to assimilate. From then on, I remembered the Copland sonata as the World War II piece that, by virtue of its somber American-ness, went straight to the heart.

And I’m not alone. To quote a random YouTube commenter:

“Is this the one about the pilot shot down in WWII?”

***
Now, when I play this piece, I have more information to draw on, and it makes things more complicated for me as a performer. New perspectives nudge that simple origin story out of my head, or at least force it to share space. Here’s a taste of that stew.

The ink was dry – the piece was finished – when Copland learned of Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham’s death, at which point he added the dedication. We have no way of knowing what he was thinking about while he was writing the violin sonata. It is a wartime piece because it was written during the war, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that this is a piece about war, or a piece about Dunham. It’s entirely possible that Copland didn’t think about the war – or his friend – at all while he was committing these notes to paper.

We know only what (little) Copland chose to share about it, namely: “I had little desire to compose a dissonant or virtuosic work, or one that incorporated folk materials. Nevertheless, certain qualities of the American folk tune had become part of my natural style of composing, and they are echoed in the Sonata.” Nicely put, Aaron.

We also know that the premiere drew polarized responses from critics. One damned its “rearward vision” (ouch!), while another (Copland’s friend Virgil Thomson) praised its “calm elevation… irresistibly touching.” That’s more like it. Wouldn’t we all like to be praised for our “calm elevation?”

I also know what my teachers have shared about their experience with this piece, and what various smart people have written. My mentor in graduate school was fascinated by Copland’s habit of spreading common, everyday chords across wide spans on an instrument’s range (think of a pianist playing high and low notes at the same time) – the harmony might be utterly familiar, but its presentation is unearthly. It creates the illusion of space, of solitude… of frontiers. Stan Kleppinger, in the journal of the Society for Music Theory, suggests that this piece’s special sonorities can be explained as dualities, moments when two key areas exist simultaneously – the magic lies in the ambiguity. Other scholars hear past the melodic inflections in Copland’s writing (and the related, pesky question of American-ness, which seems to dominate all conversations of this composer’s music) toward a neoclassical reading, in which canons and miniature fugues dance in 20th-century dress. Bach in Hollywood in 1943.

***
And even though the dedication was added after the piece’s completion, I can’t help but also wonder about this man, this Harry Dunham. It turns out that we know a bit about him, too, largely thanks to the work of Copland-scholar Howard Pollack.

We know that Dunham was incredibly handsome (in composer David Diamond’s words: “the most adorable, good-looking boy”), the darling of a New York arts community that starred Copland, Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles, John Latouche, and other familiar figures. We know that he came from money, that he graduated from Princeton, that he made films. We know he was, to some degree, a leftist. We know that he married a woman, Marian Chase, but we also know that he was romantically involved with several men in the artistic circles he moved in. We know that Dunham, Bowles, and Copland traveled together in Morocco. We know that he died in battle in 1943, and that Aaron Copland dedicated this stunning piece of music to his memory.

I wasn’t expecting Dunham’s story to be so rich. The anonymous “pilot” from my initial encounter with the Copland violin sonata has a lot in common with me, and with people I’ve known. His sexuality, his artistic and political leanings, his social circles – they all run contrary to the military stereotype that I conjured up upon first hearing. This speaks to my prejudices, but it also speaks to the simple fact that people are complicated. In fact, Dunham’s surprises form a nice parallel with the rich ironies of Copland’s own story. Copland, the man whose music was appropriated for “Beef! It’s What’s for Dinner!” or Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America!” was, in Alex Ross’ words, “a gay leftist of Russian-Jewish extraction.” The man who created an American identity in concert music wasn’t always particularly welcome in his own country. Chew on that for a moment. These are not new ironies, but they never cease to amaze.

***

So, in the end, what should a performer make of these accumulated, sometimes contradictory meanings and associations? Perhaps it’s a cop-out, but here’s an attempt. I’m not a historian and I’m not a theorist and I’m not a veteran, but I do know what this piece makes me feel. Now, as I type this, I think of the piece’s opening, and its particular magic: a series of plain-spoken piano chords; hanging in the air, unresolved, still. Just the thought of those chords makes me verklempt. They’re 100% Copland, and they just break your heart.

I imagine Copland’s dedication to Dunham as a monument to an individual life, yes, but also a way of life: a group of friends, and a particular moment in time and space. In the composer’s words:

“By reflecting the time in which one lives, the creative artist gives substance and meaning to life as we live it. Life seems so transitory! It is very attractive to set down some sort of permanent statement about the way we feel, so that when it’s all gone, people will be able to go to our art works to see what it was like to be alive in our time and place — twentieth-century America.”

I love that little word: our. You get the sense that Copland’s our was broad as can be. “Our” twentieth-century America was gay and Jewish and left, just as much as it was the opposite of those things.

***

For me, this is the fun of performing. You live inside of a piece, soak up its contradictions and cliches, and try to make sense of it – both the thing itself (whatever that means, God help us) – and your relationship to it. Each realization of a piece, each usage in a different context, is a fleeting act – but over time it forms a discourse, a discussion across decades. It’s a beautiful mess, but that’s where the meaning is. A generative tension.

In any case. I hope you’ll join Eliko, Sebastian and I for Thursday’s program at the RISD Museum. It’ll be a pleasure to explore this piece, in all of its contradictions. In so doing, I hope we’ll celebrate Aaron Copland’s life — Harry Dunham’s, too.

-David Rubin, Violin Fellow


Further reading & works quoted above

Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. Henry Holt, 1999.
Karl Paulnack, welcome address at The Boston Conservatory, 2004. Accessible here.
Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland Since 1943. St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Gail Levin and Judith Tick, Aaron Copland’s America. Watson-Guptill Publications, 2000.

 

MusicWorks Network: A New Initiative

Within the past twenty-one years, CMW has offered professional musicians opportunities to re-imagine the very foundations of a classical music career, and to think more broadly about music as a way of engaging in and with communities.

This year, CMW has the opportunity to deepen that work with the support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a new initiative, Citizens of the World: Forging Pathways to College and Beyond. This strategic initiative is designed to substantially increase the number of racially diverse, low-income young people who gain access to critical skills that promote success. This work builds on CMW’s 20-year history of developing music-based education programs designed to open new worlds of opportunity to low-income African-American and Latino youth. Out of this work has come Phase II, an approach to developing fundamental skills and supports that promote college-going, that has led 95% of CMW graduates to continue to college.

CMW will share CMW’s successful college-going model across a network of community-based music education sites. Called the MusicWorks Network, this project will link 10-15 community-based music sites serving over 650 young people and convene them in an annual Summer Institute for training, resource-sharing, and collaborative evaluation.

The first Summer Institute took place this past August 22-30 as educators and staff from ten different organizations gathered at the beautiful Rolling Ridge Conference Center in North Andover, MA. Connecting around the ways that social justice practices and technical and artistic work on string instruments can support one another, teachers and staff came from Community MusicWorks, MusiConnects (Boston, MA), MyCincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), Musica Franklin (Franklin, MA), Orchestra of St. Luke’s (New York, New York), MusicHaven (New Haven, CT), Newport Strings (Newport, RI), Sistema New Brunswick (New Brunswick, St. John, Canada), Strong Harbor Strings (St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada), and Neighborhood Strings (Worcester, MA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participants convened for a range of workshops and trainings, including a 2-day string pedagogy workshop with renowned violinist and teacher Mimi Zweig, a poetry and social justice workshop with poet Jonathan Mendoza, a workshop on anti-racist organizational frameworks with trainer and activist Adeola Oredola, and discussions and reflection around the creative synergy between string pedagogy and social justice teachings.

The Institute was designed and facilitated by Sebastian Ruth and Chloe Kline with the new MusicWorks Network staff: MusicWorks Network Director Jori Ketten and MusicWorks Network Fellow Andrew Oung. Part of the initiative, the MusicWorks Network Fellowship is a one-year position for alumni of CMW’s youth program or graduates of CMW’s two-year Fellowship Program to contribute to the MusicWorks Network. Andrew is our first alumni hire at CMW.

 

Archives

Thursday, February 15 : Music in the Grand Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sonata Series Event

The Sonata Series features MusicWorks Collective musicians with guest pianists presenting works from the duo sonata repertoire. Together, musicians explore pieces from the 17th and 18th century masterworks to contemporary works.

This event features pianist Jeff Louie, performing Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, No. 3 with violinist Luke Fatora and Amy Beach’s Violin Sonata, Op. 34 with Jesse Holstein.

Thursday, February 15 at 7pm
Grand Gallery, RISD Museum
20 N. Main Street, Providence
Admission to the museum and concert is free
No reservations are necessary

CMW Celebrates 20 with Twenty Years, Twenty Stories

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This year Community MusicWorks turns 20! To mark the milestone, we are gathering the stories of 20 members of our community–musicians, students, parents, graduates and supporters. Look for new stories throughout the season.

Interviews were recorded, transcribed and edited to create personal narratives in each subject’s distinctive voice. We hope 20 Years, 20 Stories captures the many flavors and varieties of CMW experience. Join us at a concert anytime to start creating your own CMW story.

Read the interviews here.

 

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Who’s the Guy with the Curly Hair?

 

“The Last Supper” painting by Jessica Van Daam, on loan to the Trinity Brewhouse.

CMW Fellow and violinist Luke Fatora muses upon Beethoven as a pop culture icon.

Earlier this year, an unexpected downpour of cold rain unleashed itself as I was out for a walk. Passing by the Trinity Brewhouse on Fountain Street, I took refuge inside and found myself seated near a musician-themed mural riffing on The Last Supper. I was enjoying a nearby table’s particularly slurred conversation – its contents better left unexplored here – when it took a hard turn. One of the speakers interrupted a waitress, gesturing towards the mural hanging on the wall where Ludwig van Beethoven (not to confused with Beethoven the dog but more on that later) was stoically seated next to Billie Holiday in the company of other musicians like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. He asked “Who’s the guy with the curly hair??”

I found myself thinking back to this experience recently at CMW’s Phase II students’ weekly dinner and discussion. The students were exploring the interdependent relationship between a piece of art and the settings that a culture places it in. Later that night I grappled with unanswerable questions as I tossed and turned. How would Beethoven have responded to someone telling him that two centuries into the future, Americans would scarf down nachos and beer under his quasi-religious image in a brewpub in Providence, RI? How about being told that Andy Warhol, an iconic 20th century American artist, would designate Beethoven as the figure from western classical music to join the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Chairman Mao, as portrait subjects? Finally, what would he have had to say about the movie Beethoven released in the 1990’s?? My guess is as good as anyone’s as to how Beethoven would have reacted to being told that his name would become synonymous with a Hollywood movie about the adventures of a goofy, slobbering, St. Bernard.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The composer’s canine namesake.

After entertaining these hypothetical reactions, we’re left with some serious questions. Why did Andy Warhol choose Beethoven over someone like Schubert or Tchaikovsky as an iconic portrait subject? Why is the comedic reboot of Lassie centered around a St. Bernard named Beethoven (the surface explanation is here) and not Schoenberg or Bach?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Warhol’s Beethoven

Beethoven was an incredibly forward thinking composer – so much so that nearly a century after he wrote his wild Grosse Fugue, composers such as Arnold Schoenberg would look back to it as a premonition of their own radical breaks with tradition. Are we to believe that Beethoven’s seat at the table of musical disciples in the Trinity Brewhouse is a result of his technical wizardry as a composer?

Another explanation lies in his easily accessible humanity. As many people know, Beethoven lost his hearing over the course of time and had a generally tough life. His struggles led him to rail against fate in his Fifth Symphony. There is hardly a more universal human experience than struggling with circumstances that are beyond our control. Beethoven’s loss of hearing is tragic and his response to continue living for the sake of creating art is certainly heroic (you can read about it in his own words in his famed Heiligenstadt Testament). This said, other composers, being human (for now…), have certainly also struggled with circumstances beyond their control.

Popular culture’s obsession with Beethoven (the composer) risks encapsulating his image in the opening bars of his 5th Symphony and “that epic part of the 9th symphony where people are singing about something in German.” Only a sliver of Beethoven’s humanity is seen when it is through this lens. Recently, I have been working through his Third op. 12 Piano and Violin sonata and have been enjoying how starkly it contrasts popular notions of what Beethoven should sound like (“bark bark bark baaaark!”). Beethoven began working on his op. 12 Piano and Violin sonatas in 1797; he was 27 years old and had been living in Vienna for 5 years. At that point, he was 5 years away from writing the Heiligenstadt Testament and presumably contemplating suicide in the face of his worsening deafness. The Heiligenstadt Testament details the agony of Beethoven’s depression but it also mentions his lifelong heightened sensitivity to “tender feelings of affection” and his general “love for man and feelings of benevolence.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ludwig Van Beethoven, composer and guy with the curly hair.

Beethoven’s Third Piano and Violin Sonata can be seen as stemming from these general underlying dispositions; it is brimming with a particularly sparkling and playful energy, never taking itself too seriously. The beginning and ending movements are strikingly joyful romps through E flat major. The second movement is an Adagio in C major that begins with a simple melody containing an emotional pureness that becomes transformed throughout the movement. The theme passes briefly through distant and more complicated emotional landscapes, emerging to playfully evade a committed return to its original character – one gets the sense that Beethoven is exploring what it feels like to make peace with an unattainable ideal’s imaginary nature. This is the side of Beethoven that, two centuries later, keeps me warm on a slushy February day. Beethoven’s ability to probe such an extreme range of emotion leaves me in awe of his (very human) ability to reach across time and space to connect with us and – most importantly – inspires me to stop reaching for my phone to check the latest news and reach for my violin instead.

–Luke Fatora

Please join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for the Sonata Series Event at RISD Museum’s Grand Gallery as Luke Fatora performs Beethoven (the composer) along with pianist Jeff Louie. The event also features violinist Jesse Holstein performing a composition by Amy Beach.

 

A Day at the Beach

Join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for our Sonata Series Event featuring Jesse Holstein and Luke Fatora with guest pianist Jeff Louie. The evening’s program features a composition by Amy Beach. Here, Jesse talks about the composer and the piece he’ll perform at RISD Museum Grand Gallery.
 
A piece that has recently come into my orbit is the Sonata for Violin and Piano by Amy Beach. It was completely unknown to me before I performed it at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music last August. In the process of learning it, I became quite taken with the piece and subsequently asked my friend Jeff Louie to play it with me for the CMW Sonata Series Concert this February 15 at the RISD Museum at 7pm. If I may be permitted, perhaps a little background about Ms. Beach and the sonata.
 

Tucked between the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers in south-eastern New England lies the little town of Henniker, New Hampshire. Aside from being the birthplace of Red Sox legend Ted Williams, Henniker also lays claim as the birthplace of one of the most important figures in American classical music, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach.

Composer Amy Beach

Born September 5, 1867, Amy Cheney exhibited prodigious musical talent on the piano and in composition from a very young age. She advanced far beyond what teaching was available in Henniker by age seven and in order to support Amy’s talent, the family moved to the Boston suburb of Chelsea in 1875. There, she studied piano with Carl Baermann, who was himself a piano student of Franz Liszt. While Amy did receive some composition and counterpoint coaching as a young teen, she was essentially an autodidact in composition her whole life. Impressively, her “Gaelic Symphony” of 1896 received its world-premier by the Boston Symphony and was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. This is a testament to her incredible gift of melody and intuitive ability as a composer.
 
When Amy was on the verge of international stardom as a pianist and composer, she got married at age eighteen to a prominent Boston surgeon, Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, twenty-four years her senior. As was the custom of the times, he limited her performing life to just a few recitals a year and Amy received no mentoring or tutoring as a composer. When Dr. Beach died in 1910, Amy began touring as a pianist and composer in Europe and was a tremendous success. She would return to America in 1914 and was a major figure in American Classical music until her death in 1944.
 
With Amy’s piano concerto appearances with the Boston Symphony as a teenager, she gained the attention of the BSO Concertmaster, Franz Kneisel.  He invited her to perform the Schumann piano quintet with his string quartet in 1894 and he premiered her violin sonata in 1897 with Ms. Beach at the piano. Arguably the greatest Romantic Period American violin sonata, Beach’s piece is a dramatic big-boned sonata with a tremendous scope of expression and color. Cast in four movements, the first movement is a serious and dramatic voyage within the traditional sonata-form structure. In relief to the density of the first movement, the second movement is a much lighter scherzo akin to some of Mendelssohn’s “fairy music” movements. The third movement is the longest of the four chapters. Highly lyrical and emotional, it begins with an extended passage for solo piano. Several musicologists have remarked on the similarity of the melody of Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me” to the main theme of this movement. (This statement may or may not be true.) The finale has the tremendous forward drive and drama that one might expect in the concluding chapter of such a impassioned work. At the midpoint, a Bach-like fugue appears with wonderful counterpoint and dialogue between the voices before a return to the Romantic thrust to the conclusion.
 
I hope you are able to join us and hear the sonata for yourself on Thursday, February 15 at 7pm at the RISD Museum Grand Gallery. Also on the program will be Beethoven’s charming sonata in E-flat, op. 12 no. 3 with Luke Fatora, violin and Jeff Louie, piano.
 
–Jesse Holstein
Associate Director / Senior Resident Musician

Who Let the Frogs Out? A Postcard from the Newport String Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently discovered that the beloved game of skipping stones across water has a variety of other names in other countries – ducks and drakes (UK), dragonflies (Czech), throwing a sandwich (Finnish) and the Ukrainian name is zapuskaty zhabky which translates to “letting the frogs out”.

What has me thinking about skipping stones, you ask?

As musicians engaged in community residencies, we are constantly experimenting – tweaking traditional concert formats to engage new people, bringing a new game to a classroom of violin students – to build meaningful connections between people. And, that moment of trying something new in pursuit of connection, is a lot like the moment when you let go of the pebble to see how far it will bounce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



As anyone with stone-skipping prowess will tell you, much depends on finding the right pebbles. And we have been incredibly lucky with our plentiful supply! The Newport String Project is now in its fifth season – thanks to incredible community support, this year, myself and Emmy have been joined by violist Ashley Frith and cellist Jaime Feldman. Together we perform as the Newport String Quartet and curate educational programming that provides free violin, viola and cello lessons to almost forty students aging from Pre-K to fifth graders. There have been many, many “pebbles” along the way. And there have definitely been some “clunkers”– unruly frogs, you might say – but some of the more successful “pebbles” have led to signature events like the Paper Orchestra concerts (see highlights from our most recent one here) and the community barn dance series and many rich collaborations with local organizations.

Every so often, there’s the magical combination of pebble, technique and environmental conditions – and you realize that the pebbles are bouncing a lot further than you imagined, maybe in ways you hadn’t even noticed or realized. Like when our oldest students are recruiting their friends to come join the Newport String Project. Like when a younger sibling already knows a song because they’ve learnt it from an older brother or sister. Like when you notice a parent absorbed in watching their child’s lesson and marveling at the complexity of skills they’re learning. Like when an audience member finds you after a concert to ask what works by that composer they should listen to next. These moments are energizing, humbling and bring much needed detail to the sweeping Big Picture flow of this work.

-Ealain McMullin, Newport String Project Co-Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about Newport String Project here!

Hello from Newfoundland!


Our good friend from the North, Carole Bestvater (CMW Violin Fellow 2009-2011), shares the latest news from Strong Harbour Strings along with an update on a visit from our own MusicWorks Network Fellow and CMW student alum, Andrew Oung. Carole is the Director & Founder of the program, located in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
 
Wow, it’s hard to imagine that five years have passed since this program started!  Here we are, in Strong Harbour Strings’ fifth season, with so much to celebrate. This year, there are 24 students in our main centre, all coming two times a week for group and individual lessons.  We also started a satellite centre in a nearby neighbourhood across the harbour. There are 16 students who come twice a week during their lunch hour to learn the violin and viola. There are three new staff members who joined the team this season, so we’re having fun getting to know each other, teaching, and playing music together.
 
We recently played a concert of the Vivaldi Four Seasons in a downtown pub, selling out the place! People loved it! We’re planning on repeating the concert in a workshop for the SHS students, as well as in another family-friendly venue.  It’s been a very exciting time for Strong Harbour Strings.

The most exciting aspect right now is that Andrew Oung, the MusicWorks Network Fellow, is currently in St. John’s for a six week internship.  He’s working with a small group of 7th graders in developing the culture for a group inspired by CMW’s teen group, Phase II.  He’s been leading discussions, prompting conversations, and laying down a foundation for a group like this to continue after his internship here has finished. It has been exciting to see this aspect of Strong Harbour Strings develop, and feels like the missing puzzle piece is finally in place.  Now that we have students who are growing, developing critical thinking, and are completely blissed out that they get to keep on learning music and hanging out with each other, we’re finally ready to develop a Phase II-like program for them.
Sending love and hugs from the North Atlantic,

Carole Bestvater

 

Andrew Oung also sent along an update on his visit:

For the past few weeks I have been working here with Strong Harbour Strings. It has been wonderful getting to know all of the students and staff. I work with them three times a week, each day taking on a different role. I have started a small discussion group with the program’s 7th graders, I teach violin lessons, I support teachers during orchestra time, and I help students learn music theory. Strong Harbour takes place at two locations, one of which is the Cornerstone Ministry Centre. I really love that there is an open space where students and parents gather while they wait for lessons. It provides an opportunity for them to naturally interact with each other, and helps the music theory mentors be visible and accessible.
 
Outside of the educational aspect of the program, I attended a performance by the staff, named the Strong Harbour Strings Collective. They performed Vivaldi’s Four Season at The Black Sheep Pub to a full audience. I loved seeing how much the audience enjoyed the performance and I overheard somebody proudly say, “where else in the world can you hear Vivaldi in a pub”. While I can think of another city very dear to me where that could be true, I still think there is a uniqueness to the music community here. I’ll be in St. John’s for a few more weeks and I look forward to learning more about Strong Harbour Strings and the musical community here.

 

 

 

A Place to Play: Celebrating Music Haven’s New Office

We checked in with former CMW Fellow Annalisa Boerner (Viola Fellow 2012-2014), who has joined the staff of Music Haven in New Haven, CT as a full time Resident Musician and member of the Haven String Quartet. Here, Annalisa shares some news about the program’s new digs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, January 19th, Music Haven celebrated its tenth year of teaching and our move into a beautiful new space with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Our new offices are in a former factory space called Erector Square. Our suite was too small for a school, too big for a yoga studio, and just right for our organization to fit into and grow with.

Music Haven’s new location, where we rehearse, teach, and perform, is helping our program grow in ways big and small. The sense of community is palpable when our eighty students gather for group classes on Fridays, and as they filter in and out throughout the week. We love to see them doing homework and playing Uno in the lounge area as they wait for lessons. On the teaching side, I can keep a shelf of music, a jar of clothespins, and both a violin and a viola close at hand, and my students can have lessons in a calm environment that’s dedicated to music-making. We’ve hosted studio recitals with potlucks in our large performance space, and we look forward to debuting next year’s Chamber Series concerts in this area as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The program for the afternoon of the 19th included words from Mandi Jackson, Executive Director; Yaira Matyakubova, violinist and Senior Resident Musician; and Mayor Toni Harp (!) who cut the ribbon. The Music Lanterns, an ensemble of nine to twelve-year-old students, kicked off the program, and the Harmony In Action chamber orchestra concluded it with a conductorless performance of Lean on Me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is thanks to our many supporters of all varieties that we are able to sustain and grow our program in this way.  Here’s to ten more years at Music Haven!

–Annalisa Boerner

Congratulations to Annalisa and the Music Haven staff and students!

 

Unlocking Meaning: CMW Fellows’ Residency at Butler Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“I find myself saying that it doesn’t matter what the music is, or at least that the content is a trivial concern compared to the importance of making a human connection between performer and listener.”

Heath Marlow, former CMW staffer and current faculty/staff at New England Conservatory, reflects on his work with CMW Fellows in creating and implementing a performance residency at Butler Hospital, a psychiatric facility on Providence’s East Side,  in 2017:

At our first session together in Fall 2016, I asked the Fellows to come up with a new community (not the communities already served by Community MusicWorks) that could potentially benefit from interacting with a string quartet.

The group’s research led to the conclusion that it would be important to try out their ideas in an environment that had the capacity to support the quartet’s experimental activities. Butler Hospital’s Healing Arts Program was immediately receptive to hosting the quartet, and a series of three activities for distinct patient populations (adolescent, adult, geriatric) was soon decided upon.

 

​”It was personally humbling to participate in the workshops. The response in each unit was so different – but equally powerful. It felt challenging to insert ourselves into such an intense environment – having no idea where each person was on their healing path.”

Read Heath’s full account and reflection in his blog piece, here.

This year, Heath meets regularly with the current quartet of Fellows (and other interested musician colleagues) to discuss aspects of building a career as a musician at the intersection of artistry and community using the best practices associated with growing a community-based organization.

 

Investing in People and Place

For the past 20 years, Community MusicWorks has been invested in both people and place – our students, families, and professional musicians, and the community of Providence.

Last year was truly a celebratory season. Throughout our programs, we reflected on our growth and impact, and we took on important new initiatives. Some of last year’s most significant moments included the expansion of our Daily Orchestra Program to include a new daily ensemble for six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds; the We Shall Overcome Project; the graduation of our largest class of Phase II students and our tenth class of Fellows; the residency of world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax; and over 30 inspiring free performances.

Beyond the specifics, we celebrated the culture of Community MusicWorks, which supports young people, professional musicians, guest artists, and our colleagues in CMW’s Fellowship Program, to continually grow their approach to music-making in our community.

“The always-evolving organism of CMW is innovative, curious, engaged, compassionate, empathetic, generous and far-reaching. I learned more than I imagined I would in the most supportive and nurturing environment. I can’t think of a better place to incubate and grow ideas and deepen my own experience and confidence. Getting to know, teach, and learn from the most wonderful studio of students, along with performing with an exceptional ensemble of colleagues has been incredibly motivating and continues to inform my work.”
– Josie Davis, violinist, CMW Fellow 2015-17

Using our 20th season as both inspiration and motivation – and recognizing all there is still to work on in our community and world – we are beginning our third decade looking even more deeply at our mission and how we put it into practice. Consistent with our Strategic Plan, we have mapped out several significant enhancements to our programs, included below.

These new initiatives range from further developing our music education practices with young people, to deepening the experiences of our concert audiences, to developing the MusicWorks Network, a new consortium of programs around the country that were founded on CMW’s model. I am pleased to share highlights of these new program elements, which of course will be in addition to our daily work with our 160 students and our over 30 free performances in our communities.

What we know has been a key to our growth and success – our ability to create new opportunities – has been the partnerships with supporters like you who share our belief that music can be a transformative experience for our communities.

As we launch into our third decade, your donation towards our ambitious 21st season will enable us to further develop, strengthen, and deepen our work.

As you know, Community MusicWorks is committed to offering our youth programs and performances free of charge – which means we must raise our full budget each year. Your generous gift will ensure that we can maintain our commitments to students, musicians, and audiences. Your partnership will allow us to work with young people and artists in a way that has a real impact on building positive goals and futures.

I appreciate your considering a generous gift this fall to make transformational experiences possible for young people and our communities.

Sincerely,
Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director
Community MusicWorks 

Community MusicWorks
21st Season Special Programs and Projects

Phase II for All and Joy in Practice

This year, during the first semester of All Play Day – a weekly two-hour session where CMW Phase I, II and III students gather for intense lessons and rehearsals – students will be invited to select classes based on their playing ability and interest. Classes will focus on improvisation and composition, theory and sight-reading, jazz, performance anxiety and mindfulness, learning how to practice, and experimental music. This enhanced offering provides our students with many access points into the study of music, and encourages them to explore their own interests and skills as musicians.

The second half of the year will be focused on ensembles, including all students exploring a piece in depth, building on the We Shall Overcome Project. In the We Shall Overcome Project, all of our students will learn an arrangement of a historically significant song as well as learning about its origins, later uses, and meaning. Starting in January, students will take part in weekly activities that explore the text, history, and power of this song, and will write their own verses based on their personal and musical experiences in their community or in the world at large.

Music Transforms

As part of our mission to explore, hear, and perform a broad range of voices through our concerts, our programming this year has been expanded to include a theme of presenting under-represented communities. Throughout the season, we will explore the works by female composers in a broad range of genres and instrumentation.

In addition to our MusicWorks Collective concerts, CMW’s mission to present visionary artists, such as Jonathan Biss, Emanuel Ax, and this season, world-renowned violinist Johnny Gandelsman, in performances and collaborations, offers two important opportunities for CMW. First, it allows CMW to share its mission and programs with a broader base of music aficionados. Second, it offers our students an opportunity to be inspired to strive for their musical and personal goals and to find their voice as unique citizens in our world.

Leading the Conversation

In August, CMW launched MusicWorks Network, the first of three annual institutes funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Network brings together representatives from nine organizations, staffed or led by former CMW Fellows and participants in our Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service. The overarching goals for the Network include: sharing social justice programming, goals, and methodology; incorporating college-going skills development among students across the network; and building connectivity between the sites to facilitate shared learning and creating pathways for CMW students and Fellowship Program graduates to contribute and gain employment in other sites.

Several important themes emerged at the institute that challenged CMW to grow our practice. Primary among them is that CMW has an opportunity to dig deeper into the questions of organizational practice as they relate to social justice broadly, and racial justice in particular. We are energized to define more clearly how all of CMW’s practices can reflect our social justice commitment and curriculum.

Is This the One About the Pilot? Working Toward Copland’s Violin Sonata

Join us Thursday, November 16 at 7pm for our popular Sonata Series in the beautifully appointed Grand Gallery at RISD Museum. This concert features violinists Sebastian Ruth and David Rubin with guest pianist Eliko Akahori. Here, violinist David Rubin shares his notes on the piece he’ll perform at the event and his own process of discovery on the meaning and origin of Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano.

I heard about Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano years before I actually heard Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. The initial encounter looms large in my memory and — come to think of it — stands in opposition to my current experience of the piece. Tension can often be generative, as we say at CMW, so perhaps this story will be of some interest for those folks planning to attend our Sonata Series performance at the RISD Museum (Thursday, November 16 at 7pm in the Grand Gallery).

***
In 2004, pianist Karl Paulnack gave a welcome address to the parents of incoming students at Boston Conservatory. Seeking to reassure a presumably anxious crowd about the viability of their children’s chosen career path (read: financial ruin?), Paulnack shared stories about music’s healing powers, its necessity in our society, and the potential nobility of a life spent in its service. One of those anecdotes centered around Paulnack’s own performance of – you guessed it – the Copland violin sonata. This story is better in Paulnack’s telling, but I’ll briefly summarize it here.

During this performance of the Copland (let’s set the stage, actually: during the elegiac slow movement, at a small-town nursing home) a World War II veteran in the audience was clearly overcome with emotion. Later in the concert, Paulnack shared more details about the piece, including the story of its dedication to Harry Dunham, a pilot killed in battle during World War II and a close friend of Copland’s. At this point, the veteran in the audience stood up and left. He later told Paulnack that he was in shock – Copland’s music had triggered a vivid remembrance of a near-identical experience from his own wartime service, a particular trauma he hadn’t thought of in years. The veteran wanted to know how this was possible. How could Copland’s music make him remember so vividly, even though he hadn’t known about that particular connection when he first listened to the piece?

Paulnack’s story is a beautiful testament to music’s communicative powers. It’s also some heavy interpretative baggage for a performer to assimilate. From then on, I remembered the Copland sonata as the World War II piece that, by virtue of its somber American-ness, went straight to the heart.

And I’m not alone. To quote a random YouTube commenter:

“Is this the one about the pilot shot down in WWII?”

***
Now, when I play this piece, I have more information to draw on, and it makes things more complicated for me as a performer. New perspectives nudge that simple origin story out of my head, or at least force it to share space. Here’s a taste of that stew.

The ink was dry – the piece was finished – when Copland learned of Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham’s death, at which point he added the dedication. We have no way of knowing what he was thinking about while he was writing the violin sonata. It is a wartime piece because it was written during the war, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that this is a piece about war, or a piece about Dunham. It’s entirely possible that Copland didn’t think about the war – or his friend – at all while he was committing these notes to paper.

We know only what (little) Copland chose to share about it, namely: “I had little desire to compose a dissonant or virtuosic work, or one that incorporated folk materials. Nevertheless, certain qualities of the American folk tune had become part of my natural style of composing, and they are echoed in the Sonata.” Nicely put, Aaron.

We also know that the premiere drew polarized responses from critics. One damned its “rearward vision” (ouch!), while another (Copland’s friend Virgil Thomson) praised its “calm elevation… irresistibly touching.” That’s more like it. Wouldn’t we all like to be praised for our “calm elevation?”

I also know what my teachers have shared about their experience with this piece, and what various smart people have written. My mentor in graduate school was fascinated by Copland’s habit of spreading common, everyday chords across wide spans on an instrument’s range (think of a pianist playing high and low notes at the same time) – the harmony might be utterly familiar, but its presentation is unearthly. It creates the illusion of space, of solitude… of frontiers. Stan Kleppinger, in the journal of the Society for Music Theory, suggests that this piece’s special sonorities can be explained as dualities, moments when two key areas exist simultaneously – the magic lies in the ambiguity. Other scholars hear past the melodic inflections in Copland’s writing (and the related, pesky question of American-ness, which seems to dominate all conversations of this composer’s music) toward a neoclassical reading, in which canons and miniature fugues dance in 20th-century dress. Bach in Hollywood in 1943.

***
And even though the dedication was added after the piece’s completion, I can’t help but also wonder about this man, this Harry Dunham. It turns out that we know a bit about him, too, largely thanks to the work of Copland-scholar Howard Pollack.

We know that Dunham was incredibly handsome (in composer David Diamond’s words: “the most adorable, good-looking boy”), the darling of a New York arts community that starred Copland, Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles, John Latouche, and other familiar figures. We know that he came from money, that he graduated from Princeton, that he made films. We know he was, to some degree, a leftist. We know that he married a woman, Marian Chase, but we also know that he was romantically involved with several men in the artistic circles he moved in. We know that Dunham, Bowles, and Copland traveled together in Morocco. We know that he died in battle in 1943, and that Aaron Copland dedicated this stunning piece of music to his memory.

I wasn’t expecting Dunham’s story to be so rich. The anonymous “pilot” from my initial encounter with the Copland violin sonata has a lot in common with me, and with people I’ve known. His sexuality, his artistic and political leanings, his social circles – they all run contrary to the military stereotype that I conjured up upon first hearing. This speaks to my prejudices, but it also speaks to the simple fact that people are complicated. In fact, Dunham’s surprises form a nice parallel with the rich ironies of Copland’s own story. Copland, the man whose music was appropriated for “Beef! It’s What’s for Dinner!” or Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America!” was, in Alex Ross’ words, “a gay leftist of Russian-Jewish extraction.” The man who created an American identity in concert music wasn’t always particularly welcome in his own country. Chew on that for a moment. These are not new ironies, but they never cease to amaze.

***

So, in the end, what should a performer make of these accumulated, sometimes contradictory meanings and associations? Perhaps it’s a cop-out, but here’s an attempt. I’m not a historian and I’m not a theorist and I’m not a veteran, but I do know what this piece makes me feel. Now, as I type this, I think of the piece’s opening, and its particular magic: a series of plain-spoken piano chords; hanging in the air, unresolved, still. Just the thought of those chords makes me verklempt. They’re 100% Copland, and they just break your heart.

I imagine Copland’s dedication to Dunham as a monument to an individual life, yes, but also a way of life: a group of friends, and a particular moment in time and space. In the composer’s words:

“By reflecting the time in which one lives, the creative artist gives substance and meaning to life as we live it. Life seems so transitory! It is very attractive to set down some sort of permanent statement about the way we feel, so that when it’s all gone, people will be able to go to our art works to see what it was like to be alive in our time and place — twentieth-century America.”

I love that little word: our. You get the sense that Copland’s our was broad as can be. “Our” twentieth-century America was gay and Jewish and left, just as much as it was the opposite of those things.

***

For me, this is the fun of performing. You live inside of a piece, soak up its contradictions and cliches, and try to make sense of it – both the thing itself (whatever that means, God help us) – and your relationship to it. Each realization of a piece, each usage in a different context, is a fleeting act – but over time it forms a discourse, a discussion across decades. It’s a beautiful mess, but that’s where the meaning is. A generative tension.

In any case. I hope you’ll join Eliko, Sebastian and I for Thursday’s program at the RISD Museum. It’ll be a pleasure to explore this piece, in all of its contradictions. In so doing, I hope we’ll celebrate Aaron Copland’s life — Harry Dunham’s, too.

-David Rubin, Violin Fellow


Further reading & works quoted above

Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. Henry Holt, 1999.
Karl Paulnack, welcome address at The Boston Conservatory, 2004. Accessible here.
Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland Since 1943. St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Gail Levin and Judith Tick, Aaron Copland’s America. Watson-Guptill Publications, 2000.

 

MusicWorks Network: A New Initiative

Within the past twenty-one years, CMW has offered professional musicians opportunities to re-imagine the very foundations of a classical music career, and to think more broadly about music as a way of engaging in and with communities.

This year, CMW has the opportunity to deepen that work with the support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a new initiative, Citizens of the World: Forging Pathways to College and Beyond. This strategic initiative is designed to substantially increase the number of racially diverse, low-income young people who gain access to critical skills that promote success. This work builds on CMW’s 20-year history of developing music-based education programs designed to open new worlds of opportunity to low-income African-American and Latino youth. Out of this work has come Phase II, an approach to developing fundamental skills and supports that promote college-going, that has led 95% of CMW graduates to continue to college.

CMW will share CMW’s successful college-going model across a network of community-based music education sites. Called the MusicWorks Network, this project will link 10-15 community-based music sites serving over 650 young people and convene them in an annual Summer Institute for training, resource-sharing, and collaborative evaluation.

The first Summer Institute took place this past August 22-30 as educators and staff from ten different organizations gathered at the beautiful Rolling Ridge Conference Center in North Andover, MA. Connecting around the ways that social justice practices and technical and artistic work on string instruments can support one another, teachers and staff came from Community MusicWorks, MusiConnects (Boston, MA), MyCincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), Musica Franklin (Franklin, MA), Orchestra of St. Luke’s (New York, New York), MusicHaven (New Haven, CT), Newport Strings (Newport, RI), Sistema New Brunswick (New Brunswick, St. John, Canada), Strong Harbor Strings (St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada), and Neighborhood Strings (Worcester, MA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participants convened for a range of workshops and trainings, including a 2-day string pedagogy workshop with renowned violinist and teacher Mimi Zweig, a poetry and social justice workshop with poet Jonathan Mendoza, a workshop on anti-racist organizational frameworks with trainer and activist Adeola Oredola, and discussions and reflection around the creative synergy between string pedagogy and social justice teachings.

The Institute was designed and facilitated by Sebastian Ruth and Chloe Kline with the new MusicWorks Network staff: MusicWorks Network Director Jori Ketten and MusicWorks Network Fellow Andrew Oung. Part of the initiative, the MusicWorks Network Fellowship is a one-year position for alumni of CMW’s youth program or graduates of CMW’s two-year Fellowship Program to contribute to the MusicWorks Network. Andrew is our first alumni hire at CMW.

 

Archives

Thursday, February 15 : Music in the Grand Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sonata Series Event

The Sonata Series features MusicWorks Collective musicians with guest pianists presenting works from the duo sonata repertoire. Together, musicians explore pieces from the 17th and 18th century masterworks to contemporary works.

This event features pianist Jeff Louie, performing Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, No. 3 with violinist Luke Fatora and Amy Beach’s Violin Sonata, Op. 34 with Jesse Holstein.

Thursday, February 15 at 7pm
Grand Gallery, RISD Museum
20 N. Main Street, Providence
Admission to the museum and concert is free
No reservations are necessary

CMW Celebrates 20 with Twenty Years, Twenty Stories

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This year Community MusicWorks turns 20! To mark the milestone, we are gathering the stories of 20 members of our community–musicians, students, parents, graduates and supporters. Look for new stories throughout the season.

Interviews were recorded, transcribed and edited to create personal narratives in each subject’s distinctive voice. We hope 20 Years, 20 Stories captures the many flavors and varieties of CMW experience. Join us at a concert anytime to start creating your own CMW story.

Read the interviews here.

 

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Who’s the Guy with the Curly Hair?

 

“The Last Supper” painting by Jessica Van Daam, on loan to the Trinity Brewhouse.

CMW Fellow and violinist Luke Fatora muses upon Beethoven as a pop culture icon.

Earlier this year, an unexpected downpour of cold rain unleashed itself as I was out for a walk. Passing by the Trinity Brewhouse on Fountain Street, I took refuge inside and found myself seated near a musician-themed mural riffing on The Last Supper. I was enjoying a nearby table’s particularly slurred conversation – its contents better left unexplored here – when it took a hard turn. One of the speakers interrupted a waitress, gesturing towards the mural hanging on the wall where Ludwig van Beethoven (not to confused with Beethoven the dog but more on that later) was stoically seated next to Billie Holiday in the company of other musicians like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. He asked “Who’s the guy with the curly hair??”

I found myself thinking back to this experience recently at CMW’s Phase II students’ weekly dinner and discussion. The students were exploring the interdependent relationship between a piece of art and the settings that a culture places it in. Later that night I grappled with unanswerable questions as I tossed and turned. How would Beethoven have responded to someone telling him that two centuries into the future, Americans would scarf down nachos and beer under his quasi-religious image in a brewpub in Providence, RI? How about being told that Andy Warhol, an iconic 20th century American artist, would designate Beethoven as the figure from western classical music to join the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Chairman Mao, as portrait subjects? Finally, what would he have had to say about the movie Beethoven released in the 1990’s?? My guess is as good as anyone’s as to how Beethoven would have reacted to being told that his name would become synonymous with a Hollywood movie about the adventures of a goofy, slobbering, St. Bernard.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The composer’s canine namesake.

After entertaining these hypothetical reactions, we’re left with some serious questions. Why did Andy Warhol choose Beethoven over someone like Schubert or Tchaikovsky as an iconic portrait subject? Why is the comedic reboot of Lassie centered around a St. Bernard named Beethoven (the surface explanation is here) and not Schoenberg or Bach?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Warhol’s Beethoven

Beethoven was an incredibly forward thinking composer – so much so that nearly a century after he wrote his wild Grosse Fugue, composers such as Arnold Schoenberg would look back to it as a premonition of their own radical breaks with tradition. Are we to believe that Beethoven’s seat at the table of musical disciples in the Trinity Brewhouse is a result of his technical wizardry as a composer?

Another explanation lies in his easily accessible humanity. As many people know, Beethoven lost his hearing over the course of time and had a generally tough life. His struggles led him to rail against fate in his Fifth Symphony. There is hardly a more universal human experience than struggling with circumstances that are beyond our control. Beethoven’s loss of hearing is tragic and his response to continue living for the sake of creating art is certainly heroic (you can read about it in his own words in his famed Heiligenstadt Testament). This said, other composers, being human (for now…), have certainly also struggled with circumstances beyond their control.

Popular culture’s obsession with Beethoven (the composer) risks encapsulating his image in the opening bars of his 5th Symphony and “that epic part of the 9th symphony where people are singing about something in German.” Only a sliver of Beethoven’s humanity is seen when it is through this lens. Recently, I have been working through his Third op. 12 Piano and Violin sonata and have been enjoying how starkly it contrasts popular notions of what Beethoven should sound like (“bark bark bark baaaark!”). Beethoven began working on his op. 12 Piano and Violin sonatas in 1797; he was 27 years old and had been living in Vienna for 5 years. At that point, he was 5 years away from writing the Heiligenstadt Testament and presumably contemplating suicide in the face of his worsening deafness. The Heiligenstadt Testament details the agony of Beethoven’s depression but it also mentions his lifelong heightened sensitivity to “tender feelings of affection” and his general “love for man and feelings of benevolence.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ludwig Van Beethoven, composer and guy with the curly hair.

Beethoven’s Third Piano and Violin Sonata can be seen as stemming from these general underlying dispositions; it is brimming with a particularly sparkling and playful energy, never taking itself too seriously. The beginning and ending movements are strikingly joyful romps through E flat major. The second movement is an Adagio in C major that begins with a simple melody containing an emotional pureness that becomes transformed throughout the movement. The theme passes briefly through distant and more complicated emotional landscapes, emerging to playfully evade a committed return to its original character – one gets the sense that Beethoven is exploring what it feels like to make peace with an unattainable ideal’s imaginary nature. This is the side of Beethoven that, two centuries later, keeps me warm on a slushy February day. Beethoven’s ability to probe such an extreme range of emotion leaves me in awe of his (very human) ability to reach across time and space to connect with us and – most importantly – inspires me to stop reaching for my phone to check the latest news and reach for my violin instead.

–Luke Fatora

Please join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for the Sonata Series Event at RISD Museum’s Grand Gallery as Luke Fatora performs Beethoven (the composer) along with pianist Jeff Louie. The event also features violinist Jesse Holstein performing a composition by Amy Beach.

 

A Day at the Beach

Join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for our Sonata Series Event featuring Jesse Holstein and Luke Fatora with guest pianist Jeff Louie. The evening’s program features a composition by Amy Beach. Here, Jesse talks about the composer and the piece he’ll perform at RISD Museum Grand Gallery.
 
A piece that has recently come into my orbit is the Sonata for Violin and Piano by Amy Beach. It was completely unknown to me before I performed it at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music last August. In the process of learning it, I became quite taken with the piece and subsequently asked my friend Jeff Louie to play it with me for the CMW Sonata Series Concert this February 15 at the RISD Museum at 7pm. If I may be permitted, perhaps a little background about Ms. Beach and the sonata.
 

Tucked between the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers in south-eastern New England lies the little town of Henniker, New Hampshire. Aside from being the birthplace of Red Sox legend Ted Williams, Henniker also lays claim as the birthplace of one of the most important figures in American classical music, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach.

Composer Amy Beach

Born September 5, 1867, Amy Cheney exhibited prodigious musical talent on the piano and in composition from a very young age. She advanced far beyond what teaching was available in Henniker by age seven and in order to support Amy’s talent, the family moved to the Boston suburb of Chelsea in 1875. There, she studied piano with Carl Baermann, who was himself a piano student of Franz Liszt. While Amy did receive some composition and counterpoint coaching as a young teen, she was essentially an autodidact in composition her whole life. Impressively, her “Gaelic Symphony” of 1896 received its world-premier by the Boston Symphony and was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. This is a testament to her incredible gift of melody and intuitive ability as a composer.
 
When Amy was on the verge of international stardom as a pianist and composer, she got married at age eighteen to a prominent Boston surgeon, Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, twenty-four years her senior. As was the custom of the times, he limited her performing life to just a few recitals a year and Amy received no mentoring or tutoring as a composer. When Dr. Beach died in 1910, Amy began touring as a pianist and composer in Europe and was a tremendous success. She would return to America in 1914 and was a major figure in American Classical music until her death in 1944.
 
With Amy’s piano concerto appearances with the Boston Symphony as a teenager, she gained the attention of the BSO Concertmaster, Franz Kneisel.  He invited her to perform the Schumann piano quintet with his string quartet in 1894 and he premiered her violin sonata in 1897 with Ms. Beach at the piano. Arguably the greatest Romantic Period American violin sonata, Beach’s piece is a dramatic big-boned sonata with a tremendous scope of expression and color. Cast in four movements, the first movement is a serious and dramatic voyage within the traditional sonata-form structure. In relief to the density of the first movement, the second movement is a much lighter scherzo akin to some of Mendelssohn’s “fairy music” movements. The third movement is the longest of the four chapters. Highly lyrical and emotional, it begins with an extended passage for solo piano. Several musicologists have remarked on the similarity of the melody of Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me” to the main theme of this movement. (This statement may or may not be true.) The finale has the tremendous forward drive and drama that one might expect in the concluding chapter of such a impassioned work. At the midpoint, a Bach-like fugue appears with wonderful counterpoint and dialogue between the voices before a return to the Romantic thrust to the conclusion.
 
I hope you are able to join us and hear the sonata for yourself on Thursday, February 15 at 7pm at the RISD Museum Grand Gallery. Also on the program will be Beethoven’s charming sonata in E-flat, op. 12 no. 3 with Luke Fatora, violin and Jeff Louie, piano.
 
–Jesse Holstein
Associate Director / Senior Resident Musician

Who Let the Frogs Out? A Postcard from the Newport String Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently discovered that the beloved game of skipping stones across water has a variety of other names in other countries – ducks and drakes (UK), dragonflies (Czech), throwing a sandwich (Finnish) and the Ukrainian name is zapuskaty zhabky which translates to “letting the frogs out”.

What has me thinking about skipping stones, you ask?

As musicians engaged in community residencies, we are constantly experimenting – tweaking traditional concert formats to engage new people, bringing a new game to a classroom of violin students – to build meaningful connections between people. And, that moment of trying something new in pursuit of connection, is a lot like the moment when you let go of the pebble to see how far it will bounce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



As anyone with stone-skipping prowess will tell you, much depends on finding the right pebbles. And we have been incredibly lucky with our plentiful supply! The Newport String Project is now in its fifth season – thanks to incredible community support, this year, myself and Emmy have been joined by violist Ashley Frith and cellist Jaime Feldman. Together we perform as the Newport String Quartet and curate educational programming that provides free violin, viola and cello lessons to almost forty students aging from Pre-K to fifth graders. There have been many, many “pebbles” along the way. And there have definitely been some “clunkers”– unruly frogs, you might say – but some of the more successful “pebbles” have led to signature events like the Paper Orchestra concerts (see highlights from our most recent one here) and the community barn dance series and many rich collaborations with local organizations.

Every so often, there’s the magical combination of pebble, technique and environmental conditions – and you realize that the pebbles are bouncing a lot further than you imagined, maybe in ways you hadn’t even noticed or realized. Like when our oldest students are recruiting their friends to come join the Newport String Project. Like when a younger sibling already knows a song because they’ve learnt it from an older brother or sister. Like when you notice a parent absorbed in watching their child’s lesson and marveling at the complexity of skills they’re learning. Like when an audience member finds you after a concert to ask what works by that composer they should listen to next. These moments are energizing, humbling and bring much needed detail to the sweeping Big Picture flow of this work.

-Ealain McMullin, Newport String Project Co-Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about Newport String Project here!

Hello from Newfoundland!


Our good friend from the North, Carole Bestvater (CMW Violin Fellow 2009-2011), shares the latest news from Strong Harbour Strings along with an update on a visit from our own MusicWorks Network Fellow and CMW student alum, Andrew Oung. Carole is the Director & Founder of the program, located in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
 
Wow, it’s hard to imagine that five years have passed since this program started!  Here we are, in Strong Harbour Strings’ fifth season, with so much to celebrate. This year, there are 24 students in our main centre, all coming two times a week for group and individual lessons.  We also started a satellite centre in a nearby neighbourhood across the harbour. There are 16 students who come twice a week during their lunch hour to learn the violin and viola. There are three new staff members who joined the team this season, so we’re having fun getting to know each other, teaching, and playing music together.
 
We recently played a concert of the Vivaldi Four Seasons in a downtown pub, selling out the place! People loved it! We’re planning on repeating the concert in a workshop for the SHS students, as well as in another family-friendly venue.  It’s been a very exciting time for Strong Harbour Strings.

The most exciting aspect right now is that Andrew Oung, the MusicWorks Network Fellow, is currently in St. John’s for a six week internship.  He’s working with a small group of 7th graders in developing the culture for a group inspired by CMW’s teen group, Phase II.  He’s been leading discussions, prompting conversations, and laying down a foundation for a group like this to continue after his internship here has finished. It has been exciting to see this aspect of Strong Harbour Strings develop, and feels like the missing puzzle piece is finally in place.  Now that we have students who are growing, developing critical thinking, and are completely blissed out that they get to keep on learning music and hanging out with each other, we’re finally ready to develop a Phase II-like program for them.
Sending love and hugs from the North Atlantic,

Carole Bestvater

 

Andrew Oung also sent along an update on his visit:

For the past few weeks I have been working here with Strong Harbour Strings. It has been wonderful getting to know all of the students and staff. I work with them three times a week, each day taking on a different role. I have started a small discussion group with the program’s 7th graders, I teach violin lessons, I support teachers during orchestra time, and I help students learn music theory. Strong Harbour takes place at two locations, one of which is the Cornerstone Ministry Centre. I really love that there is an open space where students and parents gather while they wait for lessons. It provides an opportunity for them to naturally interact with each other, and helps the music theory mentors be visible and accessible.
 
Outside of the educational aspect of the program, I attended a performance by the staff, named the Strong Harbour Strings Collective. They performed Vivaldi’s Four Season at The Black Sheep Pub to a full audience. I loved seeing how much the audience enjoyed the performance and I overheard somebody proudly say, “where else in the world can you hear Vivaldi in a pub”. While I can think of another city very dear to me where that could be true, I still think there is a uniqueness to the music community here. I’ll be in St. John’s for a few more weeks and I look forward to learning more about Strong Harbour Strings and the musical community here.

 

 

 

A Place to Play: Celebrating Music Haven’s New Office

We checked in with former CMW Fellow Annalisa Boerner (Viola Fellow 2012-2014), who has joined the staff of Music Haven in New Haven, CT as a full time Resident Musician and member of the Haven String Quartet. Here, Annalisa shares some news about the program’s new digs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, January 19th, Music Haven celebrated its tenth year of teaching and our move into a beautiful new space with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Our new offices are in a former factory space called Erector Square. Our suite was too small for a school, too big for a yoga studio, and just right for our organization to fit into and grow with.

Music Haven’s new location, where we rehearse, teach, and perform, is helping our program grow in ways big and small. The sense of community is palpable when our eighty students gather for group classes on Fridays, and as they filter in and out throughout the week. We love to see them doing homework and playing Uno in the lounge area as they wait for lessons. On the teaching side, I can keep a shelf of music, a jar of clothespins, and both a violin and a viola close at hand, and my students can have lessons in a calm environment that’s dedicated to music-making. We’ve hosted studio recitals with potlucks in our large performance space, and we look forward to debuting next year’s Chamber Series concerts in this area as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The program for the afternoon of the 19th included words from Mandi Jackson, Executive Director; Yaira Matyakubova, violinist and Senior Resident Musician; and Mayor Toni Harp (!) who cut the ribbon. The Music Lanterns, an ensemble of nine to twelve-year-old students, kicked off the program, and the Harmony In Action chamber orchestra concluded it with a conductorless performance of Lean on Me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is thanks to our many supporters of all varieties that we are able to sustain and grow our program in this way.  Here’s to ten more years at Music Haven!

–Annalisa Boerner

Congratulations to Annalisa and the Music Haven staff and students!

 

Unlocking Meaning: CMW Fellows’ Residency at Butler Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“I find myself saying that it doesn’t matter what the music is, or at least that the content is a trivial concern compared to the importance of making a human connection between performer and listener.”

Heath Marlow, former CMW staffer and current faculty/staff at New England Conservatory, reflects on his work with CMW Fellows in creating and implementing a performance residency at Butler Hospital, a psychiatric facility on Providence’s East Side,  in 2017:

At our first session together in Fall 2016, I asked the Fellows to come up with a new community (not the communities already served by Community MusicWorks) that could potentially benefit from interacting with a string quartet.

The group’s research led to the conclusion that it would be important to try out their ideas in an environment that had the capacity to support the quartet’s experimental activities. Butler Hospital’s Healing Arts Program was immediately receptive to hosting the quartet, and a series of three activities for distinct patient populations (adolescent, adult, geriatric) was soon decided upon.

 

​”It was personally humbling to participate in the workshops. The response in each unit was so different – but equally powerful. It felt challenging to insert ourselves into such an intense environment – having no idea where each person was on their healing path.”

Read Heath’s full account and reflection in his blog piece, here.

This year, Heath meets regularly with the current quartet of Fellows (and other interested musician colleagues) to discuss aspects of building a career as a musician at the intersection of artistry and community using the best practices associated with growing a community-based organization.

 

Investing in People and Place

For the past 20 years, Community MusicWorks has been invested in both people and place – our students, families, and professional musicians, and the community of Providence.

Last year was truly a celebratory season. Throughout our programs, we reflected on our growth and impact, and we took on important new initiatives. Some of last year’s most significant moments included the expansion of our Daily Orchestra Program to include a new daily ensemble for six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds; the We Shall Overcome Project; the graduation of our largest class of Phase II students and our tenth class of Fellows; the residency of world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax; and over 30 inspiring free performances.

Beyond the specifics, we celebrated the culture of Community MusicWorks, which supports young people, professional musicians, guest artists, and our colleagues in CMW’s Fellowship Program, to continually grow their approach to music-making in our community.

“The always-evolving organism of CMW is innovative, curious, engaged, compassionate, empathetic, generous and far-reaching. I learned more than I imagined I would in the most supportive and nurturing environment. I can’t think of a better place to incubate and grow ideas and deepen my own experience and confidence. Getting to know, teach, and learn from the most wonderful studio of students, along with performing with an exceptional ensemble of colleagues has been incredibly motivating and continues to inform my work.”
– Josie Davis, violinist, CMW Fellow 2015-17

Using our 20th season as both inspiration and motivation – and recognizing all there is still to work on in our community and world – we are beginning our third decade looking even more deeply at our mission and how we put it into practice. Consistent with our Strategic Plan, we have mapped out several significant enhancements to our programs, included below.

These new initiatives range from further developing our music education practices with young people, to deepening the experiences of our concert audiences, to developing the MusicWorks Network, a new consortium of programs around the country that were founded on CMW’s model. I am pleased to share highlights of these new program elements, which of course will be in addition to our daily work with our 160 students and our over 30 free performances in our communities.

What we know has been a key to our growth and success – our ability to create new opportunities – has been the partnerships with supporters like you who share our belief that music can be a transformative experience for our communities.

As we launch into our third decade, your donation towards our ambitious 21st season will enable us to further develop, strengthen, and deepen our work.

As you know, Community MusicWorks is committed to offering our youth programs and performances free of charge – which means we must raise our full budget each year. Your generous gift will ensure that we can maintain our commitments to students, musicians, and audiences. Your partnership will allow us to work with young people and artists in a way that has a real impact on building positive goals and futures.

I appreciate your considering a generous gift this fall to make transformational experiences possible for young people and our communities.

Sincerely,
Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director
Community MusicWorks 

Community MusicWorks
21st Season Special Programs and Projects

Phase II for All and Joy in Practice

This year, during the first semester of All Play Day – a weekly two-hour session where CMW Phase I, II and III students gather for intense lessons and rehearsals – students will be invited to select classes based on their playing ability and interest. Classes will focus on improvisation and composition, theory and sight-reading, jazz, performance anxiety and mindfulness, learning how to practice, and experimental music. This enhanced offering provides our students with many access points into the study of music, and encourages them to explore their own interests and skills as musicians.

The second half of the year will be focused on ensembles, including all students exploring a piece in depth, building on the We Shall Overcome Project. In the We Shall Overcome Project, all of our students will learn an arrangement of a historically significant song as well as learning about its origins, later uses, and meaning. Starting in January, students will take part in weekly activities that explore the text, history, and power of this song, and will write their own verses based on their personal and musical experiences in their community or in the world at large.

Music Transforms

As part of our mission to explore, hear, and perform a broad range of voices through our concerts, our programming this year has been expanded to include a theme of presenting under-represented communities. Throughout the season, we will explore the works by female composers in a broad range of genres and instrumentation.

In addition to our MusicWorks Collective concerts, CMW’s mission to present visionary artists, such as Jonathan Biss, Emanuel Ax, and this season, world-renowned violinist Johnny Gandelsman, in performances and collaborations, offers two important opportunities for CMW. First, it allows CMW to share its mission and programs with a broader base of music aficionados. Second, it offers our students an opportunity to be inspired to strive for their musical and personal goals and to find their voice as unique citizens in our world.

Leading the Conversation

In August, CMW launched MusicWorks Network, the first of three annual institutes funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Network brings together representatives from nine organizations, staffed or led by former CMW Fellows and participants in our Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service. The overarching goals for the Network include: sharing social justice programming, goals, and methodology; incorporating college-going skills development among students across the network; and building connectivity between the sites to facilitate shared learning and creating pathways for CMW students and Fellowship Program graduates to contribute and gain employment in other sites.

Several important themes emerged at the institute that challenged CMW to grow our practice. Primary among them is that CMW has an opportunity to dig deeper into the questions of organizational practice as they relate to social justice broadly, and racial justice in particular. We are energized to define more clearly how all of CMW’s practices can reflect our social justice commitment and curriculum.

Is This the One About the Pilot? Working Toward Copland’s Violin Sonata

Join us Thursday, November 16 at 7pm for our popular Sonata Series in the beautifully appointed Grand Gallery at RISD Museum. This concert features violinists Sebastian Ruth and David Rubin with guest pianist Eliko Akahori. Here, violinist David Rubin shares his notes on the piece he’ll perform at the event and his own process of discovery on the meaning and origin of Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano.

I heard about Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano years before I actually heard Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. The initial encounter looms large in my memory and — come to think of it — stands in opposition to my current experience of the piece. Tension can often be generative, as we say at CMW, so perhaps this story will be of some interest for those folks planning to attend our Sonata Series performance at the RISD Museum (Thursday, November 16 at 7pm in the Grand Gallery).

***
In 2004, pianist Karl Paulnack gave a welcome address to the parents of incoming students at Boston Conservatory. Seeking to reassure a presumably anxious crowd about the viability of their children’s chosen career path (read: financial ruin?), Paulnack shared stories about music’s healing powers, its necessity in our society, and the potential nobility of a life spent in its service. One of those anecdotes centered around Paulnack’s own performance of – you guessed it – the Copland violin sonata. This story is better in Paulnack’s telling, but I’ll briefly summarize it here.

During this performance of the Copland (let’s set the stage, actually: during the elegiac slow movement, at a small-town nursing home) a World War II veteran in the audience was clearly overcome with emotion. Later in the concert, Paulnack shared more details about the piece, including the story of its dedication to Harry Dunham, a pilot killed in battle during World War II and a close friend of Copland’s. At this point, the veteran in the audience stood up and left. He later told Paulnack that he was in shock – Copland’s music had triggered a vivid remembrance of a near-identical experience from his own wartime service, a particular trauma he hadn’t thought of in years. The veteran wanted to know how this was possible. How could Copland’s music make him remember so vividly, even though he hadn’t known about that particular connection when he first listened to the piece?

Paulnack’s story is a beautiful testament to music’s communicative powers. It’s also some heavy interpretative baggage for a performer to assimilate. From then on, I remembered the Copland sonata as the World War II piece that, by virtue of its somber American-ness, went straight to the heart.

And I’m not alone. To quote a random YouTube commenter:

“Is this the one about the pilot shot down in WWII?”

***
Now, when I play this piece, I have more information to draw on, and it makes things more complicated for me as a performer. New perspectives nudge that simple origin story out of my head, or at least force it to share space. Here’s a taste of that stew.

The ink was dry – the piece was finished – when Copland learned of Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham’s death, at which point he added the dedication. We have no way of knowing what he was thinking about while he was writing the violin sonata. It is a wartime piece because it was written during the war, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that this is a piece about war, or a piece about Dunham. It’s entirely possible that Copland didn’t think about the war – or his friend – at all while he was committing these notes to paper.

We know only what (little) Copland chose to share about it, namely: “I had little desire to compose a dissonant or virtuosic work, or one that incorporated folk materials. Nevertheless, certain qualities of the American folk tune had become part of my natural style of composing, and they are echoed in the Sonata.” Nicely put, Aaron.

We also know that the premiere drew polarized responses from critics. One damned its “rearward vision” (ouch!), while another (Copland’s friend Virgil Thomson) praised its “calm elevation… irresistibly touching.” That’s more like it. Wouldn’t we all like to be praised for our “calm elevation?”

I also know what my teachers have shared about their experience with this piece, and what various smart people have written. My mentor in graduate school was fascinated by Copland’s habit of spreading common, everyday chords across wide spans on an instrument’s range (think of a pianist playing high and low notes at the same time) – the harmony might be utterly familiar, but its presentation is unearthly. It creates the illusion of space, of solitude… of frontiers. Stan Kleppinger, in the journal of the Society for Music Theory, suggests that this piece’s special sonorities can be explained as dualities, moments when two key areas exist simultaneously – the magic lies in the ambiguity. Other scholars hear past the melodic inflections in Copland’s writing (and the related, pesky question of American-ness, which seems to dominate all conversations of this composer’s music) toward a neoclassical reading, in which canons and miniature fugues dance in 20th-century dress. Bach in Hollywood in 1943.

***
And even though the dedication was added after the piece’s completion, I can’t help but also wonder about this man, this Harry Dunham. It turns out that we know a bit about him, too, largely thanks to the work of Copland-scholar Howard Pollack.

We know that Dunham was incredibly handsome (in composer David Diamond’s words: “the most adorable, good-looking boy”), the darling of a New York arts community that starred Copland, Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles, John Latouche, and other familiar figures. We know that he came from money, that he graduated from Princeton, that he made films. We know he was, to some degree, a leftist. We know that he married a woman, Marian Chase, but we also know that he was romantically involved with several men in the artistic circles he moved in. We know that Dunham, Bowles, and Copland traveled together in Morocco. We know that he died in battle in 1943, and that Aaron Copland dedicated this stunning piece of music to his memory.

I wasn’t expecting Dunham’s story to be so rich. The anonymous “pilot” from my initial encounter with the Copland violin sonata has a lot in common with me, and with people I’ve known. His sexuality, his artistic and political leanings, his social circles – they all run contrary to the military stereotype that I conjured up upon first hearing. This speaks to my prejudices, but it also speaks to the simple fact that people are complicated. In fact, Dunham’s surprises form a nice parallel with the rich ironies of Copland’s own story. Copland, the man whose music was appropriated for “Beef! It’s What’s for Dinner!” or Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America!” was, in Alex Ross’ words, “a gay leftist of Russian-Jewish extraction.” The man who created an American identity in concert music wasn’t always particularly welcome in his own country. Chew on that for a moment. These are not new ironies, but they never cease to amaze.

***

So, in the end, what should a performer make of these accumulated, sometimes contradictory meanings and associations? Perhaps it’s a cop-out, but here’s an attempt. I’m not a historian and I’m not a theorist and I’m not a veteran, but I do know what this piece makes me feel. Now, as I type this, I think of the piece’s opening, and its particular magic: a series of plain-spoken piano chords; hanging in the air, unresolved, still. Just the thought of those chords makes me verklempt. They’re 100% Copland, and they just break your heart.

I imagine Copland’s dedication to Dunham as a monument to an individual life, yes, but also a way of life: a group of friends, and a particular moment in time and space. In the composer’s words:

“By reflecting the time in which one lives, the creative artist gives substance and meaning to life as we live it. Life seems so transitory! It is very attractive to set down some sort of permanent statement about the way we feel, so that when it’s all gone, people will be able to go to our art works to see what it was like to be alive in our time and place — twentieth-century America.”

I love that little word: our. You get the sense that Copland’s our was broad as can be. “Our” twentieth-century America was gay and Jewish and left, just as much as it was the opposite of those things.

***

For me, this is the fun of performing. You live inside of a piece, soak up its contradictions and cliches, and try to make sense of it – both the thing itself (whatever that means, God help us) – and your relationship to it. Each realization of a piece, each usage in a different context, is a fleeting act – but over time it forms a discourse, a discussion across decades. It’s a beautiful mess, but that’s where the meaning is. A generative tension.

In any case. I hope you’ll join Eliko, Sebastian and I for Thursday’s program at the RISD Museum. It’ll be a pleasure to explore this piece, in all of its contradictions. In so doing, I hope we’ll celebrate Aaron Copland’s life — Harry Dunham’s, too.

-David Rubin, Violin Fellow


Further reading & works quoted above

Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. Henry Holt, 1999.
Karl Paulnack, welcome address at The Boston Conservatory, 2004. Accessible here.
Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland Since 1943. St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Gail Levin and Judith Tick, Aaron Copland’s America. Watson-Guptill Publications, 2000.

 

MusicWorks Network: A New Initiative

Within the past twenty-one years, CMW has offered professional musicians opportunities to re-imagine the very foundations of a classical music career, and to think more broadly about music as a way of engaging in and with communities.

This year, CMW has the opportunity to deepen that work with the support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a new initiative, Citizens of the World: Forging Pathways to College and Beyond. This strategic initiative is designed to substantially increase the number of racially diverse, low-income young people who gain access to critical skills that promote success. This work builds on CMW’s 20-year history of developing music-based education programs designed to open new worlds of opportunity to low-income African-American and Latino youth. Out of this work has come Phase II, an approach to developing fundamental skills and supports that promote college-going, that has led 95% of CMW graduates to continue to college.

CMW will share CMW’s successful college-going model across a network of community-based music education sites. Called the MusicWorks Network, this project will link 10-15 community-based music sites serving over 650 young people and convene them in an annual Summer Institute for training, resource-sharing, and collaborative evaluation.

The first Summer Institute took place this past August 22-30 as educators and staff from ten different organizations gathered at the beautiful Rolling Ridge Conference Center in North Andover, MA. Connecting around the ways that social justice practices and technical and artistic work on string instruments can support one another, teachers and staff came from Community MusicWorks, MusiConnects (Boston, MA), MyCincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), Musica Franklin (Franklin, MA), Orchestra of St. Luke’s (New York, New York), MusicHaven (New Haven, CT), Newport Strings (Newport, RI), Sistema New Brunswick (New Brunswick, St. John, Canada), Strong Harbor Strings (St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada), and Neighborhood Strings (Worcester, MA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participants convened for a range of workshops and trainings, including a 2-day string pedagogy workshop with renowned violinist and teacher Mimi Zweig, a poetry and social justice workshop with poet Jonathan Mendoza, a workshop on anti-racist organizational frameworks with trainer and activist Adeola Oredola, and discussions and reflection around the creative synergy between string pedagogy and social justice teachings.

The Institute was designed and facilitated by Sebastian Ruth and Chloe Kline with the new MusicWorks Network staff: MusicWorks Network Director Jori Ketten and MusicWorks Network Fellow Andrew Oung. Part of the initiative, the MusicWorks Network Fellowship is a one-year position for alumni of CMW’s youth program or graduates of CMW’s two-year Fellowship Program to contribute to the MusicWorks Network. Andrew is our first alumni hire at CMW.

 

Archives

Thursday, February 15 : Music in the Grand Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sonata Series Event

The Sonata Series features MusicWorks Collective musicians with guest pianists presenting works from the duo sonata repertoire. Together, musicians explore pieces from the 17th and 18th century masterworks to contemporary works.

This event features pianist Jeff Louie, performing Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, No. 3 with violinist Luke Fatora and Amy Beach’s Violin Sonata, Op. 34 with Jesse Holstein.

Thursday, February 15 at 7pm
Grand Gallery, RISD Museum
20 N. Main Street, Providence
Admission to the museum and concert is free
No reservations are necessary

CMW Celebrates 20 with Twenty Years, Twenty Stories

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This year Community MusicWorks turns 20! To mark the milestone, we are gathering the stories of 20 members of our community–musicians, students, parents, graduates and supporters. Look for new stories throughout the season.

Interviews were recorded, transcribed and edited to create personal narratives in each subject’s distinctive voice. We hope 20 Years, 20 Stories captures the many flavors and varieties of CMW experience. Join us at a concert anytime to start creating your own CMW story.

Read the interviews here.

 

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Who’s the Guy with the Curly Hair?

 

“The Last Supper” painting by Jessica Van Daam, on loan to the Trinity Brewhouse.

CMW Fellow and violinist Luke Fatora muses upon Beethoven as a pop culture icon.

Earlier this year, an unexpected downpour of cold rain unleashed itself as I was out for a walk. Passing by the Trinity Brewhouse on Fountain Street, I took refuge inside and found myself seated near a musician-themed mural riffing on The Last Supper. I was enjoying a nearby table’s particularly slurred conversation – its contents better left unexplored here – when it took a hard turn. One of the speakers interrupted a waitress, gesturing towards the mural hanging on the wall where Ludwig van Beethoven (not to confused with Beethoven the dog but more on that later) was stoically seated next to Billie Holiday in the company of other musicians like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. He asked “Who’s the guy with the curly hair??”

I found myself thinking back to this experience recently at CMW’s Phase II students’ weekly dinner and discussion. The students were exploring the interdependent relationship between a piece of art and the settings that a culture places it in. Later that night I grappled with unanswerable questions as I tossed and turned. How would Beethoven have responded to someone telling him that two centuries into the future, Americans would scarf down nachos and beer under his quasi-religious image in a brewpub in Providence, RI? How about being told that Andy Warhol, an iconic 20th century American artist, would designate Beethoven as the figure from western classical music to join the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Chairman Mao, as portrait subjects? Finally, what would he have had to say about the movie Beethoven released in the 1990’s?? My guess is as good as anyone’s as to how Beethoven would have reacted to being told that his name would become synonymous with a Hollywood movie about the adventures of a goofy, slobbering, St. Bernard.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The composer’s canine namesake.

After entertaining these hypothetical reactions, we’re left with some serious questions. Why did Andy Warhol choose Beethoven over someone like Schubert or Tchaikovsky as an iconic portrait subject? Why is the comedic reboot of Lassie centered around a St. Bernard named Beethoven (the surface explanation is here) and not Schoenberg or Bach?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Warhol’s Beethoven

Beethoven was an incredibly forward thinking composer – so much so that nearly a century after he wrote his wild Grosse Fugue, composers such as Arnold Schoenberg would look back to it as a premonition of their own radical breaks with tradition. Are we to believe that Beethoven’s seat at the table of musical disciples in the Trinity Brewhouse is a result of his technical wizardry as a composer?

Another explanation lies in his easily accessible humanity. As many people know, Beethoven lost his hearing over the course of time and had a generally tough life. His struggles led him to rail against fate in his Fifth Symphony. There is hardly a more universal human experience than struggling with circumstances that are beyond our control. Beethoven’s loss of hearing is tragic and his response to continue living for the sake of creating art is certainly heroic (you can read about it in his own words in his famed Heiligenstadt Testament). This said, other composers, being human (for now…), have certainly also struggled with circumstances beyond their control.

Popular culture’s obsession with Beethoven (the composer) risks encapsulating his image in the opening bars of his 5th Symphony and “that epic part of the 9th symphony where people are singing about something in German.” Only a sliver of Beethoven’s humanity is seen when it is through this lens. Recently, I have been working through his Third op. 12 Piano and Violin sonata and have been enjoying how starkly it contrasts popular notions of what Beethoven should sound like (“bark bark bark baaaark!”). Beethoven began working on his op. 12 Piano and Violin sonatas in 1797; he was 27 years old and had been living in Vienna for 5 years. At that point, he was 5 years away from writing the Heiligenstadt Testament and presumably contemplating suicide in the face of his worsening deafness. The Heiligenstadt Testament details the agony of Beethoven’s depression but it also mentions his lifelong heightened sensitivity to “tender feelings of affection” and his general “love for man and feelings of benevolence.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ludwig Van Beethoven, composer and guy with the curly hair.

Beethoven’s Third Piano and Violin Sonata can be seen as stemming from these general underlying dispositions; it is brimming with a particularly sparkling and playful energy, never taking itself too seriously. The beginning and ending movements are strikingly joyful romps through E flat major. The second movement is an Adagio in C major that begins with a simple melody containing an emotional pureness that becomes transformed throughout the movement. The theme passes briefly through distant and more complicated emotional landscapes, emerging to playfully evade a committed return to its original character – one gets the sense that Beethoven is exploring what it feels like to make peace with an unattainable ideal’s imaginary nature. This is the side of Beethoven that, two centuries later, keeps me warm on a slushy February day. Beethoven’s ability to probe such an extreme range of emotion leaves me in awe of his (very human) ability to reach across time and space to connect with us and – most importantly – inspires me to stop reaching for my phone to check the latest news and reach for my violin instead.

–Luke Fatora

Please join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for the Sonata Series Event at RISD Museum’s Grand Gallery as Luke Fatora performs Beethoven (the composer) along with pianist Jeff Louie. The event also features violinist Jesse Holstein performing a composition by Amy Beach.

 

A Day at the Beach

Join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for our Sonata Series Event featuring Jesse Holstein and Luke Fatora with guest pianist Jeff Louie. The evening’s program features a composition by Amy Beach. Here, Jesse talks about the composer and the piece he’ll perform at RISD Museum Grand Gallery.
 
A piece that has recently come into my orbit is the Sonata for Violin and Piano by Amy Beach. It was completely unknown to me before I performed it at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music last August. In the process of learning it, I became quite taken with the piece and subsequently asked my friend Jeff Louie to play it with me for the CMW Sonata Series Concert this February 15 at the RISD Museum at 7pm. If I may be permitted, perhaps a little background about Ms. Beach and the sonata.
 

Tucked between the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers in south-eastern New England lies the little town of Henniker, New Hampshire. Aside from being the birthplace of Red Sox legend Ted Williams, Henniker also lays claim as the birthplace of one of the most important figures in American classical music, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach.

Composer Amy Beach

Born September 5, 1867, Amy Cheney exhibited prodigious musical talent on the piano and in composition from a very young age. She advanced far beyond what teaching was available in Henniker by age seven and in order to support Amy’s talent, the family moved to the Boston suburb of Chelsea in 1875. There, she studied piano with Carl Baermann, who was himself a piano student of Franz Liszt. While Amy did receive some composition and counterpoint coaching as a young teen, she was essentially an autodidact in composition her whole life. Impressively, her “Gaelic Symphony” of 1896 received its world-premier by the Boston Symphony and was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. This is a testament to her incredible gift of melody and intuitive ability as a composer.
 
When Amy was on the verge of international stardom as a pianist and composer, she got married at age eighteen to a prominent Boston surgeon, Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, twenty-four years her senior. As was the custom of the times, he limited her performing life to just a few recitals a year and Amy received no mentoring or tutoring as a composer. When Dr. Beach died in 1910, Amy began touring as a pianist and composer in Europe and was a tremendous success. She would return to America in 1914 and was a major figure in American Classical music until her death in 1944.
 
With Amy’s piano concerto appearances with the Boston Symphony as a teenager, she gained the attention of the BSO Concertmaster, Franz Kneisel.  He invited her to perform the Schumann piano quintet with his string quartet in 1894 and he premiered her violin sonata in 1897 with Ms. Beach at the piano. Arguably the greatest Romantic Period American violin sonata, Beach’s piece is a dramatic big-boned sonata with a tremendous scope of expression and color. Cast in four movements, the first movement is a serious and dramatic voyage within the traditional sonata-form structure. In relief to the density of the first movement, the second movement is a much lighter scherzo akin to some of Mendelssohn’s “fairy music” movements. The third movement is the longest of the four chapters. Highly lyrical and emotional, it begins with an extended passage for solo piano. Several musicologists have remarked on the similarity of the melody of Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me” to the main theme of this movement. (This statement may or may not be true.) The finale has the tremendous forward drive and drama that one might expect in the concluding chapter of such a impassioned work. At the midpoint, a Bach-like fugue appears with wonderful counterpoint and dialogue between the voices before a return to the Romantic thrust to the conclusion.
 
I hope you are able to join us and hear the sonata for yourself on Thursday, February 15 at 7pm at the RISD Museum Grand Gallery. Also on the program will be Beethoven’s charming sonata in E-flat, op. 12 no. 3 with Luke Fatora, violin and Jeff Louie, piano.
 
–Jesse Holstein
Associate Director / Senior Resident Musician

Who Let the Frogs Out? A Postcard from the Newport String Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently discovered that the beloved game of skipping stones across water has a variety of other names in other countries – ducks and drakes (UK), dragonflies (Czech), throwing a sandwich (Finnish) and the Ukrainian name is zapuskaty zhabky which translates to “letting the frogs out”.

What has me thinking about skipping stones, you ask?

As musicians engaged in community residencies, we are constantly experimenting – tweaking traditional concert formats to engage new people, bringing a new game to a classroom of violin students – to build meaningful connections between people. And, that moment of trying something new in pursuit of connection, is a lot like the moment when you let go of the pebble to see how far it will bounce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



As anyone with stone-skipping prowess will tell you, much depends on finding the right pebbles. And we have been incredibly lucky with our plentiful supply! The Newport String Project is now in its fifth season – thanks to incredible community support, this year, myself and Emmy have been joined by violist Ashley Frith and cellist Jaime Feldman. Together we perform as the Newport String Quartet and curate educational programming that provides free violin, viola and cello lessons to almost forty students aging from Pre-K to fifth graders. There have been many, many “pebbles” along the way. And there have definitely been some “clunkers”– unruly frogs, you might say – but some of the more successful “pebbles” have led to signature events like the Paper Orchestra concerts (see highlights from our most recent one here) and the community barn dance series and many rich collaborations with local organizations.

Every so often, there’s the magical combination of pebble, technique and environmental conditions – and you realize that the pebbles are bouncing a lot further than you imagined, maybe in ways you hadn’t even noticed or realized. Like when our oldest students are recruiting their friends to come join the Newport String Project. Like when a younger sibling already knows a song because they’ve learnt it from an older brother or sister. Like when you notice a parent absorbed in watching their child’s lesson and marveling at the complexity of skills they’re learning. Like when an audience member finds you after a concert to ask what works by that composer they should listen to next. These moments are energizing, humbling and bring much needed detail to the sweeping Big Picture flow of this work.

-Ealain McMullin, Newport String Project Co-Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about Newport String Project here!

Hello from Newfoundland!


Our good friend from the North, Carole Bestvater (CMW Violin Fellow 2009-2011), shares the latest news from Strong Harbour Strings along with an update on a visit from our own MusicWorks Network Fellow and CMW student alum, Andrew Oung. Carole is the Director & Founder of the program, located in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
 
Wow, it’s hard to imagine that five years have passed since this program started!  Here we are, in Strong Harbour Strings’ fifth season, with so much to celebrate. This year, there are 24 students in our main centre, all coming two times a week for group and individual lessons.  We also started a satellite centre in a nearby neighbourhood across the harbour. There are 16 students who come twice a week during their lunch hour to learn the violin and viola. There are three new staff members who joined the team this season, so we’re having fun getting to know each other, teaching, and playing music together.
 
We recently played a concert of the Vivaldi Four Seasons in a downtown pub, selling out the place! People loved it! We’re planning on repeating the concert in a workshop for the SHS students, as well as in another family-friendly venue.  It’s been a very exciting time for Strong Harbour Strings.

The most exciting aspect right now is that Andrew Oung, the MusicWorks Network Fellow, is currently in St. John’s for a six week internship.  He’s working with a small group of 7th graders in developing the culture for a group inspired by CMW’s teen group, Phase II.  He’s been leading discussions, prompting conversations, and laying down a foundation for a group like this to continue after his internship here has finished. It has been exciting to see this aspect of Strong Harbour Strings develop, and feels like the missing puzzle piece is finally in place.  Now that we have students who are growing, developing critical thinking, and are completely blissed out that they get to keep on learning music and hanging out with each other, we’re finally ready to develop a Phase II-like program for them.
Sending love and hugs from the North Atlantic,

Carole Bestvater

 

Andrew Oung also sent along an update on his visit:

For the past few weeks I have been working here with Strong Harbour Strings. It has been wonderful getting to know all of the students and staff. I work with them three times a week, each day taking on a different role. I have started a small discussion group with the program’s 7th graders, I teach violin lessons, I support teachers during orchestra time, and I help students learn music theory. Strong Harbour takes place at two locations, one of which is the Cornerstone Ministry Centre. I really love that there is an open space where students and parents gather while they wait for lessons. It provides an opportunity for them to naturally interact with each other, and helps the music theory mentors be visible and accessible.
 
Outside of the educational aspect of the program, I attended a performance by the staff, named the Strong Harbour Strings Collective. They performed Vivaldi’s Four Season at The Black Sheep Pub to a full audience. I loved seeing how much the audience enjoyed the performance and I overheard somebody proudly say, “where else in the world can you hear Vivaldi in a pub”. While I can think of another city very dear to me where that could be true, I still think there is a uniqueness to the music community here. I’ll be in St. John’s for a few more weeks and I look forward to learning more about Strong Harbour Strings and the musical community here.

 

 

 

A Place to Play: Celebrating Music Haven’s New Office

We checked in with former CMW Fellow Annalisa Boerner (Viola Fellow 2012-2014), who has joined the staff of Music Haven in New Haven, CT as a full time Resident Musician and member of the Haven String Quartet. Here, Annalisa shares some news about the program’s new digs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, January 19th, Music Haven celebrated its tenth year of teaching and our move into a beautiful new space with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Our new offices are in a former factory space called Erector Square. Our suite was too small for a school, too big for a yoga studio, and just right for our organization to fit into and grow with.

Music Haven’s new location, where we rehearse, teach, and perform, is helping our program grow in ways big and small. The sense of community is palpable when our eighty students gather for group classes on Fridays, and as they filter in and out throughout the week. We love to see them doing homework and playing Uno in the lounge area as they wait for lessons. On the teaching side, I can keep a shelf of music, a jar of clothespins, and both a violin and a viola close at hand, and my students can have lessons in a calm environment that’s dedicated to music-making. We’ve hosted studio recitals with potlucks in our large performance space, and we look forward to debuting next year’s Chamber Series concerts in this area as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The program for the afternoon of the 19th included words from Mandi Jackson, Executive Director; Yaira Matyakubova, violinist and Senior Resident Musician; and Mayor Toni Harp (!) who cut the ribbon. The Music Lanterns, an ensemble of nine to twelve-year-old students, kicked off the program, and the Harmony In Action chamber orchestra concluded it with a conductorless performance of Lean on Me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is thanks to our many supporters of all varieties that we are able to sustain and grow our program in this way.  Here’s to ten more years at Music Haven!

–Annalisa Boerner

Congratulations to Annalisa and the Music Haven staff and students!

 

Unlocking Meaning: CMW Fellows’ Residency at Butler Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“I find myself saying that it doesn’t matter what the music is, or at least that the content is a trivial concern compared to the importance of making a human connection between performer and listener.”

Heath Marlow, former CMW staffer and current faculty/staff at New England Conservatory, reflects on his work with CMW Fellows in creating and implementing a performance residency at Butler Hospital, a psychiatric facility on Providence’s East Side,  in 2017:

At our first session together in Fall 2016, I asked the Fellows to come up with a new community (not the communities already served by Community MusicWorks) that could potentially benefit from interacting with a string quartet.

The group’s research led to the conclusion that it would be important to try out their ideas in an environment that had the capacity to support the quartet’s experimental activities. Butler Hospital’s Healing Arts Program was immediately receptive to hosting the quartet, and a series of three activities for distinct patient populations (adolescent, adult, geriatric) was soon decided upon.

 

​”It was personally humbling to participate in the workshops. The response in each unit was so different – but equally powerful. It felt challenging to insert ourselves into such an intense environment – having no idea where each person was on their healing path.”

Read Heath’s full account and reflection in his blog piece, here.

This year, Heath meets regularly with the current quartet of Fellows (and other interested musician colleagues) to discuss aspects of building a career as a musician at the intersection of artistry and community using the best practices associated with growing a community-based organization.

 

Investing in People and Place

For the past 20 years, Community MusicWorks has been invested in both people and place – our students, families, and professional musicians, and the community of Providence.

Last year was truly a celebratory season. Throughout our programs, we reflected on our growth and impact, and we took on important new initiatives. Some of last year’s most significant moments included the expansion of our Daily Orchestra Program to include a new daily ensemble for six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds; the We Shall Overcome Project; the graduation of our largest class of Phase II students and our tenth class of Fellows; the residency of world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax; and over 30 inspiring free performances.

Beyond the specifics, we celebrated the culture of Community MusicWorks, which supports young people, professional musicians, guest artists, and our colleagues in CMW’s Fellowship Program, to continually grow their approach to music-making in our community.

“The always-evolving organism of CMW is innovative, curious, engaged, compassionate, empathetic, generous and far-reaching. I learned more than I imagined I would in the most supportive and nurturing environment. I can’t think of a better place to incubate and grow ideas and deepen my own experience and confidence. Getting to know, teach, and learn from the most wonderful studio of students, along with performing with an exceptional ensemble of colleagues has been incredibly motivating and continues to inform my work.”
– Josie Davis, violinist, CMW Fellow 2015-17

Using our 20th season as both inspiration and motivation – and recognizing all there is still to work on in our community and world – we are beginning our third decade looking even more deeply at our mission and how we put it into practice. Consistent with our Strategic Plan, we have mapped out several significant enhancements to our programs, included below.

These new initiatives range from further developing our music education practices with young people, to deepening the experiences of our concert audiences, to developing the MusicWorks Network, a new consortium of programs around the country that were founded on CMW’s model. I am pleased to share highlights of these new program elements, which of course will be in addition to our daily work with our 160 students and our over 30 free performances in our communities.

What we know has been a key to our growth and success – our ability to create new opportunities – has been the partnerships with supporters like you who share our belief that music can be a transformative experience for our communities.

As we launch into our third decade, your donation towards our ambitious 21st season will enable us to further develop, strengthen, and deepen our work.

As you know, Community MusicWorks is committed to offering our youth programs and performances free of charge – which means we must raise our full budget each year. Your generous gift will ensure that we can maintain our commitments to students, musicians, and audiences. Your partnership will allow us to work with young people and artists in a way that has a real impact on building positive goals and futures.

I appreciate your considering a generous gift this fall to make transformational experiences possible for young people and our communities.

Sincerely,
Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director
Community MusicWorks 

Community MusicWorks
21st Season Special Programs and Projects

Phase II for All and Joy in Practice

This year, during the first semester of All Play Day – a weekly two-hour session where CMW Phase I, II and III students gather for intense lessons and rehearsals – students will be invited to select classes based on their playing ability and interest. Classes will focus on improvisation and composition, theory and sight-reading, jazz, performance anxiety and mindfulness, learning how to practice, and experimental music. This enhanced offering provides our students with many access points into the study of music, and encourages them to explore their own interests and skills as musicians.

The second half of the year will be focused on ensembles, including all students exploring a piece in depth, building on the We Shall Overcome Project. In the We Shall Overcome Project, all of our students will learn an arrangement of a historically significant song as well as learning about its origins, later uses, and meaning. Starting in January, students will take part in weekly activities that explore the text, history, and power of this song, and will write their own verses based on their personal and musical experiences in their community or in the world at large.

Music Transforms

As part of our mission to explore, hear, and perform a broad range of voices through our concerts, our programming this year has been expanded to include a theme of presenting under-represented communities. Throughout the season, we will explore the works by female composers in a broad range of genres and instrumentation.

In addition to our MusicWorks Collective concerts, CMW’s mission to present visionary artists, such as Jonathan Biss, Emanuel Ax, and this season, world-renowned violinist Johnny Gandelsman, in performances and collaborations, offers two important opportunities for CMW. First, it allows CMW to share its mission and programs with a broader base of music aficionados. Second, it offers our students an opportunity to be inspired to strive for their musical and personal goals and to find their voice as unique citizens in our world.

Leading the Conversation

In August, CMW launched MusicWorks Network, the first of three annual institutes funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Network brings together representatives from nine organizations, staffed or led by former CMW Fellows and participants in our Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service. The overarching goals for the Network include: sharing social justice programming, goals, and methodology; incorporating college-going skills development among students across the network; and building connectivity between the sites to facilitate shared learning and creating pathways for CMW students and Fellowship Program graduates to contribute and gain employment in other sites.

Several important themes emerged at the institute that challenged CMW to grow our practice. Primary among them is that CMW has an opportunity to dig deeper into the questions of organizational practice as they relate to social justice broadly, and racial justice in particular. We are energized to define more clearly how all of CMW’s practices can reflect our social justice commitment and curriculum.

Is This the One About the Pilot? Working Toward Copland’s Violin Sonata

Join us Thursday, November 16 at 7pm for our popular Sonata Series in the beautifully appointed Grand Gallery at RISD Museum. This concert features violinists Sebastian Ruth and David Rubin with guest pianist Eliko Akahori. Here, violinist David Rubin shares his notes on the piece he’ll perform at the event and his own process of discovery on the meaning and origin of Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano.

I heard about Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano years before I actually heard Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. The initial encounter looms large in my memory and — come to think of it — stands in opposition to my current experience of the piece. Tension can often be generative, as we say at CMW, so perhaps this story will be of some interest for those folks planning to attend our Sonata Series performance at the RISD Museum (Thursday, November 16 at 7pm in the Grand Gallery).

***
In 2004, pianist Karl Paulnack gave a welcome address to the parents of incoming students at Boston Conservatory. Seeking to reassure a presumably anxious crowd about the viability of their children’s chosen career path (read: financial ruin?), Paulnack shared stories about music’s healing powers, its necessity in our society, and the potential nobility of a life spent in its service. One of those anecdotes centered around Paulnack’s own performance of – you guessed it – the Copland violin sonata. This story is better in Paulnack’s telling, but I’ll briefly summarize it here.

During this performance of the Copland (let’s set the stage, actually: during the elegiac slow movement, at a small-town nursing home) a World War II veteran in the audience was clearly overcome with emotion. Later in the concert, Paulnack shared more details about the piece, including the story of its dedication to Harry Dunham, a pilot killed in battle during World War II and a close friend of Copland’s. At this point, the veteran in the audience stood up and left. He later told Paulnack that he was in shock – Copland’s music had triggered a vivid remembrance of a near-identical experience from his own wartime service, a particular trauma he hadn’t thought of in years. The veteran wanted to know how this was possible. How could Copland’s music make him remember so vividly, even though he hadn’t known about that particular connection when he first listened to the piece?

Paulnack’s story is a beautiful testament to music’s communicative powers. It’s also some heavy interpretative baggage for a performer to assimilate. From then on, I remembered the Copland sonata as the World War II piece that, by virtue of its somber American-ness, went straight to the heart.

And I’m not alone. To quote a random YouTube commenter:

“Is this the one about the pilot shot down in WWII?”

***
Now, when I play this piece, I have more information to draw on, and it makes things more complicated for me as a performer. New perspectives nudge that simple origin story out of my head, or at least force it to share space. Here’s a taste of that stew.

The ink was dry – the piece was finished – when Copland learned of Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham’s death, at which point he added the dedication. We have no way of knowing what he was thinking about while he was writing the violin sonata. It is a wartime piece because it was written during the war, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that this is a piece about war, or a piece about Dunham. It’s entirely possible that Copland didn’t think about the war – or his friend – at all while he was committing these notes to paper.

We know only what (little) Copland chose to share about it, namely: “I had little desire to compose a dissonant or virtuosic work, or one that incorporated folk materials. Nevertheless, certain qualities of the American folk tune had become part of my natural style of composing, and they are echoed in the Sonata.” Nicely put, Aaron.

We also know that the premiere drew polarized responses from critics. One damned its “rearward vision” (ouch!), while another (Copland’s friend Virgil Thomson) praised its “calm elevation… irresistibly touching.” That’s more like it. Wouldn’t we all like to be praised for our “calm elevation?”

I also know what my teachers have shared about their experience with this piece, and what various smart people have written. My mentor in graduate school was fascinated by Copland’s habit of spreading common, everyday chords across wide spans on an instrument’s range (think of a pianist playing high and low notes at the same time) – the harmony might be utterly familiar, but its presentation is unearthly. It creates the illusion of space, of solitude… of frontiers. Stan Kleppinger, in the journal of the Society for Music Theory, suggests that this piece’s special sonorities can be explained as dualities, moments when two key areas exist simultaneously – the magic lies in the ambiguity. Other scholars hear past the melodic inflections in Copland’s writing (and the related, pesky question of American-ness, which seems to dominate all conversations of this composer’s music) toward a neoclassical reading, in which canons and miniature fugues dance in 20th-century dress. Bach in Hollywood in 1943.

***
And even though the dedication was added after the piece’s completion, I can’t help but also wonder about this man, this Harry Dunham. It turns out that we know a bit about him, too, largely thanks to the work of Copland-scholar Howard Pollack.

We know that Dunham was incredibly handsome (in composer David Diamond’s words: “the most adorable, good-looking boy”), the darling of a New York arts community that starred Copland, Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles, John Latouche, and other familiar figures. We know that he came from money, that he graduated from Princeton, that he made films. We know he was, to some degree, a leftist. We know that he married a woman, Marian Chase, but we also know that he was romantically involved with several men in the artistic circles he moved in. We know that Dunham, Bowles, and Copland traveled together in Morocco. We know that he died in battle in 1943, and that Aaron Copland dedicated this stunning piece of music to his memory.

I wasn’t expecting Dunham’s story to be so rich. The anonymous “pilot” from my initial encounter with the Copland violin sonata has a lot in common with me, and with people I’ve known. His sexuality, his artistic and political leanings, his social circles – they all run contrary to the military stereotype that I conjured up upon first hearing. This speaks to my prejudices, but it also speaks to the simple fact that people are complicated. In fact, Dunham’s surprises form a nice parallel with the rich ironies of Copland’s own story. Copland, the man whose music was appropriated for “Beef! It’s What’s for Dinner!” or Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America!” was, in Alex Ross’ words, “a gay leftist of Russian-Jewish extraction.” The man who created an American identity in concert music wasn’t always particularly welcome in his own country. Chew on that for a moment. These are not new ironies, but they never cease to amaze.

***

So, in the end, what should a performer make of these accumulated, sometimes contradictory meanings and associations? Perhaps it’s a cop-out, but here’s an attempt. I’m not a historian and I’m not a theorist and I’m not a veteran, but I do know what this piece makes me feel. Now, as I type this, I think of the piece’s opening, and its particular magic: a series of plain-spoken piano chords; hanging in the air, unresolved, still. Just the thought of those chords makes me verklempt. They’re 100% Copland, and they just break your heart.

I imagine Copland’s dedication to Dunham as a monument to an individual life, yes, but also a way of life: a group of friends, and a particular moment in time and space. In the composer’s words:

“By reflecting the time in which one lives, the creative artist gives substance and meaning to life as we live it. Life seems so transitory! It is very attractive to set down some sort of permanent statement about the way we feel, so that when it’s all gone, people will be able to go to our art works to see what it was like to be alive in our time and place — twentieth-century America.”

I love that little word: our. You get the sense that Copland’s our was broad as can be. “Our” twentieth-century America was gay and Jewish and left, just as much as it was the opposite of those things.

***

For me, this is the fun of performing. You live inside of a piece, soak up its contradictions and cliches, and try to make sense of it – both the thing itself (whatever that means, God help us) – and your relationship to it. Each realization of a piece, each usage in a different context, is a fleeting act – but over time it forms a discourse, a discussion across decades. It’s a beautiful mess, but that’s where the meaning is. A generative tension.

In any case. I hope you’ll join Eliko, Sebastian and I for Thursday’s program at the RISD Museum. It’ll be a pleasure to explore this piece, in all of its contradictions. In so doing, I hope we’ll celebrate Aaron Copland’s life — Harry Dunham’s, too.

-David Rubin, Violin Fellow


Further reading & works quoted above

Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. Henry Holt, 1999.
Karl Paulnack, welcome address at The Boston Conservatory, 2004. Accessible here.
Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland Since 1943. St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Gail Levin and Judith Tick, Aaron Copland’s America. Watson-Guptill Publications, 2000.

 

MusicWorks Network: A New Initiative

Within the past twenty-one years, CMW has offered professional musicians opportunities to re-imagine the very foundations of a classical music career, and to think more broadly about music as a way of engaging in and with communities.

This year, CMW has the opportunity to deepen that work with the support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a new initiative, Citizens of the World: Forging Pathways to College and Beyond. This strategic initiative is designed to substantially increase the number of racially diverse, low-income young people who gain access to critical skills that promote success. This work builds on CMW’s 20-year history of developing music-based education programs designed to open new worlds of opportunity to low-income African-American and Latino youth. Out of this work has come Phase II, an approach to developing fundamental skills and supports that promote college-going, that has led 95% of CMW graduates to continue to college.

CMW will share CMW’s successful college-going model across a network of community-based music education sites. Called the MusicWorks Network, this project will link 10-15 community-based music sites serving over 650 young people and convene them in an annual Summer Institute for training, resource-sharing, and collaborative evaluation.

The first Summer Institute took place this past August 22-30 as educators and staff from ten different organizations gathered at the beautiful Rolling Ridge Conference Center in North Andover, MA. Connecting around the ways that social justice practices and technical and artistic work on string instruments can support one another, teachers and staff came from Community MusicWorks, MusiConnects (Boston, MA), MyCincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), Musica Franklin (Franklin, MA), Orchestra of St. Luke’s (New York, New York), MusicHaven (New Haven, CT), Newport Strings (Newport, RI), Sistema New Brunswick (New Brunswick, St. John, Canada), Strong Harbor Strings (St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada), and Neighborhood Strings (Worcester, MA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participants convened for a range of workshops and trainings, including a 2-day string pedagogy workshop with renowned violinist and teacher Mimi Zweig, a poetry and social justice workshop with poet Jonathan Mendoza, a workshop on anti-racist organizational frameworks with trainer and activist Adeola Oredola, and discussions and reflection around the creative synergy between string pedagogy and social justice teachings.

The Institute was designed and facilitated by Sebastian Ruth and Chloe Kline with the new MusicWorks Network staff: MusicWorks Network Director Jori Ketten and MusicWorks Network Fellow Andrew Oung. Part of the initiative, the MusicWorks Network Fellowship is a one-year position for alumni of CMW’s youth program or graduates of CMW’s two-year Fellowship Program to contribute to the MusicWorks Network. Andrew is our first alumni hire at CMW.

 

Archives

Thursday, February 15 : Music in the Grand Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sonata Series Event

The Sonata Series features MusicWorks Collective musicians with guest pianists presenting works from the duo sonata repertoire. Together, musicians explore pieces from the 17th and 18th century masterworks to contemporary works.

This event features pianist Jeff Louie, performing Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, No. 3 with violinist Luke Fatora and Amy Beach’s Violin Sonata, Op. 34 with Jesse Holstein.

Thursday, February 15 at 7pm
Grand Gallery, RISD Museum
20 N. Main Street, Providence
Admission to the museum and concert is free
No reservations are necessary

CMW Celebrates 20 with Twenty Years, Twenty Stories

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This year Community MusicWorks turns 20! To mark the milestone, we are gathering the stories of 20 members of our community–musicians, students, parents, graduates and supporters. Look for new stories throughout the season.

Interviews were recorded, transcribed and edited to create personal narratives in each subject’s distinctive voice. We hope 20 Years, 20 Stories captures the many flavors and varieties of CMW experience. Join us at a concert anytime to start creating your own CMW story.

Read the interviews here.

 

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Who’s the Guy with the Curly Hair?

 

“The Last Supper” painting by Jessica Van Daam, on loan to the Trinity Brewhouse.

CMW Fellow and violinist Luke Fatora muses upon Beethoven as a pop culture icon.

Earlier this year, an unexpected downpour of cold rain unleashed itself as I was out for a walk. Passing by the Trinity Brewhouse on Fountain Street, I took refuge inside and found myself seated near a musician-themed mural riffing on The Last Supper. I was enjoying a nearby table’s particularly slurred conversation – its contents better left unexplored here – when it took a hard turn. One of the speakers interrupted a waitress, gesturing towards the mural hanging on the wall where Ludwig van Beethoven (not to confused with Beethoven the dog but more on that later) was stoically seated next to Billie Holiday in the company of other musicians like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. He asked “Who’s the guy with the curly hair??”

I found myself thinking back to this experience recently at CMW’s Phase II students’ weekly dinner and discussion. The students were exploring the interdependent relationship between a piece of art and the settings that a culture places it in. Later that night I grappled with unanswerable questions as I tossed and turned. How would Beethoven have responded to someone telling him that two centuries into the future, Americans would scarf down nachos and beer under his quasi-religious image in a brewpub in Providence, RI? How about being told that Andy Warhol, an iconic 20th century American artist, would designate Beethoven as the figure from western classical music to join the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Chairman Mao, as portrait subjects? Finally, what would he have had to say about the movie Beethoven released in the 1990’s?? My guess is as good as anyone’s as to how Beethoven would have reacted to being told that his name would become synonymous with a Hollywood movie about the adventures of a goofy, slobbering, St. Bernard.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The composer’s canine namesake.

After entertaining these hypothetical reactions, we’re left with some serious questions. Why did Andy Warhol choose Beethoven over someone like Schubert or Tchaikovsky as an iconic portrait subject? Why is the comedic reboot of Lassie centered around a St. Bernard named Beethoven (the surface explanation is here) and not Schoenberg or Bach?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Warhol’s Beethoven

Beethoven was an incredibly forward thinking composer – so much so that nearly a century after he wrote his wild Grosse Fugue, composers such as Arnold Schoenberg would look back to it as a premonition of their own radical breaks with tradition. Are we to believe that Beethoven’s seat at the table of musical disciples in the Trinity Brewhouse is a result of his technical wizardry as a composer?

Another explanation lies in his easily accessible humanity. As many people know, Beethoven lost his hearing over the course of time and had a generally tough life. His struggles led him to rail against fate in his Fifth Symphony. There is hardly a more universal human experience than struggling with circumstances that are beyond our control. Beethoven’s loss of hearing is tragic and his response to continue living for the sake of creating art is certainly heroic (you can read about it in his own words in his famed Heiligenstadt Testament). This said, other composers, being human (for now…), have certainly also struggled with circumstances beyond their control.

Popular culture’s obsession with Beethoven (the composer) risks encapsulating his image in the opening bars of his 5th Symphony and “that epic part of the 9th symphony where people are singing about something in German.” Only a sliver of Beethoven’s humanity is seen when it is through this lens. Recently, I have been working through his Third op. 12 Piano and Violin sonata and have been enjoying how starkly it contrasts popular notions of what Beethoven should sound like (“bark bark bark baaaark!”). Beethoven began working on his op. 12 Piano and Violin sonatas in 1797; he was 27 years old and had been living in Vienna for 5 years. At that point, he was 5 years away from writing the Heiligenstadt Testament and presumably contemplating suicide in the face of his worsening deafness. The Heiligenstadt Testament details the agony of Beethoven’s depression but it also mentions his lifelong heightened sensitivity to “tender feelings of affection” and his general “love for man and feelings of benevolence.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ludwig Van Beethoven, composer and guy with the curly hair.

Beethoven’s Third Piano and Violin Sonata can be seen as stemming from these general underlying dispositions; it is brimming with a particularly sparkling and playful energy, never taking itself too seriously. The beginning and ending movements are strikingly joyful romps through E flat major. The second movement is an Adagio in C major that begins with a simple melody containing an emotional pureness that becomes transformed throughout the movement. The theme passes briefly through distant and more complicated emotional landscapes, emerging to playfully evade a committed return to its original character – one gets the sense that Beethoven is exploring what it feels like to make peace with an unattainable ideal’s imaginary nature. This is the side of Beethoven that, two centuries later, keeps me warm on a slushy February day. Beethoven’s ability to probe such an extreme range of emotion leaves me in awe of his (very human) ability to reach across time and space to connect with us and – most importantly – inspires me to stop reaching for my phone to check the latest news and reach for my violin instead.

–Luke Fatora

Please join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for the Sonata Series Event at RISD Museum’s Grand Gallery as Luke Fatora performs Beethoven (the composer) along with pianist Jeff Louie. The event also features violinist Jesse Holstein performing a composition by Amy Beach.

 

A Day at the Beach

Join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for our Sonata Series Event featuring Jesse Holstein and Luke Fatora with guest pianist Jeff Louie. The evening’s program features a composition by Amy Beach. Here, Jesse talks about the composer and the piece he’ll perform at RISD Museum Grand Gallery.
 
A piece that has recently come into my orbit is the Sonata for Violin and Piano by Amy Beach. It was completely unknown to me before I performed it at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music last August. In the process of learning it, I became quite taken with the piece and subsequently asked my friend Jeff Louie to play it with me for the CMW Sonata Series Concert this February 15 at the RISD Museum at 7pm. If I may be permitted, perhaps a little background about Ms. Beach and the sonata.
 

Tucked between the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers in south-eastern New England lies the little town of Henniker, New Hampshire. Aside from being the birthplace of Red Sox legend Ted Williams, Henniker also lays claim as the birthplace of one of the most important figures in American classical music, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach.

Composer Amy Beach

Born September 5, 1867, Amy Cheney exhibited prodigious musical talent on the piano and in composition from a very young age. She advanced far beyond what teaching was available in Henniker by age seven and in order to support Amy’s talent, the family moved to the Boston suburb of Chelsea in 1875. There, she studied piano with Carl Baermann, who was himself a piano student of Franz Liszt. While Amy did receive some composition and counterpoint coaching as a young teen, she was essentially an autodidact in composition her whole life. Impressively, her “Gaelic Symphony” of 1896 received its world-premier by the Boston Symphony and was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. This is a testament to her incredible gift of melody and intuitive ability as a composer.
 
When Amy was on the verge of international stardom as a pianist and composer, she got married at age eighteen to a prominent Boston surgeon, Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, twenty-four years her senior. As was the custom of the times, he limited her performing life to just a few recitals a year and Amy received no mentoring or tutoring as a composer. When Dr. Beach died in 1910, Amy began touring as a pianist and composer in Europe and was a tremendous success. She would return to America in 1914 and was a major figure in American Classical music until her death in 1944.
 
With Amy’s piano concerto appearances with the Boston Symphony as a teenager, she gained the attention of the BSO Concertmaster, Franz Kneisel.  He invited her to perform the Schumann piano quintet with his string quartet in 1894 and he premiered her violin sonata in 1897 with Ms. Beach at the piano. Arguably the greatest Romantic Period American violin sonata, Beach’s piece is a dramatic big-boned sonata with a tremendous scope of expression and color. Cast in four movements, the first movement is a serious and dramatic voyage within the traditional sonata-form structure. In relief to the density of the first movement, the second movement is a much lighter scherzo akin to some of Mendelssohn’s “fairy music” movements. The third movement is the longest of the four chapters. Highly lyrical and emotional, it begins with an extended passage for solo piano. Several musicologists have remarked on the similarity of the melody of Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me” to the main theme of this movement. (This statement may or may not be true.) The finale has the tremendous forward drive and drama that one might expect in the concluding chapter of such a impassioned work. At the midpoint, a Bach-like fugue appears with wonderful counterpoint and dialogue between the voices before a return to the Romantic thrust to the conclusion.
 
I hope you are able to join us and hear the sonata for yourself on Thursday, February 15 at 7pm at the RISD Museum Grand Gallery. Also on the program will be Beethoven’s charming sonata in E-flat, op. 12 no. 3 with Luke Fatora, violin and Jeff Louie, piano.
 
–Jesse Holstein
Associate Director / Senior Resident Musician

Who Let the Frogs Out? A Postcard from the Newport String Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently discovered that the beloved game of skipping stones across water has a variety of other names in other countries – ducks and drakes (UK), dragonflies (Czech), throwing a sandwich (Finnish) and the Ukrainian name is zapuskaty zhabky which translates to “letting the frogs out”.

What has me thinking about skipping stones, you ask?

As musicians engaged in community residencies, we are constantly experimenting – tweaking traditional concert formats to engage new people, bringing a new game to a classroom of violin students – to build meaningful connections between people. And, that moment of trying something new in pursuit of connection, is a lot like the moment when you let go of the pebble to see how far it will bounce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



As anyone with stone-skipping prowess will tell you, much depends on finding the right pebbles. And we have been incredibly lucky with our plentiful supply! The Newport String Project is now in its fifth season – thanks to incredible community support, this year, myself and Emmy have been joined by violist Ashley Frith and cellist Jaime Feldman. Together we perform as the Newport String Quartet and curate educational programming that provides free violin, viola and cello lessons to almost forty students aging from Pre-K to fifth graders. There have been many, many “pebbles” along the way. And there have definitely been some “clunkers”– unruly frogs, you might say – but some of the more successful “pebbles” have led to signature events like the Paper Orchestra concerts (see highlights from our most recent one here) and the community barn dance series and many rich collaborations with local organizations.

Every so often, there’s the magical combination of pebble, technique and environmental conditions – and you realize that the pebbles are bouncing a lot further than you imagined, maybe in ways you hadn’t even noticed or realized. Like when our oldest students are recruiting their friends to come join the Newport String Project. Like when a younger sibling already knows a song because they’ve learnt it from an older brother or sister. Like when you notice a parent absorbed in watching their child’s lesson and marveling at the complexity of skills they’re learning. Like when an audience member finds you after a concert to ask what works by that composer they should listen to next. These moments are energizing, humbling and bring much needed detail to the sweeping Big Picture flow of this work.

-Ealain McMullin, Newport String Project Co-Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about Newport String Project here!

Hello from Newfoundland!


Our good friend from the North, Carole Bestvater (CMW Violin Fellow 2009-2011), shares the latest news from Strong Harbour Strings along with an update on a visit from our own MusicWorks Network Fellow and CMW student alum, Andrew Oung. Carole is the Director & Founder of the program, located in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
 
Wow, it’s hard to imagine that five years have passed since this program started!  Here we are, in Strong Harbour Strings’ fifth season, with so much to celebrate. This year, there are 24 students in our main centre, all coming two times a week for group and individual lessons.  We also started a satellite centre in a nearby neighbourhood across the harbour. There are 16 students who come twice a week during their lunch hour to learn the violin and viola. There are three new staff members who joined the team this season, so we’re having fun getting to know each other, teaching, and playing music together.
 
We recently played a concert of the Vivaldi Four Seasons in a downtown pub, selling out the place! People loved it! We’re planning on repeating the concert in a workshop for the SHS students, as well as in another family-friendly venue.  It’s been a very exciting time for Strong Harbour Strings.

The most exciting aspect right now is that Andrew Oung, the MusicWorks Network Fellow, is currently in St. John’s for a six week internship.  He’s working with a small group of 7th graders in developing the culture for a group inspired by CMW’s teen group, Phase II.  He’s been leading discussions, prompting conversations, and laying down a foundation for a group like this to continue after his internship here has finished. It has been exciting to see this aspect of Strong Harbour Strings develop, and feels like the missing puzzle piece is finally in place.  Now that we have students who are growing, developing critical thinking, and are completely blissed out that they get to keep on learning music and hanging out with each other, we’re finally ready to develop a Phase II-like program for them.
Sending love and hugs from the North Atlantic,

Carole Bestvater

 

Andrew Oung also sent along an update on his visit:

For the past few weeks I have been working here with Strong Harbour Strings. It has been wonderful getting to know all of the students and staff. I work with them three times a week, each day taking on a different role. I have started a small discussion group with the program’s 7th graders, I teach violin lessons, I support teachers during orchestra time, and I help students learn music theory. Strong Harbour takes place at two locations, one of which is the Cornerstone Ministry Centre. I really love that there is an open space where students and parents gather while they wait for lessons. It provides an opportunity for them to naturally interact with each other, and helps the music theory mentors be visible and accessible.
 
Outside of the educational aspect of the program, I attended a performance by the staff, named the Strong Harbour Strings Collective. They performed Vivaldi’s Four Season at The Black Sheep Pub to a full audience. I loved seeing how much the audience enjoyed the performance and I overheard somebody proudly say, “where else in the world can you hear Vivaldi in a pub”. While I can think of another city very dear to me where that could be true, I still think there is a uniqueness to the music community here. I’ll be in St. John’s for a few more weeks and I look forward to learning more about Strong Harbour Strings and the musical community here.

 

 

 

A Place to Play: Celebrating Music Haven’s New Office

We checked in with former CMW Fellow Annalisa Boerner (Viola Fellow 2012-2014), who has joined the staff of Music Haven in New Haven, CT as a full time Resident Musician and member of the Haven String Quartet. Here, Annalisa shares some news about the program’s new digs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, January 19th, Music Haven celebrated its tenth year of teaching and our move into a beautiful new space with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Our new offices are in a former factory space called Erector Square. Our suite was too small for a school, too big for a yoga studio, and just right for our organization to fit into and grow with.

Music Haven’s new location, where we rehearse, teach, and perform, is helping our program grow in ways big and small. The sense of community is palpable when our eighty students gather for group classes on Fridays, and as they filter in and out throughout the week. We love to see them doing homework and playing Uno in the lounge area as they wait for lessons. On the teaching side, I can keep a shelf of music, a jar of clothespins, and both a violin and a viola close at hand, and my students can have lessons in a calm environment that’s dedicated to music-making. We’ve hosted studio recitals with potlucks in our large performance space, and we look forward to debuting next year’s Chamber Series concerts in this area as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The program for the afternoon of the 19th included words from Mandi Jackson, Executive Director; Yaira Matyakubova, violinist and Senior Resident Musician; and Mayor Toni Harp (!) who cut the ribbon. The Music Lanterns, an ensemble of nine to twelve-year-old students, kicked off the program, and the Harmony In Action chamber orchestra concluded it with a conductorless performance of Lean on Me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is thanks to our many supporters of all varieties that we are able to sustain and grow our program in this way.  Here’s to ten more years at Music Haven!

–Annalisa Boerner

Congratulations to Annalisa and the Music Haven staff and students!

 

Unlocking Meaning: CMW Fellows’ Residency at Butler Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“I find myself saying that it doesn’t matter what the music is, or at least that the content is a trivial concern compared to the importance of making a human connection between performer and listener.”

Heath Marlow, former CMW staffer and current faculty/staff at New England Conservatory, reflects on his work with CMW Fellows in creating and implementing a performance residency at Butler Hospital, a psychiatric facility on Providence’s East Side,  in 2017:

At our first session together in Fall 2016, I asked the Fellows to come up with a new community (not the communities already served by Community MusicWorks) that could potentially benefit from interacting with a string quartet.

The group’s research led to the conclusion that it would be important to try out their ideas in an environment that had the capacity to support the quartet’s experimental activities. Butler Hospital’s Healing Arts Program was immediately receptive to hosting the quartet, and a series of three activities for distinct patient populations (adolescent, adult, geriatric) was soon decided upon.

 

​”It was personally humbling to participate in the workshops. The response in each unit was so different – but equally powerful. It felt challenging to insert ourselves into such an intense environment – having no idea where each person was on their healing path.”

Read Heath’s full account and reflection in his blog piece, here.

This year, Heath meets regularly with the current quartet of Fellows (and other interested musician colleagues) to discuss aspects of building a career as a musician at the intersection of artistry and community using the best practices associated with growing a community-based organization.

 

Investing in People and Place

For the past 20 years, Community MusicWorks has been invested in both people and place – our students, families, and professional musicians, and the community of Providence.

Last year was truly a celebratory season. Throughout our programs, we reflected on our growth and impact, and we took on important new initiatives. Some of last year’s most significant moments included the expansion of our Daily Orchestra Program to include a new daily ensemble for six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds; the We Shall Overcome Project; the graduation of our largest class of Phase II students and our tenth class of Fellows; the residency of world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax; and over 30 inspiring free performances.

Beyond the specifics, we celebrated the culture of Community MusicWorks, which supports young people, professional musicians, guest artists, and our colleagues in CMW’s Fellowship Program, to continually grow their approach to music-making in our community.

“The always-evolving organism of CMW is innovative, curious, engaged, compassionate, empathetic, generous and far-reaching. I learned more than I imagined I would in the most supportive and nurturing environment. I can’t think of a better place to incubate and grow ideas and deepen my own experience and confidence. Getting to know, teach, and learn from the most wonderful studio of students, along with performing with an exceptional ensemble of colleagues has been incredibly motivating and continues to inform my work.”
– Josie Davis, violinist, CMW Fellow 2015-17

Using our 20th season as both inspiration and motivation – and recognizing all there is still to work on in our community and world – we are beginning our third decade looking even more deeply at our mission and how we put it into practice. Consistent with our Strategic Plan, we have mapped out several significant enhancements to our programs, included below.

These new initiatives range from further developing our music education practices with young people, to deepening the experiences of our concert audiences, to developing the MusicWorks Network, a new consortium of programs around the country that were founded on CMW’s model. I am pleased to share highlights of these new program elements, which of course will be in addition to our daily work with our 160 students and our over 30 free performances in our communities.

What we know has been a key to our growth and success – our ability to create new opportunities – has been the partnerships with supporters like you who share our belief that music can be a transformative experience for our communities.

As we launch into our third decade, your donation towards our ambitious 21st season will enable us to further develop, strengthen, and deepen our work.

As you know, Community MusicWorks is committed to offering our youth programs and performances free of charge – which means we must raise our full budget each year. Your generous gift will ensure that we can maintain our commitments to students, musicians, and audiences. Your partnership will allow us to work with young people and artists in a way that has a real impact on building positive goals and futures.

I appreciate your considering a generous gift this fall to make transformational experiences possible for young people and our communities.

Sincerely,
Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director
Community MusicWorks 

Community MusicWorks
21st Season Special Programs and Projects

Phase II for All and Joy in Practice

This year, during the first semester of All Play Day – a weekly two-hour session where CMW Phase I, II and III students gather for intense lessons and rehearsals – students will be invited to select classes based on their playing ability and interest. Classes will focus on improvisation and composition, theory and sight-reading, jazz, performance anxiety and mindfulness, learning how to practice, and experimental music. This enhanced offering provides our students with many access points into the study of music, and encourages them to explore their own interests and skills as musicians.

The second half of the year will be focused on ensembles, including all students exploring a piece in depth, building on the We Shall Overcome Project. In the We Shall Overcome Project, all of our students will learn an arrangement of a historically significant song as well as learning about its origins, later uses, and meaning. Starting in January, students will take part in weekly activities that explore the text, history, and power of this song, and will write their own verses based on their personal and musical experiences in their community or in the world at large.

Music Transforms

As part of our mission to explore, hear, and perform a broad range of voices through our concerts, our programming this year has been expanded to include a theme of presenting under-represented communities. Throughout the season, we will explore the works by female composers in a broad range of genres and instrumentation.

In addition to our MusicWorks Collective concerts, CMW’s mission to present visionary artists, such as Jonathan Biss, Emanuel Ax, and this season, world-renowned violinist Johnny Gandelsman, in performances and collaborations, offers two important opportunities for CMW. First, it allows CMW to share its mission and programs with a broader base of music aficionados. Second, it offers our students an opportunity to be inspired to strive for their musical and personal goals and to find their voice as unique citizens in our world.

Leading the Conversation

In August, CMW launched MusicWorks Network, the first of three annual institutes funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Network brings together representatives from nine organizations, staffed or led by former CMW Fellows and participants in our Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service. The overarching goals for the Network include: sharing social justice programming, goals, and methodology; incorporating college-going skills development among students across the network; and building connectivity between the sites to facilitate shared learning and creating pathways for CMW students and Fellowship Program graduates to contribute and gain employment in other sites.

Several important themes emerged at the institute that challenged CMW to grow our practice. Primary among them is that CMW has an opportunity to dig deeper into the questions of organizational practice as they relate to social justice broadly, and racial justice in particular. We are energized to define more clearly how all of CMW’s practices can reflect our social justice commitment and curriculum.

Is This the One About the Pilot? Working Toward Copland’s Violin Sonata

Join us Thursday, November 16 at 7pm for our popular Sonata Series in the beautifully appointed Grand Gallery at RISD Museum. This concert features violinists Sebastian Ruth and David Rubin with guest pianist Eliko Akahori. Here, violinist David Rubin shares his notes on the piece he’ll perform at the event and his own process of discovery on the meaning and origin of Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano.

I heard about Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano years before I actually heard Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. The initial encounter looms large in my memory and — come to think of it — stands in opposition to my current experience of the piece. Tension can often be generative, as we say at CMW, so perhaps this story will be of some interest for those folks planning to attend our Sonata Series performance at the RISD Museum (Thursday, November 16 at 7pm in the Grand Gallery).

***
In 2004, pianist Karl Paulnack gave a welcome address to the parents of incoming students at Boston Conservatory. Seeking to reassure a presumably anxious crowd about the viability of their children’s chosen career path (read: financial ruin?), Paulnack shared stories about music’s healing powers, its necessity in our society, and the potential nobility of a life spent in its service. One of those anecdotes centered around Paulnack’s own performance of – you guessed it – the Copland violin sonata. This story is better in Paulnack’s telling, but I’ll briefly summarize it here.

During this performance of the Copland (let’s set the stage, actually: during the elegiac slow movement, at a small-town nursing home) a World War II veteran in the audience was clearly overcome with emotion. Later in the concert, Paulnack shared more details about the piece, including the story of its dedication to Harry Dunham, a pilot killed in battle during World War II and a close friend of Copland’s. At this point, the veteran in the audience stood up and left. He later told Paulnack that he was in shock – Copland’s music had triggered a vivid remembrance of a near-identical experience from his own wartime service, a particular trauma he hadn’t thought of in years. The veteran wanted to know how this was possible. How could Copland’s music make him remember so vividly, even though he hadn’t known about that particular connection when he first listened to the piece?

Paulnack’s story is a beautiful testament to music’s communicative powers. It’s also some heavy interpretative baggage for a performer to assimilate. From then on, I remembered the Copland sonata as the World War II piece that, by virtue of its somber American-ness, went straight to the heart.

And I’m not alone. To quote a random YouTube commenter:

“Is this the one about the pilot shot down in WWII?”

***
Now, when I play this piece, I have more information to draw on, and it makes things more complicated for me as a performer. New perspectives nudge that simple origin story out of my head, or at least force it to share space. Here’s a taste of that stew.

The ink was dry – the piece was finished – when Copland learned of Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham’s death, at which point he added the dedication. We have no way of knowing what he was thinking about while he was writing the violin sonata. It is a wartime piece because it was written during the war, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that this is a piece about war, or a piece about Dunham. It’s entirely possible that Copland didn’t think about the war – or his friend – at all while he was committing these notes to paper.

We know only what (little) Copland chose to share about it, namely: “I had little desire to compose a dissonant or virtuosic work, or one that incorporated folk materials. Nevertheless, certain qualities of the American folk tune had become part of my natural style of composing, and they are echoed in the Sonata.” Nicely put, Aaron.

We also know that the premiere drew polarized responses from critics. One damned its “rearward vision” (ouch!), while another (Copland’s friend Virgil Thomson) praised its “calm elevation… irresistibly touching.” That’s more like it. Wouldn’t we all like to be praised for our “calm elevation?”

I also know what my teachers have shared about their experience with this piece, and what various smart people have written. My mentor in graduate school was fascinated by Copland’s habit of spreading common, everyday chords across wide spans on an instrument’s range (think of a pianist playing high and low notes at the same time) – the harmony might be utterly familiar, but its presentation is unearthly. It creates the illusion of space, of solitude… of frontiers. Stan Kleppinger, in the journal of the Society for Music Theory, suggests that this piece’s special sonorities can be explained as dualities, moments when two key areas exist simultaneously – the magic lies in the ambiguity. Other scholars hear past the melodic inflections in Copland’s writing (and the related, pesky question of American-ness, which seems to dominate all conversations of this composer’s music) toward a neoclassical reading, in which canons and miniature fugues dance in 20th-century dress. Bach in Hollywood in 1943.

***
And even though the dedication was added after the piece’s completion, I can’t help but also wonder about this man, this Harry Dunham. It turns out that we know a bit about him, too, largely thanks to the work of Copland-scholar Howard Pollack.

We know that Dunham was incredibly handsome (in composer David Diamond’s words: “the most adorable, good-looking boy”), the darling of a New York arts community that starred Copland, Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles, John Latouche, and other familiar figures. We know that he came from money, that he graduated from Princeton, that he made films. We know he was, to some degree, a leftist. We know that he married a woman, Marian Chase, but we also know that he was romantically involved with several men in the artistic circles he moved in. We know that Dunham, Bowles, and Copland traveled together in Morocco. We know that he died in battle in 1943, and that Aaron Copland dedicated this stunning piece of music to his memory.

I wasn’t expecting Dunham’s story to be so rich. The anonymous “pilot” from my initial encounter with the Copland violin sonata has a lot in common with me, and with people I’ve known. His sexuality, his artistic and political leanings, his social circles – they all run contrary to the military stereotype that I conjured up upon first hearing. This speaks to my prejudices, but it also speaks to the simple fact that people are complicated. In fact, Dunham’s surprises form a nice parallel with the rich ironies of Copland’s own story. Copland, the man whose music was appropriated for “Beef! It’s What’s for Dinner!” or Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America!” was, in Alex Ross’ words, “a gay leftist of Russian-Jewish extraction.” The man who created an American identity in concert music wasn’t always particularly welcome in his own country. Chew on that for a moment. These are not new ironies, but they never cease to amaze.

***

So, in the end, what should a performer make of these accumulated, sometimes contradictory meanings and associations? Perhaps it’s a cop-out, but here’s an attempt. I’m not a historian and I’m not a theorist and I’m not a veteran, but I do know what this piece makes me feel. Now, as I type this, I think of the piece’s opening, and its particular magic: a series of plain-spoken piano chords; hanging in the air, unresolved, still. Just the thought of those chords makes me verklempt. They’re 100% Copland, and they just break your heart.

I imagine Copland’s dedication to Dunham as a monument to an individual life, yes, but also a way of life: a group of friends, and a particular moment in time and space. In the composer’s words:

“By reflecting the time in which one lives, the creative artist gives substance and meaning to life as we live it. Life seems so transitory! It is very attractive to set down some sort of permanent statement about the way we feel, so that when it’s all gone, people will be able to go to our art works to see what it was like to be alive in our time and place — twentieth-century America.”

I love that little word: our. You get the sense that Copland’s our was broad as can be. “Our” twentieth-century America was gay and Jewish and left, just as much as it was the opposite of those things.

***

For me, this is the fun of performing. You live inside of a piece, soak up its contradictions and cliches, and try to make sense of it – both the thing itself (whatever that means, God help us) – and your relationship to it. Each realization of a piece, each usage in a different context, is a fleeting act – but over time it forms a discourse, a discussion across decades. It’s a beautiful mess, but that’s where the meaning is. A generative tension.

In any case. I hope you’ll join Eliko, Sebastian and I for Thursday’s program at the RISD Museum. It’ll be a pleasure to explore this piece, in all of its contradictions. In so doing, I hope we’ll celebrate Aaron Copland’s life — Harry Dunham’s, too.

-David Rubin, Violin Fellow


Further reading & works quoted above

Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. Henry Holt, 1999.
Karl Paulnack, welcome address at The Boston Conservatory, 2004. Accessible here.
Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland Since 1943. St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Gail Levin and Judith Tick, Aaron Copland’s America. Watson-Guptill Publications, 2000.

 

MusicWorks Network: A New Initiative

Within the past twenty-one years, CMW has offered professional musicians opportunities to re-imagine the very foundations of a classical music career, and to think more broadly about music as a way of engaging in and with communities.

This year, CMW has the opportunity to deepen that work with the support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a new initiative, Citizens of the World: Forging Pathways to College and Beyond. This strategic initiative is designed to substantially increase the number of racially diverse, low-income young people who gain access to critical skills that promote success. This work builds on CMW’s 20-year history of developing music-based education programs designed to open new worlds of opportunity to low-income African-American and Latino youth. Out of this work has come Phase II, an approach to developing fundamental skills and supports that promote college-going, that has led 95% of CMW graduates to continue to college.

CMW will share CMW’s successful college-going model across a network of community-based music education sites. Called the MusicWorks Network, this project will link 10-15 community-based music sites serving over 650 young people and convene them in an annual Summer Institute for training, resource-sharing, and collaborative evaluation.

The first Summer Institute took place this past August 22-30 as educators and staff from ten different organizations gathered at the beautiful Rolling Ridge Conference Center in North Andover, MA. Connecting around the ways that social justice practices and technical and artistic work on string instruments can support one another, teachers and staff came from Community MusicWorks, MusiConnects (Boston, MA), MyCincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), Musica Franklin (Franklin, MA), Orchestra of St. Luke’s (New York, New York), MusicHaven (New Haven, CT), Newport Strings (Newport, RI), Sistema New Brunswick (New Brunswick, St. John, Canada), Strong Harbor Strings (St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada), and Neighborhood Strings (Worcester, MA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participants convened for a range of workshops and trainings, including a 2-day string pedagogy workshop with renowned violinist and teacher Mimi Zweig, a poetry and social justice workshop with poet Jonathan Mendoza, a workshop on anti-racist organizational frameworks with trainer and activist Adeola Oredola, and discussions and reflection around the creative synergy between string pedagogy and social justice teachings.

The Institute was designed and facilitated by Sebastian Ruth and Chloe Kline with the new MusicWorks Network staff: MusicWorks Network Director Jori Ketten and MusicWorks Network Fellow Andrew Oung. Part of the initiative, the MusicWorks Network Fellowship is a one-year position for alumni of CMW’s youth program or graduates of CMW’s two-year Fellowship Program to contribute to the MusicWorks Network. Andrew is our first alumni hire at CMW.

 

Archives

Thursday, February 15 : Music in the Grand Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sonata Series Event

The Sonata Series features MusicWorks Collective musicians with guest pianists presenting works from the duo sonata repertoire. Together, musicians explore pieces from the 17th and 18th century masterworks to contemporary works.

This event features pianist Jeff Louie, performing Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, No. 3 with violinist Luke Fatora and Amy Beach’s Violin Sonata, Op. 34 with Jesse Holstein.

Thursday, February 15 at 7pm
Grand Gallery, RISD Museum
20 N. Main Street, Providence
Admission to the museum and concert is free
No reservations are necessary

CMW Celebrates 20 with Twenty Years, Twenty Stories

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This year Community MusicWorks turns 20! To mark the milestone, we are gathering the stories of 20 members of our community–musicians, students, parents, graduates and supporters. Look for new stories throughout the season.

Interviews were recorded, transcribed and edited to create personal narratives in each subject’s distinctive voice. We hope 20 Years, 20 Stories captures the many flavors and varieties of CMW experience. Join us at a concert anytime to start creating your own CMW story.

Read the interviews here.

 

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Who’s the Guy with the Curly Hair?

 

“The Last Supper” painting by Jessica Van Daam, on loan to the Trinity Brewhouse.

CMW Fellow and violinist Luke Fatora muses upon Beethoven as a pop culture icon.

Earlier this year, an unexpected downpour of cold rain unleashed itself as I was out for a walk. Passing by the Trinity Brewhouse on Fountain Street, I took refuge inside and found myself seated near a musician-themed mural riffing on The Last Supper. I was enjoying a nearby table’s particularly slurred conversation – its contents better left unexplored here – when it took a hard turn. One of the speakers interrupted a waitress, gesturing towards the mural hanging on the wall where Ludwig van Beethoven (not to confused with Beethoven the dog but more on that later) was stoically seated next to Billie Holiday in the company of other musicians like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. He asked “Who’s the guy with the curly hair??”

I found myself thinking back to this experience recently at CMW’s Phase II students’ weekly dinner and discussion. The students were exploring the interdependent relationship between a piece of art and the settings that a culture places it in. Later that night I grappled with unanswerable questions as I tossed and turned. How would Beethoven have responded to someone telling him that two centuries into the future, Americans would scarf down nachos and beer under his quasi-religious image in a brewpub in Providence, RI? How about being told that Andy Warhol, an iconic 20th century American artist, would designate Beethoven as the figure from western classical music to join the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Chairman Mao, as portrait subjects? Finally, what would he have had to say about the movie Beethoven released in the 1990’s?? My guess is as good as anyone’s as to how Beethoven would have reacted to being told that his name would become synonymous with a Hollywood movie about the adventures of a goofy, slobbering, St. Bernard.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The composer’s canine namesake.

After entertaining these hypothetical reactions, we’re left with some serious questions. Why did Andy Warhol choose Beethoven over someone like Schubert or Tchaikovsky as an iconic portrait subject? Why is the comedic reboot of Lassie centered around a St. Bernard named Beethoven (the surface explanation is here) and not Schoenberg or Bach?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Warhol’s Beethoven

Beethoven was an incredibly forward thinking composer – so much so that nearly a century after he wrote his wild Grosse Fugue, composers such as Arnold Schoenberg would look back to it as a premonition of their own radical breaks with tradition. Are we to believe that Beethoven’s seat at the table of musical disciples in the Trinity Brewhouse is a result of his technical wizardry as a composer?

Another explanation lies in his easily accessible humanity. As many people know, Beethoven lost his hearing over the course of time and had a generally tough life. His struggles led him to rail against fate in his Fifth Symphony. There is hardly a more universal human experience than struggling with circumstances that are beyond our control. Beethoven’s loss of hearing is tragic and his response to continue living for the sake of creating art is certainly heroic (you can read about it in his own words in his famed Heiligenstadt Testament). This said, other composers, being human (for now…), have certainly also struggled with circumstances beyond their control.

Popular culture’s obsession with Beethoven (the composer) risks encapsulating his image in the opening bars of his 5th Symphony and “that epic part of the 9th symphony where people are singing about something in German.” Only a sliver of Beethoven’s humanity is seen when it is through this lens. Recently, I have been working through his Third op. 12 Piano and Violin sonata and have been enjoying how starkly it contrasts popular notions of what Beethoven should sound like (“bark bark bark baaaark!”). Beethoven began working on his op. 12 Piano and Violin sonatas in 1797; he was 27 years old and had been living in Vienna for 5 years. At that point, he was 5 years away from writing the Heiligenstadt Testament and presumably contemplating suicide in the face of his worsening deafness. The Heiligenstadt Testament details the agony of Beethoven’s depression but it also mentions his lifelong heightened sensitivity to “tender feelings of affection” and his general “love for man and feelings of benevolence.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ludwig Van Beethoven, composer and guy with the curly hair.

Beethoven’s Third Piano and Violin Sonata can be seen as stemming from these general underlying dispositions; it is brimming with a particularly sparkling and playful energy, never taking itself too seriously. The beginning and ending movements are strikingly joyful romps through E flat major. The second movement is an Adagio in C major that begins with a simple melody containing an emotional pureness that becomes transformed throughout the movement. The theme passes briefly through distant and more complicated emotional landscapes, emerging to playfully evade a committed return to its original character – one gets the sense that Beethoven is exploring what it feels like to make peace with an unattainable ideal’s imaginary nature. This is the side of Beethoven that, two centuries later, keeps me warm on a slushy February day. Beethoven’s ability to probe such an extreme range of emotion leaves me in awe of his (very human) ability to reach across time and space to connect with us and – most importantly – inspires me to stop reaching for my phone to check the latest news and reach for my violin instead.

–Luke Fatora

Please join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for the Sonata Series Event at RISD Museum’s Grand Gallery as Luke Fatora performs Beethoven (the composer) along with pianist Jeff Louie. The event also features violinist Jesse Holstein performing a composition by Amy Beach.

 

A Day at the Beach

Join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for our Sonata Series Event featuring Jesse Holstein and Luke Fatora with guest pianist Jeff Louie. The evening’s program features a composition by Amy Beach. Here, Jesse talks about the composer and the piece he’ll perform at RISD Museum Grand Gallery.
 
A piece that has recently come into my orbit is the Sonata for Violin and Piano by Amy Beach. It was completely unknown to me before I performed it at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music last August. In the process of learning it, I became quite taken with the piece and subsequently asked my friend Jeff Louie to play it with me for the CMW Sonata Series Concert this February 15 at the RISD Museum at 7pm. If I may be permitted, perhaps a little background about Ms. Beach and the sonata.
 

Tucked between the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers in south-eastern New England lies the little town of Henniker, New Hampshire. Aside from being the birthplace of Red Sox legend Ted Williams, Henniker also lays claim as the birthplace of one of the most important figures in American classical music, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach.

Composer Amy Beach

Born September 5, 1867, Amy Cheney exhibited prodigious musical talent on the piano and in composition from a very young age. She advanced far beyond what teaching was available in Henniker by age seven and in order to support Amy’s talent, the family moved to the Boston suburb of Chelsea in 1875. There, she studied piano with Carl Baermann, who was himself a piano student of Franz Liszt. While Amy did receive some composition and counterpoint coaching as a young teen, she was essentially an autodidact in composition her whole life. Impressively, her “Gaelic Symphony” of 1896 received its world-premier by the Boston Symphony and was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. This is a testament to her incredible gift of melody and intuitive ability as a composer.
 
When Amy was on the verge of international stardom as a pianist and composer, she got married at age eighteen to a prominent Boston surgeon, Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, twenty-four years her senior. As was the custom of the times, he limited her performing life to just a few recitals a year and Amy received no mentoring or tutoring as a composer. When Dr. Beach died in 1910, Amy began touring as a pianist and composer in Europe and was a tremendous success. She would return to America in 1914 and was a major figure in American Classical music until her death in 1944.
 
With Amy’s piano concerto appearances with the Boston Symphony as a teenager, she gained the attention of the BSO Concertmaster, Franz Kneisel.  He invited her to perform the Schumann piano quintet with his string quartet in 1894 and he premiered her violin sonata in 1897 with Ms. Beach at the piano. Arguably the greatest Romantic Period American violin sonata, Beach’s piece is a dramatic big-boned sonata with a tremendous scope of expression and color. Cast in four movements, the first movement is a serious and dramatic voyage within the traditional sonata-form structure. In relief to the density of the first movement, the second movement is a much lighter scherzo akin to some of Mendelssohn’s “fairy music” movements. The third movement is the longest of the four chapters. Highly lyrical and emotional, it begins with an extended passage for solo piano. Several musicologists have remarked on the similarity of the melody of Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me” to the main theme of this movement. (This statement may or may not be true.) The finale has the tremendous forward drive and drama that one might expect in the concluding chapter of such a impassioned work. At the midpoint, a Bach-like fugue appears with wonderful counterpoint and dialogue between the voices before a return to the Romantic thrust to the conclusion.
 
I hope you are able to join us and hear the sonata for yourself on Thursday, February 15 at 7pm at the RISD Museum Grand Gallery. Also on the program will be Beethoven’s charming sonata in E-flat, op. 12 no. 3 with Luke Fatora, violin and Jeff Louie, piano.
 
–Jesse Holstein
Associate Director / Senior Resident Musician

Who Let the Frogs Out? A Postcard from the Newport String Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently discovered that the beloved game of skipping stones across water has a variety of other names in other countries – ducks and drakes (UK), dragonflies (Czech), throwing a sandwich (Finnish) and the Ukrainian name is zapuskaty zhabky which translates to “letting the frogs out”.

What has me thinking about skipping stones, you ask?

As musicians engaged in community residencies, we are constantly experimenting – tweaking traditional concert formats to engage new people, bringing a new game to a classroom of violin students – to build meaningful connections between people. And, that moment of trying something new in pursuit of connection, is a lot like the moment when you let go of the pebble to see how far it will bounce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



As anyone with stone-skipping prowess will tell you, much depends on finding the right pebbles. And we have been incredibly lucky with our plentiful supply! The Newport String Project is now in its fifth season – thanks to incredible community support, this year, myself and Emmy have been joined by violist Ashley Frith and cellist Jaime Feldman. Together we perform as the Newport String Quartet and curate educational programming that provides free violin, viola and cello lessons to almost forty students aging from Pre-K to fifth graders. There have been many, many “pebbles” along the way. And there have definitely been some “clunkers”– unruly frogs, you might say – but some of the more successful “pebbles” have led to signature events like the Paper Orchestra concerts (see highlights from our most recent one here) and the community barn dance series and many rich collaborations with local organizations.

Every so often, there’s the magical combination of pebble, technique and environmental conditions – and you realize that the pebbles are bouncing a lot further than you imagined, maybe in ways you hadn’t even noticed or realized. Like when our oldest students are recruiting their friends to come join the Newport String Project. Like when a younger sibling already knows a song because they’ve learnt it from an older brother or sister. Like when you notice a parent absorbed in watching their child’s lesson and marveling at the complexity of skills they’re learning. Like when an audience member finds you after a concert to ask what works by that composer they should listen to next. These moments are energizing, humbling and bring much needed detail to the sweeping Big Picture flow of this work.

-Ealain McMullin, Newport String Project Co-Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about Newport String Project here!

Hello from Newfoundland!


Our good friend from the North, Carole Bestvater (CMW Violin Fellow 2009-2011), shares the latest news from Strong Harbour Strings along with an update on a visit from our own MusicWorks Network Fellow and CMW student alum, Andrew Oung. Carole is the Director & Founder of the program, located in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
 
Wow, it’s hard to imagine that five years have passed since this program started!  Here we are, in Strong Harbour Strings’ fifth season, with so much to celebrate. This year, there are 24 students in our main centre, all coming two times a week for group and individual lessons.  We also started a satellite centre in a nearby neighbourhood across the harbour. There are 16 students who come twice a week during their lunch hour to learn the violin and viola. There are three new staff members who joined the team this season, so we’re having fun getting to know each other, teaching, and playing music together.
 
We recently played a concert of the Vivaldi Four Seasons in a downtown pub, selling out the place! People loved it! We’re planning on repeating the concert in a workshop for the SHS students, as well as in another family-friendly venue.  It’s been a very exciting time for Strong Harbour Strings.

The most exciting aspect right now is that Andrew Oung, the MusicWorks Network Fellow, is currently in St. John’s for a six week internship.  He’s working with a small group of 7th graders in developing the culture for a group inspired by CMW’s teen group, Phase II.  He’s been leading discussions, prompting conversations, and laying down a foundation for a group like this to continue after his internship here has finished. It has been exciting to see this aspect of Strong Harbour Strings develop, and feels like the missing puzzle piece is finally in place.  Now that we have students who are growing, developing critical thinking, and are completely blissed out that they get to keep on learning music and hanging out with each other, we’re finally ready to develop a Phase II-like program for them.
Sending love and hugs from the North Atlantic,

Carole Bestvater

 

Andrew Oung also sent along an update on his visit:

For the past few weeks I have been working here with Strong Harbour Strings. It has been wonderful getting to know all of the students and staff. I work with them three times a week, each day taking on a different role. I have started a small discussion group with the program’s 7th graders, I teach violin lessons, I support teachers during orchestra time, and I help students learn music theory. Strong Harbour takes place at two locations, one of which is the Cornerstone Ministry Centre. I really love that there is an open space where students and parents gather while they wait for lessons. It provides an opportunity for them to naturally interact with each other, and helps the music theory mentors be visible and accessible.
 
Outside of the educational aspect of the program, I attended a performance by the staff, named the Strong Harbour Strings Collective. They performed Vivaldi’s Four Season at The Black Sheep Pub to a full audience. I loved seeing how much the audience enjoyed the performance and I overheard somebody proudly say, “where else in the world can you hear Vivaldi in a pub”. While I can think of another city very dear to me where that could be true, I still think there is a uniqueness to the music community here. I’ll be in St. John’s for a few more weeks and I look forward to learning more about Strong Harbour Strings and the musical community here.

 

 

 

A Place to Play: Celebrating Music Haven’s New Office

We checked in with former CMW Fellow Annalisa Boerner (Viola Fellow 2012-2014), who has joined the staff of Music Haven in New Haven, CT as a full time Resident Musician and member of the Haven String Quartet. Here, Annalisa shares some news about the program’s new digs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, January 19th, Music Haven celebrated its tenth year of teaching and our move into a beautiful new space with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Our new offices are in a former factory space called Erector Square. Our suite was too small for a school, too big for a yoga studio, and just right for our organization to fit into and grow with.

Music Haven’s new location, where we rehearse, teach, and perform, is helping our program grow in ways big and small. The sense of community is palpable when our eighty students gather for group classes on Fridays, and as they filter in and out throughout the week. We love to see them doing homework and playing Uno in the lounge area as they wait for lessons. On the teaching side, I can keep a shelf of music, a jar of clothespins, and both a violin and a viola close at hand, and my students can have lessons in a calm environment that’s dedicated to music-making. We’ve hosted studio recitals with potlucks in our large performance space, and we look forward to debuting next year’s Chamber Series concerts in this area as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The program for the afternoon of the 19th included words from Mandi Jackson, Executive Director; Yaira Matyakubova, violinist and Senior Resident Musician; and Mayor Toni Harp (!) who cut the ribbon. The Music Lanterns, an ensemble of nine to twelve-year-old students, kicked off the program, and the Harmony In Action chamber orchestra concluded it with a conductorless performance of Lean on Me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is thanks to our many supporters of all varieties that we are able to sustain and grow our program in this way.  Here’s to ten more years at Music Haven!

–Annalisa Boerner

Congratulations to Annalisa and the Music Haven staff and students!

 

Unlocking Meaning: CMW Fellows’ Residency at Butler Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“I find myself saying that it doesn’t matter what the music is, or at least that the content is a trivial concern compared to the importance of making a human connection between performer and listener.”

Heath Marlow, former CMW staffer and current faculty/staff at New England Conservatory, reflects on his work with CMW Fellows in creating and implementing a performance residency at Butler Hospital, a psychiatric facility on Providence’s East Side,  in 2017:

At our first session together in Fall 2016, I asked the Fellows to come up with a new community (not the communities already served by Community MusicWorks) that could potentially benefit from interacting with a string quartet.

The group’s research led to the conclusion that it would be important to try out their ideas in an environment that had the capacity to support the quartet’s experimental activities. Butler Hospital’s Healing Arts Program was immediately receptive to hosting the quartet, and a series of three activities for distinct patient populations (adolescent, adult, geriatric) was soon decided upon.

 

​”It was personally humbling to participate in the workshops. The response in each unit was so different – but equally powerful. It felt challenging to insert ourselves into such an intense environment – having no idea where each person was on their healing path.”

Read Heath’s full account and reflection in his blog piece, here.

This year, Heath meets regularly with the current quartet of Fellows (and other interested musician colleagues) to discuss aspects of building a career as a musician at the intersection of artistry and community using the best practices associated with growing a community-based organization.

 

Investing in People and Place

For the past 20 years, Community MusicWorks has been invested in both people and place – our students, families, and professional musicians, and the community of Providence.

Last year was truly a celebratory season. Throughout our programs, we reflected on our growth and impact, and we took on important new initiatives. Some of last year’s most significant moments included the expansion of our Daily Orchestra Program to include a new daily ensemble for six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds; the We Shall Overcome Project; the graduation of our largest class of Phase II students and our tenth class of Fellows; the residency of world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax; and over 30 inspiring free performances.

Beyond the specifics, we celebrated the culture of Community MusicWorks, which supports young people, professional musicians, guest artists, and our colleagues in CMW’s Fellowship Program, to continually grow their approach to music-making in our community.

“The always-evolving organism of CMW is innovative, curious, engaged, compassionate, empathetic, generous and far-reaching. I learned more than I imagined I would in the most supportive and nurturing environment. I can’t think of a better place to incubate and grow ideas and deepen my own experience and confidence. Getting to know, teach, and learn from the most wonderful studio of students, along with performing with an exceptional ensemble of colleagues has been incredibly motivating and continues to inform my work.”
– Josie Davis, violinist, CMW Fellow 2015-17

Using our 20th season as both inspiration and motivation – and recognizing all there is still to work on in our community and world – we are beginning our third decade looking even more deeply at our mission and how we put it into practice. Consistent with our Strategic Plan, we have mapped out several significant enhancements to our programs, included below.

These new initiatives range from further developing our music education practices with young people, to deepening the experiences of our concert audiences, to developing the MusicWorks Network, a new consortium of programs around the country that were founded on CMW’s model. I am pleased to share highlights of these new program elements, which of course will be in addition to our daily work with our 160 students and our over 30 free performances in our communities.

What we know has been a key to our growth and success – our ability to create new opportunities – has been the partnerships with supporters like you who share our belief that music can be a transformative experience for our communities.

As we launch into our third decade, your donation towards our ambitious 21st season will enable us to further develop, strengthen, and deepen our work.

As you know, Community MusicWorks is committed to offering our youth programs and performances free of charge – which means we must raise our full budget each year. Your generous gift will ensure that we can maintain our commitments to students, musicians, and audiences. Your partnership will allow us to work with young people and artists in a way that has a real impact on building positive goals and futures.

I appreciate your considering a generous gift this fall to make transformational experiences possible for young people and our communities.

Sincerely,
Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director
Community MusicWorks 

Community MusicWorks
21st Season Special Programs and Projects

Phase II for All and Joy in Practice

This year, during the first semester of All Play Day – a weekly two-hour session where CMW Phase I, II and III students gather for intense lessons and rehearsals – students will be invited to select classes based on their playing ability and interest. Classes will focus on improvisation and composition, theory and sight-reading, jazz, performance anxiety and mindfulness, learning how to practice, and experimental music. This enhanced offering provides our students with many access points into the study of music, and encourages them to explore their own interests and skills as musicians.

The second half of the year will be focused on ensembles, including all students exploring a piece in depth, building on the We Shall Overcome Project. In the We Shall Overcome Project, all of our students will learn an arrangement of a historically significant song as well as learning about its origins, later uses, and meaning. Starting in January, students will take part in weekly activities that explore the text, history, and power of this song, and will write their own verses based on their personal and musical experiences in their community or in the world at large.

Music Transforms

As part of our mission to explore, hear, and perform a broad range of voices through our concerts, our programming this year has been expanded to include a theme of presenting under-represented communities. Throughout the season, we will explore the works by female composers in a broad range of genres and instrumentation.

In addition to our MusicWorks Collective concerts, CMW’s mission to present visionary artists, such as Jonathan Biss, Emanuel Ax, and this season, world-renowned violinist Johnny Gandelsman, in performances and collaborations, offers two important opportunities for CMW. First, it allows CMW to share its mission and programs with a broader base of music aficionados. Second, it offers our students an opportunity to be inspired to strive for their musical and personal goals and to find their voice as unique citizens in our world.

Leading the Conversation

In August, CMW launched MusicWorks Network, the first of three annual institutes funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Network brings together representatives from nine organizations, staffed or led by former CMW Fellows and participants in our Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service. The overarching goals for the Network include: sharing social justice programming, goals, and methodology; incorporating college-going skills development among students across the network; and building connectivity between the sites to facilitate shared learning and creating pathways for CMW students and Fellowship Program graduates to contribute and gain employment in other sites.

Several important themes emerged at the institute that challenged CMW to grow our practice. Primary among them is that CMW has an opportunity to dig deeper into the questions of organizational practice as they relate to social justice broadly, and racial justice in particular. We are energized to define more clearly how all of CMW’s practices can reflect our social justice commitment and curriculum.

Is This the One About the Pilot? Working Toward Copland’s Violin Sonata

Join us Thursday, November 16 at 7pm for our popular Sonata Series in the beautifully appointed Grand Gallery at RISD Museum. This concert features violinists Sebastian Ruth and David Rubin with guest pianist Eliko Akahori. Here, violinist David Rubin shares his notes on the piece he’ll perform at the event and his own process of discovery on the meaning and origin of Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano.

I heard about Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano years before I actually heard Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. The initial encounter looms large in my memory and — come to think of it — stands in opposition to my current experience of the piece. Tension can often be generative, as we say at CMW, so perhaps this story will be of some interest for those folks planning to attend our Sonata Series performance at the RISD Museum (Thursday, November 16 at 7pm in the Grand Gallery).

***
In 2004, pianist Karl Paulnack gave a welcome address to the parents of incoming students at Boston Conservatory. Seeking to reassure a presumably anxious crowd about the viability of their children’s chosen career path (read: financial ruin?), Paulnack shared stories about music’s healing powers, its necessity in our society, and the potential nobility of a life spent in its service. One of those anecdotes centered around Paulnack’s own performance of – you guessed it – the Copland violin sonata. This story is better in Paulnack’s telling, but I’ll briefly summarize it here.

During this performance of the Copland (let’s set the stage, actually: during the elegiac slow movement, at a small-town nursing home) a World War II veteran in the audience was clearly overcome with emotion. Later in the concert, Paulnack shared more details about the piece, including the story of its dedication to Harry Dunham, a pilot killed in battle during World War II and a close friend of Copland’s. At this point, the veteran in the audience stood up and left. He later told Paulnack that he was in shock – Copland’s music had triggered a vivid remembrance of a near-identical experience from his own wartime service, a particular trauma he hadn’t thought of in years. The veteran wanted to know how this was possible. How could Copland’s music make him remember so vividly, even though he hadn’t known about that particular connection when he first listened to the piece?

Paulnack’s story is a beautiful testament to music’s communicative powers. It’s also some heavy interpretative baggage for a performer to assimilate. From then on, I remembered the Copland sonata as the World War II piece that, by virtue of its somber American-ness, went straight to the heart.

And I’m not alone. To quote a random YouTube commenter:

“Is this the one about the pilot shot down in WWII?”

***
Now, when I play this piece, I have more information to draw on, and it makes things more complicated for me as a performer. New perspectives nudge that simple origin story out of my head, or at least force it to share space. Here’s a taste of that stew.

The ink was dry – the piece was finished – when Copland learned of Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham’s death, at which point he added the dedication. We have no way of knowing what he was thinking about while he was writing the violin sonata. It is a wartime piece because it was written during the war, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that this is a piece about war, or a piece about Dunham. It’s entirely possible that Copland didn’t think about the war – or his friend – at all while he was committing these notes to paper.

We know only what (little) Copland chose to share about it, namely: “I had little desire to compose a dissonant or virtuosic work, or one that incorporated folk materials. Nevertheless, certain qualities of the American folk tune had become part of my natural style of composing, and they are echoed in the Sonata.” Nicely put, Aaron.

We also know that the premiere drew polarized responses from critics. One damned its “rearward vision” (ouch!), while another (Copland’s friend Virgil Thomson) praised its “calm elevation… irresistibly touching.” That’s more like it. Wouldn’t we all like to be praised for our “calm elevation?”

I also know what my teachers have shared about their experience with this piece, and what various smart people have written. My mentor in graduate school was fascinated by Copland’s habit of spreading common, everyday chords across wide spans on an instrument’s range (think of a pianist playing high and low notes at the same time) – the harmony might be utterly familiar, but its presentation is unearthly. It creates the illusion of space, of solitude… of frontiers. Stan Kleppinger, in the journal of the Society for Music Theory, suggests that this piece’s special sonorities can be explained as dualities, moments when two key areas exist simultaneously – the magic lies in the ambiguity. Other scholars hear past the melodic inflections in Copland’s writing (and the related, pesky question of American-ness, which seems to dominate all conversations of this composer’s music) toward a neoclassical reading, in which canons and miniature fugues dance in 20th-century dress. Bach in Hollywood in 1943.

***
And even though the dedication was added after the piece’s completion, I can’t help but also wonder about this man, this Harry Dunham. It turns out that we know a bit about him, too, largely thanks to the work of Copland-scholar Howard Pollack.

We know that Dunham was incredibly handsome (in composer David Diamond’s words: “the most adorable, good-looking boy”), the darling of a New York arts community that starred Copland, Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles, John Latouche, and other familiar figures. We know that he came from money, that he graduated from Princeton, that he made films. We know he was, to some degree, a leftist. We know that he married a woman, Marian Chase, but we also know that he was romantically involved with several men in the artistic circles he moved in. We know that Dunham, Bowles, and Copland traveled together in Morocco. We know that he died in battle in 1943, and that Aaron Copland dedicated this stunning piece of music to his memory.

I wasn’t expecting Dunham’s story to be so rich. The anonymous “pilot” from my initial encounter with the Copland violin sonata has a lot in common with me, and with people I’ve known. His sexuality, his artistic and political leanings, his social circles – they all run contrary to the military stereotype that I conjured up upon first hearing. This speaks to my prejudices, but it also speaks to the simple fact that people are complicated. In fact, Dunham’s surprises form a nice parallel with the rich ironies of Copland’s own story. Copland, the man whose music was appropriated for “Beef! It’s What’s for Dinner!” or Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America!” was, in Alex Ross’ words, “a gay leftist of Russian-Jewish extraction.” The man who created an American identity in concert music wasn’t always particularly welcome in his own country. Chew on that for a moment. These are not new ironies, but they never cease to amaze.

***

So, in the end, what should a performer make of these accumulated, sometimes contradictory meanings and associations? Perhaps it’s a cop-out, but here’s an attempt. I’m not a historian and I’m not a theorist and I’m not a veteran, but I do know what this piece makes me feel. Now, as I type this, I think of the piece’s opening, and its particular magic: a series of plain-spoken piano chords; hanging in the air, unresolved, still. Just the thought of those chords makes me verklempt. They’re 100% Copland, and they just break your heart.

I imagine Copland’s dedication to Dunham as a monument to an individual life, yes, but also a way of life: a group of friends, and a particular moment in time and space. In the composer’s words:

“By reflecting the time in which one lives, the creative artist gives substance and meaning to life as we live it. Life seems so transitory! It is very attractive to set down some sort of permanent statement about the way we feel, so that when it’s all gone, people will be able to go to our art works to see what it was like to be alive in our time and place — twentieth-century America.”

I love that little word: our. You get the sense that Copland’s our was broad as can be. “Our” twentieth-century America was gay and Jewish and left, just as much as it was the opposite of those things.

***

For me, this is the fun of performing. You live inside of a piece, soak up its contradictions and cliches, and try to make sense of it – both the thing itself (whatever that means, God help us) – and your relationship to it. Each realization of a piece, each usage in a different context, is a fleeting act – but over time it forms a discourse, a discussion across decades. It’s a beautiful mess, but that’s where the meaning is. A generative tension.

In any case. I hope you’ll join Eliko, Sebastian and I for Thursday’s program at the RISD Museum. It’ll be a pleasure to explore this piece, in all of its contradictions. In so doing, I hope we’ll celebrate Aaron Copland’s life — Harry Dunham’s, too.

-David Rubin, Violin Fellow


Further reading & works quoted above

Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. Henry Holt, 1999.
Karl Paulnack, welcome address at The Boston Conservatory, 2004. Accessible here.
Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland Since 1943. St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Gail Levin and Judith Tick, Aaron Copland’s America. Watson-Guptill Publications, 2000.

 

MusicWorks Network: A New Initiative

Within the past twenty-one years, CMW has offered professional musicians opportunities to re-imagine the very foundations of a classical music career, and to think more broadly about music as a way of engaging in and with communities.

This year, CMW has the opportunity to deepen that work with the support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a new initiative, Citizens of the World: Forging Pathways to College and Beyond. This strategic initiative is designed to substantially increase the number of racially diverse, low-income young people who gain access to critical skills that promote success. This work builds on CMW’s 20-year history of developing music-based education programs designed to open new worlds of opportunity to low-income African-American and Latino youth. Out of this work has come Phase II, an approach to developing fundamental skills and supports that promote college-going, that has led 95% of CMW graduates to continue to college.

CMW will share CMW’s successful college-going model across a network of community-based music education sites. Called the MusicWorks Network, this project will link 10-15 community-based music sites serving over 650 young people and convene them in an annual Summer Institute for training, resource-sharing, and collaborative evaluation.

The first Summer Institute took place this past August 22-30 as educators and staff from ten different organizations gathered at the beautiful Rolling Ridge Conference Center in North Andover, MA. Connecting around the ways that social justice practices and technical and artistic work on string instruments can support one another, teachers and staff came from Community MusicWorks, MusiConnects (Boston, MA), MyCincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), Musica Franklin (Franklin, MA), Orchestra of St. Luke’s (New York, New York), MusicHaven (New Haven, CT), Newport Strings (Newport, RI), Sistema New Brunswick (New Brunswick, St. John, Canada), Strong Harbor Strings (St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada), and Neighborhood Strings (Worcester, MA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participants convened for a range of workshops and trainings, including a 2-day string pedagogy workshop with renowned violinist and teacher Mimi Zweig, a poetry and social justice workshop with poet Jonathan Mendoza, a workshop on anti-racist organizational frameworks with trainer and activist Adeola Oredola, and discussions and reflection around the creative synergy between string pedagogy and social justice teachings.

The Institute was designed and facilitated by Sebastian Ruth and Chloe Kline with the new MusicWorks Network staff: MusicWorks Network Director Jori Ketten and MusicWorks Network Fellow Andrew Oung. Part of the initiative, the MusicWorks Network Fellowship is a one-year position for alumni of CMW’s youth program or graduates of CMW’s two-year Fellowship Program to contribute to the MusicWorks Network. Andrew is our first alumni hire at CMW.

 

Archives

Thursday, February 15 : Music in the Grand Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sonata Series Event

The Sonata Series features MusicWorks Collective musicians with guest pianists presenting works from the duo sonata repertoire. Together, musicians explore pieces from the 17th and 18th century masterworks to contemporary works.

This event features pianist Jeff Louie, performing Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, No. 3 with violinist Luke Fatora and Amy Beach’s Violin Sonata, Op. 34 with Jesse Holstein.

Thursday, February 15 at 7pm
Grand Gallery, RISD Museum
20 N. Main Street, Providence
Admission to the museum and concert is free
No reservations are necessary

CMW Celebrates 20 with Twenty Years, Twenty Stories

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This year Community MusicWorks turns 20! To mark the milestone, we are gathering the stories of 20 members of our community–musicians, students, parents, graduates and supporters. Look for new stories throughout the season.

Interviews were recorded, transcribed and edited to create personal narratives in each subject’s distinctive voice. We hope 20 Years, 20 Stories captures the many flavors and varieties of CMW experience. Join us at a concert anytime to start creating your own CMW story.

Read the interviews here.

 

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Who’s the Guy with the Curly Hair?

 

“The Last Supper” painting by Jessica Van Daam, on loan to the Trinity Brewhouse.

CMW Fellow and violinist Luke Fatora muses upon Beethoven as a pop culture icon.

Earlier this year, an unexpected downpour of cold rain unleashed itself as I was out for a walk. Passing by the Trinity Brewhouse on Fountain Street, I took refuge inside and found myself seated near a musician-themed mural riffing on The Last Supper. I was enjoying a nearby table’s particularly slurred conversation – its contents better left unexplored here – when it took a hard turn. One of the speakers interrupted a waitress, gesturing towards the mural hanging on the wall where Ludwig van Beethoven (not to confused with Beethoven the dog but more on that later) was stoically seated next to Billie Holiday in the company of other musicians like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. He asked “Who’s the guy with the curly hair??”

I found myself thinking back to this experience recently at CMW’s Phase II students’ weekly dinner and discussion. The students were exploring the interdependent relationship between a piece of art and the settings that a culture places it in. Later that night I grappled with unanswerable questions as I tossed and turned. How would Beethoven have responded to someone telling him that two centuries into the future, Americans would scarf down nachos and beer under his quasi-religious image in a brewpub in Providence, RI? How about being told that Andy Warhol, an iconic 20th century American artist, would designate Beethoven as the figure from western classical music to join the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Chairman Mao, as portrait subjects? Finally, what would he have had to say about the movie Beethoven released in the 1990’s?? My guess is as good as anyone’s as to how Beethoven would have reacted to being told that his name would become synonymous with a Hollywood movie about the adventures of a goofy, slobbering, St. Bernard.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The composer’s canine namesake.

After entertaining these hypothetical reactions, we’re left with some serious questions. Why did Andy Warhol choose Beethoven over someone like Schubert or Tchaikovsky as an iconic portrait subject? Why is the comedic reboot of Lassie centered around a St. Bernard named Beethoven (the surface explanation is here) and not Schoenberg or Bach?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Warhol’s Beethoven

Beethoven was an incredibly forward thinking composer – so much so that nearly a century after he wrote his wild Grosse Fugue, composers such as Arnold Schoenberg would look back to it as a premonition of their own radical breaks with tradition. Are we to believe that Beethoven’s seat at the table of musical disciples in the Trinity Brewhouse is a result of his technical wizardry as a composer?

Another explanation lies in his easily accessible humanity. As many people know, Beethoven lost his hearing over the course of time and had a generally tough life. His struggles led him to rail against fate in his Fifth Symphony. There is hardly a more universal human experience than struggling with circumstances that are beyond our control. Beethoven’s loss of hearing is tragic and his response to continue living for the sake of creating art is certainly heroic (you can read about it in his own words in his famed Heiligenstadt Testament). This said, other composers, being human (for now…), have certainly also struggled with circumstances beyond their control.

Popular culture’s obsession with Beethoven (the composer) risks encapsulating his image in the opening bars of his 5th Symphony and “that epic part of the 9th symphony where people are singing about something in German.” Only a sliver of Beethoven’s humanity is seen when it is through this lens. Recently, I have been working through his Third op. 12 Piano and Violin sonata and have been enjoying how starkly it contrasts popular notions of what Beethoven should sound like (“bark bark bark baaaark!”). Beethoven began working on his op. 12 Piano and Violin sonatas in 1797; he was 27 years old and had been living in Vienna for 5 years. At that point, he was 5 years away from writing the Heiligenstadt Testament and presumably contemplating suicide in the face of his worsening deafness. The Heiligenstadt Testament details the agony of Beethoven’s depression but it also mentions his lifelong heightened sensitivity to “tender feelings of affection” and his general “love for man and feelings of benevolence.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ludwig Van Beethoven, composer and guy with the curly hair.

Beethoven’s Third Piano and Violin Sonata can be seen as stemming from these general underlying dispositions; it is brimming with a particularly sparkling and playful energy, never taking itself too seriously. The beginning and ending movements are strikingly joyful romps through E flat major. The second movement is an Adagio in C major that begins with a simple melody containing an emotional pureness that becomes transformed throughout the movement. The theme passes briefly through distant and more complicated emotional landscapes, emerging to playfully evade a committed return to its original character – one gets the sense that Beethoven is exploring what it feels like to make peace with an unattainable ideal’s imaginary nature. This is the side of Beethoven that, two centuries later, keeps me warm on a slushy February day. Beethoven’s ability to probe such an extreme range of emotion leaves me in awe of his (very human) ability to reach across time and space to connect with us and – most importantly – inspires me to stop reaching for my phone to check the latest news and reach for my violin instead.

–Luke Fatora

Please join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for the Sonata Series Event at RISD Museum’s Grand Gallery as Luke Fatora performs Beethoven (the composer) along with pianist Jeff Louie. The event also features violinist Jesse Holstein performing a composition by Amy Beach.

 

A Day at the Beach

Join us Thursday, February 15 at 7pm for our Sonata Series Event featuring Jesse Holstein and Luke Fatora with guest pianist Jeff Louie. The evening’s program features a composition by Amy Beach. Here, Jesse talks about the composer and the piece he’ll perform at RISD Museum Grand Gallery.
 
A piece that has recently come into my orbit is the Sonata for Violin and Piano by Amy Beach. It was completely unknown to me before I performed it at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music last August. In the process of learning it, I became quite taken with the piece and subsequently asked my friend Jeff Louie to play it with me for the CMW Sonata Series Concert this February 15 at the RISD Museum at 7pm. If I may be permitted, perhaps a little background about Ms. Beach and the sonata.
 

Tucked between the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers in south-eastern New England lies the little town of Henniker, New Hampshire. Aside from being the birthplace of Red Sox legend Ted Williams, Henniker also lays claim as the birthplace of one of the most important figures in American classical music, Amy Marcy Cheney Beach.

Composer Amy Beach

Born September 5, 1867, Amy Cheney exhibited prodigious musical talent on the piano and in composition from a very young age. She advanced far beyond what teaching was available in Henniker by age seven and in order to support Amy’s talent, the family moved to the Boston suburb of Chelsea in 1875. There, she studied piano with Carl Baermann, who was himself a piano student of Franz Liszt. While Amy did receive some composition and counterpoint coaching as a young teen, she was essentially an autodidact in composition her whole life. Impressively, her “Gaelic Symphony” of 1896 received its world-premier by the Boston Symphony and was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. This is a testament to her incredible gift of melody and intuitive ability as a composer.
 
When Amy was on the verge of international stardom as a pianist and composer, she got married at age eighteen to a prominent Boston surgeon, Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, twenty-four years her senior. As was the custom of the times, he limited her performing life to just a few recitals a year and Amy received no mentoring or tutoring as a composer. When Dr. Beach died in 1910, Amy began touring as a pianist and composer in Europe and was a tremendous success. She would return to America in 1914 and was a major figure in American Classical music until her death in 1944.
 
With Amy’s piano concerto appearances with the Boston Symphony as a teenager, she gained the attention of the BSO Concertmaster, Franz Kneisel.  He invited her to perform the Schumann piano quintet with his string quartet in 1894 and he premiered her violin sonata in 1897 with Ms. Beach at the piano. Arguably the greatest Romantic Period American violin sonata, Beach’s piece is a dramatic big-boned sonata with a tremendous scope of expression and color. Cast in four movements, the first movement is a serious and dramatic voyage within the traditional sonata-form structure. In relief to the density of the first movement, the second movement is a much lighter scherzo akin to some of Mendelssohn’s “fairy music” movements. The third movement is the longest of the four chapters. Highly lyrical and emotional, it begins with an extended passage for solo piano. Several musicologists have remarked on the similarity of the melody of Kenny Rogers’ “She Believes in Me” to the main theme of this movement. (This statement may or may not be true.) The finale has the tremendous forward drive and drama that one might expect in the concluding chapter of such a impassioned work. At the midpoint, a Bach-like fugue appears with wonderful counterpoint and dialogue between the voices before a return to the Romantic thrust to the conclusion.
 
I hope you are able to join us and hear the sonata for yourself on Thursday, February 15 at 7pm at the RISD Museum Grand Gallery. Also on the program will be Beethoven’s charming sonata in E-flat, op. 12 no. 3 with Luke Fatora, violin and Jeff Louie, piano.
 
–Jesse Holstein
Associate Director / Senior Resident Musician

Who Let the Frogs Out? A Postcard from the Newport String Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently discovered that the beloved game of skipping stones across water has a variety of other names in other countries – ducks and drakes (UK), dragonflies (Czech), throwing a sandwich (Finnish) and the Ukrainian name is zapuskaty zhabky which translates to “letting the frogs out”.

What has me thinking about skipping stones, you ask?

As musicians engaged in community residencies, we are constantly experimenting – tweaking traditional concert formats to engage new people, bringing a new game to a classroom of violin students – to build meaningful connections between people. And, that moment of trying something new in pursuit of connection, is a lot like the moment when you let go of the pebble to see how far it will bounce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



As anyone with stone-skipping prowess will tell you, much depends on finding the right pebbles. And we have been incredibly lucky with our plentiful supply! The Newport String Project is now in its fifth season – thanks to incredible community support, this year, myself and Emmy have been joined by violist Ashley Frith and cellist Jaime Feldman. Together we perform as the Newport String Quartet and curate educational programming that provides free violin, viola and cello lessons to almost forty students aging from Pre-K to fifth graders. There have been many, many “pebbles” along the way. And there have definitely been some “clunkers”– unruly frogs, you might say – but some of the more successful “pebbles” have led to signature events like the Paper Orchestra concerts (see highlights from our most recent one here) and the community barn dance series and many rich collaborations with local organizations.

Every so often, there’s the magical combination of pebble, technique and environmental conditions – and you realize that the pebbles are bouncing a lot further than you imagined, maybe in ways you hadn’t even noticed or realized. Like when our oldest students are recruiting their friends to come join the Newport String Project. Like when a younger sibling already knows a song because they’ve learnt it from an older brother or sister. Like when you notice a parent absorbed in watching their child’s lesson and marveling at the complexity of skills they’re learning. Like when an audience member finds you after a concert to ask what works by that composer they should listen to next. These moments are energizing, humbling and bring much needed detail to the sweeping Big Picture flow of this work.

-Ealain McMullin, Newport String Project Co-Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about Newport String Project here!

Hello from Newfoundland!


Our good friend from the North, Carole Bestvater (CMW Violin Fellow 2009-2011), shares the latest news from Strong Harbour Strings along with an update on a visit from our own MusicWorks Network Fellow and CMW student alum, Andrew Oung. Carole is the Director & Founder of the program, located in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
 
Wow, it’s hard to imagine that five years have passed since this program started!  Here we are, in Strong Harbour Strings’ fifth season, with so much to celebrate. This year, there are 24 students in our main centre, all coming two times a week for group and individual lessons.  We also started a satellite centre in a nearby neighbourhood across the harbour. There are 16 students who come twice a week during their lunch hour to learn the violin and viola. There are three new staff members who joined the team this season, so we’re having fun getting to know each other, teaching, and playing music together.
 
We recently played a concert of the Vivaldi Four Seasons in a downtown pub, selling out the place! People loved it! We’re planning on repeating the concert in a workshop for the SHS students, as well as in another family-friendly venue.  It’s been a very exciting time for Strong Harbour Strings.

The most exciting aspect right now is that Andrew Oung, the MusicWorks Network Fellow, is currently in St. John’s for a six week internship.  He’s working with a small group of 7th graders in developing the culture for a group inspired by CMW’s teen group, Phase II.  He’s been leading discussions, prompting conversations, and laying down a foundation for a group like this to continue after his internship here has finished. It has been exciting to see this aspect of Strong Harbour Strings develop, and feels like the missing puzzle piece is finally in place.  Now that we have students who are growing, developing critical thinking, and are completely blissed out that they get to keep on learning music and hanging out with each other, we’re finally ready to develop a Phase II-like program for them.
Sending love and hugs from the North Atlantic,

Carole Bestvater

 

Andrew Oung also sent along an update on his visit:

For the past few weeks I have been working here with Strong Harbour Strings. It has been wonderful getting to know all of the students and staff. I work with them three times a week, each day taking on a different role. I have started a small discussion group with the program’s 7th graders, I teach violin lessons, I support teachers during orchestra time, and I help students learn music theory. Strong Harbour takes place at two locations, one of which is the Cornerstone Ministry Centre. I really love that there is an open space where students and parents gather while they wait for lessons. It provides an opportunity for them to naturally interact with each other, and helps the music theory mentors be visible and accessible.
 
Outside of the educational aspect of the program, I attended a performance by the staff, named the Strong Harbour Strings Collective. They performed Vivaldi’s Four Season at The Black Sheep Pub to a full audience. I loved seeing how much the audience enjoyed the performance and I overheard somebody proudly say, “where else in the world can you hear Vivaldi in a pub”. While I can think of another city very dear to me where that could be true, I still think there is a uniqueness to the music community here. I’ll be in St. John’s for a few more weeks and I look forward to learning more about Strong Harbour Strings and the musical community here.

 

 

 

A Place to Play: Celebrating Music Haven’s New Office

We checked in with former CMW Fellow Annalisa Boerner (Viola Fellow 2012-2014), who has joined the staff of Music Haven in New Haven, CT as a full time Resident Musician and member of the Haven String Quartet. Here, Annalisa shares some news about the program’s new digs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, January 19th, Music Haven celebrated its tenth year of teaching and our move into a beautiful new space with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Our new offices are in a former factory space called Erector Square. Our suite was too small for a school, too big for a yoga studio, and just right for our organization to fit into and grow with.

Music Haven’s new location, where we rehearse, teach, and perform, is helping our program grow in ways big and small. The sense of community is palpable when our eighty students gather for group classes on Fridays, and as they filter in and out throughout the week. We love to see them doing homework and playing Uno in the lounge area as they wait for lessons. On the teaching side, I can keep a shelf of music, a jar of clothespins, and both a violin and a viola close at hand, and my students can have lessons in a calm environment that’s dedicated to music-making. We’ve hosted studio recitals with potlucks in our large performance space, and we look forward to debuting next year’s Chamber Series concerts in this area as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The program for the afternoon of the 19th included words from Mandi Jackson, Executive Director; Yaira Matyakubova, violinist and Senior Resident Musician; and Mayor Toni Harp (!) who cut the ribbon. The Music Lanterns, an ensemble of nine to twelve-year-old students, kicked off the program, and the Harmony In Action chamber orchestra concluded it with a conductorless performance of Lean on Me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is thanks to our many supporters of all varieties that we are able to sustain and grow our program in this way.  Here’s to ten more years at Music Haven!

–Annalisa Boerner

Congratulations to Annalisa and the Music Haven staff and students!

 

Unlocking Meaning: CMW Fellows’ Residency at Butler Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“I find myself saying that it doesn’t matter what the music is, or at least that the content is a trivial concern compared to the importance of making a human connection between performer and listener.”

Heath Marlow, former CMW staffer and current faculty/staff at New England Conservatory, reflects on his work with CMW Fellows in creating and implementing a performance residency at Butler Hospital, a psychiatric facility on Providence’s East Side,  in 2017:

At our first session together in Fall 2016, I asked the Fellows to come up with a new community (not the communities already served by Community MusicWorks) that could potentially benefit from interacting with a string quartet.

The group’s research led to the conclusion that it would be important to try out their ideas in an environment that had the capacity to support the quartet’s experimental activities. Butler Hospital’s Healing Arts Program was immediately receptive to hosting the quartet, and a series of three activities for distinct patient populations (adolescent, adult, geriatric) was soon decided upon.

 

​”It was personally humbling to participate in the workshops. The response in each unit was so different – but equally powerful. It felt challenging to insert ourselves into such an intense environment – having no idea where each person was on their healing path.”

Read Heath’s full account and reflection in his blog piece, here.

This year, Heath meets regularly with the current quartet of Fellows (and other interested musician colleagues) to discuss aspects of building a career as a musician at the intersection of artistry and community using the best practices associated with growing a community-based organization.

 

Investing in People and Place

For the past 20 years, Community MusicWorks has been invested in both people and place – our students, families, and professional musicians, and the community of Providence.

Last year was truly a celebratory season. Throughout our programs, we reflected on our growth and impact, and we took on important new initiatives. Some of last year’s most significant moments included the expansion of our Daily Orchestra Program to include a new daily ensemble for six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds; the We Shall Overcome Project; the graduation of our largest class of Phase II students and our tenth class of Fellows; the residency of world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax; and over 30 inspiring free performances.

Beyond the specifics, we celebrated the culture of Community MusicWorks, which supports young people, professional musicians, guest artists, and our colleagues in CMW’s Fellowship Program, to continually grow their approach to music-making in our community.

“The always-evolving organism of CMW is innovative, curious, engaged, compassionate, empathetic, generous and far-reaching. I learned more than I imagined I would in the most supportive and nurturing environment. I can’t think of a better place to incubate and grow ideas and deepen my own experience and confidence. Getting to know, teach, and learn from the most wonderful studio of students, along with performing with an exceptional ensemble of colleagues has been incredibly motivating and continues to inform my work.”
– Josie Davis, violinist, CMW Fellow 2015-17

Using our 20th season as both inspiration and motivation – and recognizing all there is still to work on in our community and world – we are beginning our third decade looking even more deeply at our mission and how we put it into practice. Consistent with our Strategic Plan, we have mapped out several significant enhancements to our programs, included below.

These new initiatives range from further developing our music education practices with young people, to deepening the experiences of our concert audiences, to developing the MusicWorks Network, a new consortium of programs around the country that were founded on CMW’s model. I am pleased to share highlights of these new program elements, which of course will be in addition to our daily work with our 160 students and our over 30 free performances in our communities.

What we know has been a key to our growth and success – our ability to create new opportunities – has been the partnerships with supporters like you who share our belief that music can be a transformative experience for our communities.

As we launch into our third decade, your donation towards our ambitious 21st season will enable us to further develop, strengthen, and deepen our work.

As you know, Community MusicWorks is committed to offering our youth programs and performances free of charge – which means we must raise our full budget each year. Your generous gift will ensure that we can maintain our commitments to students, musicians, and audiences. Your partnership will allow us to work with young people and artists in a way that has a real impact on building positive goals and futures.

I appreciate your considering a generous gift this fall to make transformational experiences possible for young people and our communities.

Sincerely,
Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director
Community MusicWorks 

Community MusicWorks
21st Season Special Programs and Projects

Phase II for All and Joy in Practice

This year, during the first semester of All Play Day – a weekly two-hour session where CMW Phase I, II and III students gather for intense lessons and rehearsals – students will be invited to select classes based on their playing ability and interest. Classes will focus on improvisation and composition, theory and sight-reading, jazz, performance anxiety and mindfulness, learning how to practice, and experimental music. This enhanced offering provides our students with many access points into the study of music, and encourages them to explore their own interests and skills as musicians.

The second half of the year will be focused on ensembles, including all students exploring a piece in depth, building on the We Shall Overcome Project. In the We Shall Overcome Project, all of our students will learn an arrangement of a historically significant song as well as learning about its origins, later uses, and meaning. Starting in January, students will take part in weekly activities that explore the text, history, and power of this song, and will write their own verses based on their personal and musical experiences in their community or in the world at large.

Music Transforms

As part of our mission to explore, hear, and perform a broad range of voices through our concerts, our programming this year has been expanded to include a theme of presenting under-represented communities. Throughout the season, we will explore the works by female composers in a broad range of genres and instrumentation.

In addition to our MusicWorks Collective concerts, CMW’s mission to present visionary artists, such as Jonathan Biss, Emanuel Ax, and this season, world-renowned violinist Johnny Gandelsman, in performances and collaborations, offers two important opportunities for CMW. First, it allows CMW to share its mission and programs with a broader base of music aficionados. Second, it offers our students an opportunity to be inspired to strive for their musical and personal goals and to find their voice as unique citizens in our world.

Leading the Conversation

In August, CMW launched MusicWorks Network, the first of three annual institutes funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Network brings together representatives from nine organizations, staffed or led by former CMW Fellows and participants in our Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service. The overarching goals for the Network include: sharing social justice programming, goals, and methodology; incorporating college-going skills development among students across the network; and building connectivity between the sites to facilitate shared learning and creating pathways for CMW students and Fellowship Program graduates to contribute and gain employment in other sites.

Several important themes emerged at the institute that challenged CMW to grow our practice. Primary among them is that CMW has an opportunity to dig deeper into the questions of organizational practice as they relate to social justice broadly, and racial justice in particular. We are energized to define more clearly how all of CMW’s practices can reflect our social justice commitment and curriculum.

Is This the One About the Pilot? Working Toward Copland’s Violin Sonata

Join us Thursday, November 16 at 7pm for our popular Sonata Series in the beautifully appointed Grand Gallery at RISD Museum. This concert features violinists Sebastian Ruth and David Rubin with guest pianist Eliko Akahori. Here, violinist David Rubin shares his notes on the piece he’ll perform at the event and his own process of discovery on the meaning and origin of Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano.

I heard about Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano years before I actually heard Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. The initial encounter looms large in my memory and — come to think of it — stands in opposition to my current experience of the piece. Tension can often be generative, as we say at CMW, so perhaps this story will be of some interest for those folks planning to attend our Sonata Series performance at the RISD Museum (Thursday, November 16 at 7pm in the Grand Gallery).

***
In 2004, pianist Karl Paulnack gave a welcome address to the parents of incoming students at Boston Conservatory. Seeking to reassure a presumably anxious crowd about the viability of their children’s chosen career path (read: financial ruin?), Paulnack shared stories about music’s healing powers, its necessity in our society, and the potential nobility of a life spent in its service. One of those anecdotes centered around Paulnack’s own performance of – you guessed it – the Copland violin sonata. This story is better in Paulnack’s telling, but I’ll briefly summarize it here.

During this performance of the Copland (let’s set the stage, actually: during the elegiac slow movement, at a small-town nursing home) a World War II veteran in the audience was clearly overcome with emotion. Later in the concert, Paulnack shared more details about the piece, including the story of its dedication to Harry Dunham, a pilot killed in battle during World War II and a close friend of Copland’s. At this point, the veteran in the audience stood up and left. He later told Paulnack that he was in shock – Copland’s music had triggered a vivid remembrance of a near-identical experience from his own wartime service, a particular trauma he hadn’t thought of in years. The veteran wanted to know how this was possible. How could Copland’s music make him remember so vividly, even though he hadn’t known about that particular connection when he first listened to the piece?

Paulnack’s story is a beautiful testament to music’s communicative powers. It’s also some heavy interpretative baggage for a performer to assimilate. From then on, I remembered the Copland sonata as the World War II piece that, by virtue of its somber American-ness, went straight to the heart.

And I’m not alone. To quote a random YouTube commenter:

“Is this the one about the pilot shot down in WWII?”

***
Now, when I play this piece, I have more information to draw on, and it makes things more complicated for me as a performer. New perspectives nudge that simple origin story out of my head, or at least force it to share space. Here’s a taste of that stew.

The ink was dry – the piece was finished – when Copland learned of Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham’s death, at which point he added the dedication. We have no way of knowing what he was thinking about while he was writing the violin sonata. It is a wartime piece because it was written during the war, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that this is a piece about war, or a piece about Dunham. It’s entirely possible that Copland didn’t think about the war – or his friend – at all while he was committing these notes to paper.

We know only what (little) Copland chose to share about it, namely: “I had little desire to compose a dissonant or virtuosic work, or one that incorporated folk materials. Nevertheless, certain qualities of the American folk tune had become part of my natural style of composing, and they are echoed in the Sonata.” Nicely put, Aaron.

We also know that the premiere drew polarized responses from critics. One damned its “rearward vision” (ouch!), while another (Copland’s friend Virgil Thomson) praised its “calm elevation… irresistibly touching.” That’s more like it. Wouldn’t we all like to be praised for our “calm elevation?”

I also know what my teachers have shared about their experience with this piece, and what various smart people have written. My mentor in graduate school was fascinated by Copland’s habit of spreading common, everyday chords across wide spans on an instrument’s range (think of a pianist playing high and low notes at the same time) – the harmony might be utterly familiar, but its presentation is unearthly. It creates the illusion of space, of solitude… of frontiers. Stan Kleppinger, in the journal of the Society for Music Theory, suggests that this piece’s special sonorities can be explained as dualities, moments when two key areas exist simultaneously – the magic lies in the ambiguity. Other scholars hear past the melodic inflections in Copland’s writing (and the related, pesky question of American-ness, which seems to dominate all conversations of this composer’s music) toward a neoclassical reading, in which canons and miniature fugues dance in 20th-century dress. Bach in Hollywood in 1943.

***
And even though the dedication was added after the piece’s completion, I can’t help but also wonder about this man, this Harry Dunham. It turns out that we know a bit about him, too, largely thanks to the work of Copland-scholar Howard Pollack.

We know that Dunham was incredibly handsome (in composer David Diamond’s words: “the most adorable, good-looking boy”), the darling of a New York arts community that starred Copland, Virgil Thomson, Paul Bowles, John Latouche, and other familiar figures. We know that he came from money, that he graduated from Princeton, that he made films. We know he was, to some degree, a leftist. We know that he married a woman, Marian Chase, but we also know that he was romantically involved with several men in the artistic circles he moved in. We know that Dunham, Bowles, and Copland traveled together in Morocco. We know that he died in battle in 1943, and that Aaron Copland dedicated this stunning piece of music to his memory.

I wasn’t expecting Dunham’s story to be so rich. The anonymous “pilot” from my initial encounter with the Copland violin sonata has a lot in common with me, and with people I’ve known. His sexuality, his artistic and political leanings, his social circles – they all run contrary to the military stereotype that I conjured up upon first hearing. This speaks to my prejudices, but it also speaks to the simple fact that people are complicated. In fact, Dunham’s surprises form a nice parallel with the rich ironies of Copland’s own story. Copland, the man whose music was appropriated for “Beef! It’s What’s for Dinner!” or Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America!” was, in Alex Ross’ words, “a gay leftist of Russian-Jewish extraction.” The man who created an American identity in concert music wasn’t always particularly welcome in his own country. Chew on that for a moment. These are not new ironies, but they never cease to amaze.

***

So, in the end, what should a performer make of these accumulated, sometimes contradictory meanings and associations? Perhaps it’s a cop-out, but here’s an attempt. I’m not a historian and I’m not a theorist and I’m not a veteran, but I do know what this piece makes me feel. Now, as I type this, I think of the piece’s opening, and its particular magic: a series of plain-spoken piano chords; hanging in the air, unresolved, still. Just the thought of those chords makes me verklempt. They’re 100% Copland, and they just break your heart.

I imagine Copland’s dedication to Dunham as a monument to an individual life, yes, but also a way of life: a group of friends, and a particular moment in time and space. In the composer’s words:

“By reflecting the time in which one lives, the creative artist gives substance and meaning to life as we live it. Life seems so transitory! It is very attractive to set down some sort of permanent statement about the way we feel, so that when it’s all gone, people will be able to go to our art works to see what it was like to be alive in our time and place — twentieth-century America.”

I love that little word: our. You get the sense that Copland’s our was broad as can be. “Our” twentieth-century America was gay and Jewish and left, just as much as it was the opposite of those things.

***

For me, this is the fun of performing. You live inside of a piece, soak up its contradictions and cliches, and try to make sense of it – both the thing itself (whatever that means, God help us) – and your relationship to it. Each realization of a piece, each usage in a different context, is a fleeting act – but over time it forms a discourse, a discussion across decades. It’s a beautiful mess, but that’s where the meaning is. A generative tension.

In any case. I hope you’ll join Eliko, Sebastian and I for Thursday’s program at the RISD Museum. It’ll be a pleasure to explore this piece, in all of its contradictions. In so doing, I hope we’ll celebrate Aaron Copland’s life — Harry Dunham’s, too.

-David Rubin, Violin Fellow


Further reading & works quoted above

Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man. Henry Holt, 1999.
Karl Paulnack, welcome address at The Boston Conservatory, 2004. Accessible here.
Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, Copland Since 1943. St. Martin’s Press, 1989.
Gail Levin and Judith Tick, Aaron Copland’s America. Watson-Guptill Publications, 2000.

 

MusicWorks Network: A New Initiative

Within the past twenty-one years, CMW has offered professional musicians opportunities to re-imagine the very foundations of a classical music career, and to think more broadly about music as a way of engaging in and with communities.

This year, CMW has the opportunity to deepen that work with the support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a new initiative, Citizens of the World: Forging Pathways to College and Beyond. This strategic initiative is designed to substantially increase the number of racially diverse, low-income young people who gain access to critical skills that promote success. This work builds on CMW’s 20-year history of developing music-based education programs designed to open new worlds of opportunity to low-income African-American and Latino youth. Out of this work has come Phase II, an approach to developing fundamental skills and supports that promote college-going, that has led 95% of CMW graduates to continue to college.

CMW will share CMW’s successful college-going model across a network of community-based music education sites. Called the MusicWorks Network, this project will link 10-15 community-based music sites serving over 650 young people and convene them in an annual Summer Institute for training, resource-sharing, and collaborative evaluation.

The first Summer Institute took place this past August 22-30 as educators and staff from ten different organizations gathered at the beautiful Rolling Ridge Conference Center in North Andover, MA. Connecting around the ways that social justice practices and technical and artistic work on string instruments can support one another, teachers and staff came from Community MusicWorks, MusiConnects (Boston, MA), MyCincinnati (Cincinnati, OH), Musica Franklin (Franklin, MA), Orchestra of St. Luke’s (New York, New York), MusicHaven (New Haven, CT), Newport Strings (Newport, RI), Sistema New Brunswick (New Brunswick, St. John, Canada), Strong Harbor Strings (St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada), and Neighborhood Strings (Worcester, MA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Participants convened for a range of workshops and trainings, including a 2-day string pedagogy workshop with renowned violinist and teacher Mimi Zweig, a poetry and social justice workshop with poet Jonathan Mendoza, a workshop on anti-racist organizational frameworks with trainer and activist Adeola Oredola, and discussions and reflection around the creative synergy between string pedagogy and social justice teachings.

The Institute was designed and facilitated by Sebastian Ruth and Chloe Kline with the new MusicWorks Network staff: MusicWorks Network Director Jori Ketten and MusicWorks Network Fellow Andrew Oung. Part of the initiative, the MusicWorks Network Fellowship is a one-year position for alumni of CMW’s youth program or graduates of CMW’s two-year Fellowship Program to contribute to the MusicWorks Network. Andrew is our first alumni hire at CMW.

 

Archives

Thursday, February 15 : Music in the Grand Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sonata Series Event

The Sonata Series features MusicWorks Collective musicians with guest pianists presenting works from the duo sonata repertoire. Together, musicians explore pieces from the 17th and 18th century masterworks to contemporary works.

This event features pianist Jeff Louie, performing Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin, No. 3 with violinist Luke Fatora and Amy Beach’s Violin Sonata, Op. 34 with Jesse Holstein.

Thursday, February 15 at 7pm
Grand Gallery, RISD Museum
20 N. Main Street, Providence
Admission to the museum and concert is free
No reservations are necessary

CMW Celebrates 20 with Twenty Years, Twenty Stories

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This year Community MusicWorks turns 20! To mark the milestone, we are gathering the stories of 20 members of our community–musicians, students, parents, graduates and supporters. Look for new stories throughout the season.

Interviews were recorded, transcribed and edited to create personal narratives in each subject’s distinctive voice. We hope 20 Years, 20 Stories captures the many flavors and varieties of CMW experience. Join us at a concert anytime to start creating your own CMW story.

Read the interviews here.

 

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Who’s the Guy with the Curly Hair?

 

“The Last Supper” painting by Jessica Van Daam, on loan to the Trinity Brewhouse.

CMW Fellow and violinist Luke Fatora muses upon Beethoven as a pop culture icon.

Earlier this year, an unexpected downpour of cold rain unleashed itself as I was out for a walk. Passing by the Trinity Brewhouse on Fountain Street, I took refuge inside and found myself seated near a musician-themed mural riffing on The Last Supper. I was enjoying a nearby table’s particularly slurred conversation – its contents better left unexplored here – when it took a hard turn. One of the speakers interrupted a waitress, gesturing towards the mural hanging on the wall where Ludwig van Beethoven (not to confused with Beethoven the dog but more on that later) was stoically seated next to Billie Holiday in the company of other musicians like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. He asked “Who’s the guy with the curly hair??”

I found myself thinking back to this experience recently at CMW’s Phase II students’ weekly dinner and discussion. The students were exploring the interdependent relationship between a piece of art and the settings that a culture places it in. Later that night I grappled with unanswerable questions as I tossed and turned. How would Beethoven have responded to someone telling him that two centuries into the future, Americans would scarf down nachos and beer under his quasi-religious image in a brewpub in Providence, RI? How about being told that Andy Warhol, an iconic 20th century American artist, would designate Beethoven as the figure from western classical music to join the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Chairman Mao, as portrait subjects? Finally, what would he have had to say about the movie Beethoven