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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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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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On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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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On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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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On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

Archives

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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On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming with our commitment to equity and social justice. From the season opener to the June finale, you’ll be invited into new sonic experiences—the driving intensity of Julia Wolfe’s “Cruel Sister,” a new work by Annika Socolofsky, a festival celebrating André Cormier’s quiet masterpieces, and the premiere of a work by Rhode Island composer Forrest Larson. There are many opportunities for new sounds and experiences!

Our tradition of Bach in November continues, including the fifth year of the overnight Bach marathon. This season also features a special benefit performance by Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project) of all the Bach solo works for violin—a spiritual and physical feat rarely undertaken, even by violinists of the greatest stamina.

Our December Solstice Concert returns—back by popular demand! The storytelling and musical adventure takes us again from foxes and crows to the wind and a chickadee, whose song reminds us that music can bring light and hope—a wonderful allegorical tale that reflects CMW’s mission.

One final thought to carry with you as you help launch this third decade—our work is about each person’s continual development, or what Maxine Greene would call “being on the way.” From our students to our musician-teachers, to audience members and supporters, CMW’s mission focuses on encouraging all of us to be continually on our way—toward growth, deeper awareness, and indeed transformative experiences of beauty and community.

Let’s step together into the work of this third decade!

-Sebastian Ruth, Founder & Artistic Director

Check our Season 21 calendar here.

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.

 

Revolution of Values

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise.

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!
–Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director

Revolution of Values: A Day of Creative Action

I am honored to be a part of the US Department of Arts and Culture, an organization that in all its work practices the practice of social imagination–imagining the world as it could be otherwise. 

As the “Secretary of Music and Society” on the U.S. Department of Arts and Cultural National Cabinet, I’m delighted to help launch #RevolutionOfValues, a day of creative action on April 4th, 2017, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the USDAC and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues. Any individual or organization can take part by hosting an event and/or sharing images or texts via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions and resources are available in the free #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. Download here and join us!

-Sebastian Ruth
Founder & Artistic Director 

Art in a Time of Rage

As CMW musicians have been working over the past several weeks to articulate our response as artists and citizens to the many events of the new administration, our discussions have toggled between the actions we need to take raising our voices as engaged citizens and making music.

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who once profiled CMW, takes on this question in his post about how musicians make music in a time of rage. Ross quotes Lucy Caplan*, whose essay about CMW’s 2016 Art and Social Action symposium is The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts.

*A fun fact: Lucy worked with CMW’s Sebastian Ruth as a student in his Yale class, and then as a TA in his Music and Social Action Coursera class. Read more about Lucy here and here.

 

Links:
Alex Ross: Making Art in a Time of Rage
Alex Ross: Learning the Score (CMW Profile in the New Yorker)
Lucy Caplan: The World You Want to Live In: New Paradigms for the Arts
Sebastian Ruth: Music and Social Action (Coursera)

 

 

 

Talking and Listening: Behind the Scenes of 20 Years, 20 Stories

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Daniels is a writer, editor, cellist, CMW parent, former CMW Board member and expert eavesdropper. She helms the 20 Years, 20 Stories project and this is her story.

I’ve been an eavesdropper since childhood. My mother liked to pour herself a Royal Crown cola in the late afternoon, park herself on the couch and telephone her mother, which was my cue to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y raise the extension handset upstairs. Usually, they discussed mundane matters:  pork chops versus chicken, how this season’s fashions were so unflattering and, now and then, family gossip. The topics were almost beside the point, except for the family gossip, which is why I eavesdropped in the first place. But I was also intrigued by the mysterious current of poetry running beneath even the most routine remarks. I loved the give and take of conversation, the sighs and pauses, the sound of my mother’s sympathetic tsk-tsk’s and my grandmother’s pretty brogue. I almost always got busted and was scolded, but not seriously enough to deter me from future attempts. Talking was as close as my family got to making music. No one sang or played an instrument, and my relatives just embarrassed themselves trying to clap along to music, but man, could these people talk. Listeners, even illicit ones, had a role to play, too. We completed the performance circle.

In college, Studs Terkel’s oral history Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do shaped my senior year thesis. I made the leap from habitual eavesdropper to scholarly interviewer and collected the oral histories of women who came of age during the 1920s. The best parts of the resulting 200-plus-page door-stopper were their reminiscences. After college, I became a reporter: more listening, more writing. Even after I quit newspapers and turned to other pursuits, I never lost the eavesdropping habit. My husband recognizes the faraway look that crosses my face when we’re in a public space and I hear something that bears further investigation, convinced, of course, that no one can tell what I’m up to. After 27 years, he also knows that whatever he and I were talking about will have to wait. More recently, I’ve been inspired by writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won a Nobel for Secondhand Time, her beautifully rendered oral history of post-Soviet Russians.

In September, I began an exciting new listening and writing project in connection with Community MusicWorks’ 20th anniversary: collecting 20 representative stories of CMW musicians, staff, students, parents and supporters. I’ve been expertly assisted by CMW fellow Josie Davis, who interviewed three people, and Communications Manager Liz Cox, who proofreads the stories and designs the online content. (Read the stories here.)

It hasn’t been difficult to get people to open up. I’ve been a familiar face at CMW since my youngest had his first cello lesson here ten years ago. I’ve exchanged knowing glances with other parents when a beginner nails “Twinkle” and held a collective breath during the dying notes of a Beethoven quartet performed by the pros. I’ve square-danced to fiddle tunes and attempted, much less successfully, the salsa.  I’ve sung rounds and set up folding chairs; fretted over budgets and strategic goals; eased my car past side-view mirrors on snow-bound Messer Street; knitted for newborns; and eaten far too much pizza.

Since people know me better as an at-large mom than as an interviewer and writer, some of my questions may discomfit. Recently, a student I was interviewing put up a hand and blurted, “That’s a weird question!” Um, ok. But can you answer it anyway? I remain confident that what I’m curious about others are too. She answered in good faith, trusting that I have her back. I am honored by that trust. You readers should be also. When people talk honestly they make themselves vulnerable. They don’t want to be misconstrued as they describe emotions and realizations that can’t be summarized by facts alone. This is especially true of CMW’s staff, who are talking about their life’s work.

It’s why I take the final step of the oral history process so seriously: converting 8-20 pages of interview transcript to a narrative that honors the speaker’s intentions, captures history while it’s still occurring, and compels readers. It’s a messy process. No matter how cleverly I order the questions and pursue answers during an interview, the talk meanders, as talk will. Even the most prepared and polished speakers wander off topic and speak colloquially, thank goodness. They are thinking out loud, which is where the music happens. It’s the difference between watching an official read a prepared statement from behind a podium and hearing him speak spontaneously from the heart when a reporter surprises him off-stage by asking exactly the right question at the right moment. I’m going for the latter.

Some “20 Years, 20 Stories” subjects have been flummoxed by the difference between the hour-plus interview they remember and the 2-5 page story I produce, having edited and condensed our conversation to a fare-thee-well, absenting my questions along the way. (Available here, if you’re curious.) They worry about being misperceived and about sounding too casual. They worry that they have said too much or too little. It is scary to see your constantly morphing thoughts marching in regimental black lines across white space. Where are the raised eyebrows signaling sincerity or the smile signaling warmth? Where are the tears that welled up when recalling a triumphant moment with a challenging student? Where’s a second or third chance to rephrase? To be more thoughtful? To explain more fully?

Oral history and chamber music have much in common. Both art forms strive to capture human experience through artifice and collaborative effort, and both are very much of the moment. Therein lies the thrill. Having made the artistic decision to omit interview questions in favor of narrative flow, I don’t worry that readers need cue cards. I trust that readers will appreciate what I appreciate about oral history: the idiosyncratic quirks of everyday speech as thoughtful people talk about things that matter. Subjects can trust their beautiful, one-of-a-kind voices to tell the story. The rest of us can pick up the extension and listen in.

The 20 Years, 20 Stories homepage.

A Masterclass for All Play Day

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

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

–Josie Davis, Violin Fellow

Saturday: Ars Subtilior #8

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

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

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

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

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

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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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On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

 

On Our Way: Welcome to Season 21!

This year, Community MusicWorks launches its third decade, and as we step into the next chapter of this organization’s growth our work is urgent in new ways. Twenty years ago the idea of a string quartet in a permanent residency in an urban neighborhood was a fringe idea in classical music. The notion that an urban residency would be the core of a chamber group’s life and work and that community development would be an equal ambition to playing and teaching was new territory.

Now, two decades in, conservatories are graduating students with entrepreneurship training, many with a social change focus; musicians are seeking alternate venues to the traditional concert halls, and increasingly orchestras and concert series are investing in their communities. All this points to a movement that is robust, respected, and ever growing: musicians experimenting with new forms, new career paths, and new inquiries into the place of musicianship in contemporary life.

CMW in our third decade has a new task to help grow this generation of students and musicians. With the launch of our MusicWorks Network and Fellowship, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we lead a new conversation across the country into the connections between social justice and musical practice, and share ways in which young people’s participation in programs like CMW can support their paths to and through college. We are thrilled to be bringing together former participants from both the CMW Fellowship Program and Institutes for Musicianship and Public Service, now leading programs of their own in more than 15 cities across the country and in Canada, to grow and learn together.

In our concert series, Season 21 offers adventurous programming. You’ll notice that most programs feature one or more female composers’ works, an intentional effort to align our concert programming