Our Mission

To create cohesive urban community through music education and performance that transforms the lives of children, families, and musicians. Our model is centered around the teaching, mentoring, program design, and performance activities of our musicians-in-residence, the MusicWorks Collective.

Our Story

CMW is a living experiment in forming new roles for musicians in today’s society. At one level, we are focused on creating a viable and satisfying career option for musicians to perform at a high level, teach in a community-based setting, and become positive contributors to community life. At a broader level, this model emphasizes that musicians can play critical roles in our society–in performances, creating spaces for people of diverse backgrounds to connect in community; in teaching, opening opportunities for young people to develop a voice and participate in democratic practices; and in the community, to have musical participation become part of the everyday–instead of rarified–experiences of people, regardless of financial or geographic barriers.

What sets CMW apart from other organizations is its approach. CMW meets people where they are, recognizing kids and families not as passive recipients of help and instruction, but as peers with their own gifts and life experience to offer.
– CMW parent

Founded in 1997 by Sebastian Ruth with the conviction that musicians can have meaningful careers that unite artistry and public service, Community MusicWorks (CMW) builds long-term learning and mentoring relationships between professional musicians, children, and families in the most diverse and underserved neighborhoods of Providence, Rhode Island. Today, CMW is a thriving organization with eight resident musicians, four Fellows who participate in a rotating Fellowship program, and more than 130 students. Resident musicians and Fellows teach instrument lessons at no cost to children in the west and south sides of Providence, and perform in a robust concert series throughout Providence and the surrounding communities.

National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, White House, Washington DC

CMW’s track record of exemplary programming has earned CMW national recognition. In 2010, CMW was selected as one of the top 15 afterschool arts programs in the country by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. In 2012 and 2014, CMW was recognized with major grants from ArtPlace America, the national creative placemaking initiative. CMW’s founder, Sebastian Ruth, is the recipient of a 2010 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, recognized for “creating rewarding musical experiences for often-forgotten populations and forging a new, multifaceted role beyond the concert hall for the twenty-first-century musician.” He received an honorary doctorate degree from Brown University in May 2012.